So, you’ve probably heard about dabbing: Superheating a “nail” to vaporize concentrates like wax, shatter, or isolates. Dabbing is a great way to consume high doses of THC (or CBD, for that matter), but it can be intense for the uninitiated.
If you’re looking for your first pen, there is no need to spend more than $60 – $100 for a reliable, quality vaporizer. There are many different vape pens on the market, and they all work in generally the same way (despite what the enormous range in price points would suggest).
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How to Use a Vape Pen
If the whole blowtorch thing weirds you out or the price tag of a quality desktop dab rig seems steep, don’t write off dabbing just yet. Did you know you can smoke dabs with a load-your-own-style vaporizer pen?
Don’t get it twisted: We personally find dabs to be highly enjoyable and we recommend anyone try one before swearing them off entirely. That said, you don’t need a dab rig. This is because, technically, a ‘dab’ is just a small dose of concentrate. This essentially means that no matter where you heat it up, you’re dabbing. If you already own a portable vaporizer, read on for pointers on how to use it for dabbing as well as oil-based concentrates.
Understand How Your Vaporizer Works
Regardless of make or model, almost all dab pens have the same basic anatomy: a battery, an atomizer/chamber, and a mouthpiece. First, take the mouthpiece off the pen to expose the chamber. You should see a coil, or heating element, inside. As a quick refresher, vaporization occurs when cannabis concentrate is heated to a specific temperature range where the cannabinoids and terpenes begin to boil off into a gas without combusting (catching fire and burning).
Get the Important Vape Pen Accessories
We recommend storing your dabs in an air-tight, smell-proof container to ensure that flavor and potency are preserved. Silicone is our favorite dab-friendly material for its nonstick properties, but a glass container would also do the trick. Silicone dab mats are great for saving any spilled dabs, as even the stickiest concentrates can be recovered with your dabber instead of lost to the table or floor. If you’re seriously in a pinch, some parchment paper folded around the dab will do, but if you dab with any kind of regularity, do yourself a favor and invest in a few basic tools.
Select the Right Concentrates
Now that you have your pen and dabbing tools, you need concentrate. While it is possible to load a dab pen with nearly any type of concentrate, there are certainly some that work better than others. Solvent-based extractions that produce oil (free of plant matter) vaporize best in pens. This means concentrates like BHO, PHO, and CO2 oil are ideal for load-your-own vaporizer pens. In our experience, there are certain types of concentrate consistencies, like budder, wax, and sugar, that vaporize better than others, like shatter. Not only do they tend to vape more smoothly in a pen, but these softer consistencies also tend to be easier to work with and load on the go. If you don’t have access to concentrates, you can follow our guide on how to make dabs at home. You can also buy CBD isolate, which is a very effective extract for relief from pain, anxiety, and inflammation.
Load Your Vape Pen Chamber
Given the high price tag of quality concentrates (or, alternatively, the effort you put into making your own), it’s important to handle them properly. Touching concentrates with your fingers will degrade the quality of your oil, so use a dabber to collect the concentrate from your parchment paper or container.
Place the concentrate near the coil, taking care not to inadvertently bump the coil with your tool (they can break!). Use the inside rim of the chamber to scrape any residual concentrate off the dabber. Storing your dabber against the Dab Mat in the lid of the Safety Case will help ensure your other supplies don’t get sticky.
Taking Dabs from Your Pen
Now you are ready to vape! Press and hold the ‘on’ button through the duration of your inhalation. The best rips will come from slow and steady draws as opposed to inhaling as hard as you possibly can. This is because the only way to draw air through the pen is via very tiny air holes at the bottom of the chamber that naturally restrict airflow. Many dab pens have adjustable temperature settings; it is important to select the correct one for you. Lower temperatures will produce more flavorful hits with less throat irritation, while higher temperature settings will provide more powerful hits with dense clouds of vapor. Although it sounds obvious, it is important to make sure that your battery is fully charged for consistently potent and flavorful hits. Many people stock an extra battery or charger in their vaporizer pen case to ensure they never run out of power.
Priming the Wick
If you prefer thick vaporous hits, you may find that pressing the button down for a few seconds before you begin inhaling is more effective. This is a technique known as ‘priming the wick.’ Essentially, it pre-melts the concentrate so that it sinks to the bottom of the chamber and fully surrounds the heating coil. Simply hold the ‘on’ button down for a few seconds until the concentrate has melted down into the chamber and it begins to vaporize.
Store in a Smell-Proof Vaporizer Case
As you can see, smoking dabs on the go requires a few critical tools and vape pen accessories. By using a smell-proof vaporizer kit, you can keep everything organized, discreet, and ready for the next time you want to load your pen on the go.
Concentrate Vape Pen FAQ
How big of a dab should I put in?
As a rule of thumb, fill your chamber three-quarters full or less. Much more, and you can have problems with clogging or overflowing. Some pens perform well after adding a dab the size of a grain of rice, while others can hold nearly a half a gram of concentrate—it all depends on your pen’s chamber. Deeper chambers with larger capacities typically perform better with more concentrate, whereas smaller, shallower chambers do well with small dabs.
Furthermore, if you set the pen down prior to consuming the oil, it can sometimes leak and create a sticky mess. To maximize the flavor and effectiveness of each rip, we recommend loading only what you intend to consume immediately. This ensures that the chamber won’t leak prior to being stored in a protective place like a safety case.
How long of a hit do I take?
This will depend on the specific make and model of your pen. Most pens only allow the ‘on’ button to be pressed down for a short time (i.e. seven to nine seconds). This is to ensure that the heating element and associated vapor does not get too hot and begin to combust the concentrate. It is more efficient to take several shorter draws, as opposed to a single massive rip.
When do I need to reload?
You will need to reload your dab pen when the hits become less vaporous and begin to taste like the heated wick (as opposed to the flavorful, terpene-rich concentrate). As soon as you feel like you aren’t getting a great hit, it’s time to check the chamber to see how much concentrate remains. If the chamber is nearly empty, it’s time to reload. However, if it is still full, it likely means that your battery is losing charge.
I keep accidentally pressing the button of my pen, is this avoidable?
Yes, most dab pens come with a locking feature that inactivates the ‘on’ button. Simply press the button five times consecutively and the light should blink, indicating that the ‘on’ button has been deactivated. To unlock the dab pen, quickly press the button down five times consecutively again.
Can I vaporize CBD?
Yes, just make sure to use high-quality organic material in isolate form or in a cartridge.
Can I travel with my vaporizer pen?
Yes. We recommend using a quality vaporizer case for carrying all your dab pen essentials in an organized fashion and ensuring no more sticky pockets or broken pens. As long as you follow the TSA guidelines, you can even take your vape pen on the plane!
Which Vape Pen is Best?
We recommend you select a vaporizer with no metal coil or silica wicks in the heating chamber. The benefits to an all-ceramic chamber are smooth, flavorful hits that truly mimic dabbing as opposed to vaping. The ceramic chamber also eliminates the potential of harmful metals leaching into your concentrate during vaping.
How to Use a Dry Herb Vape Pen
If joint smoke is irritating to your lungs, you may benefit from using a dry herb vape pen for your flower instead.
What is a dry herb vaporizer?
A dry herb vaporizer is a type of vaping device that heats cannabis buds to a specific temperature lower than burning a joint or a bowl. The result is very clean, smooth, medicinal vapor instead of smoke, which also happens to be quite flavorful!
Recently, portable vaporizers have become more popular as technology has advanced their capabilities to a point that allows them to compete with larger desktop units.
Identify Your Vape Style (How does it work?)
Before we get into the specifics of how to pack your vaporizer, it’s important to understand which one you have. In this case, the major distinction isn’t necessarily the make and model, but rather whether it uses conduction or convection to heat the cannabis flowers.
Not sure which heating method your vaporizer uses? A quick Google search will usually give you the answer in seconds! In reality, most vaporizers inherently use both methods to some degree, as each method also begets a bit of the other. The important thing is to understand the primary method of action of your vaporizer so you can pack it effectively. Here’s a quick breakdown of how each type works:
Conduction units heat the material via direct contact with a heat source (meaning the flowers are touching a hot surface). As you might imagine, this can result in incidental overheating of some parts of the chamber, which can cause accidental combustion and a harsher flavor. Common conduction vaporizers include the Pax 2 and Pax 3, and the Vapium Summit
Convection units heat the material by passing heated air through the chamber. The result is a much more even temperature range throughout the chamber and overall better flavor due to less risk of inadvertent combustion. Common convection vaporizers include the Firefly 2, Grasshopper, and Atmos Jump
Get the Important Vape Accessories
In order to get the perfect hit from your vaporizer pen, you should use a grinder to break down the cannabis (or organic hemp flower) buds. A fine grind is not just for joints, it is better for all inhaled forms of cannabis, including vapes!
That’s why we always have a grinder card stocked in our vape travel kit. The grinder card produces the perfect consistency for loading your pen–a fine, even grind and stores conveniently in a stash bag or wallet.
You can even grind directly into your vape pen chamber or into a pebble (if you want to save some for your next session). We also recommend having a poker-style tool on hand for clearing your chamber of sticky Already-Been-Vaped (ABV) flowers. It just so happens that all of these items fit perfectly in the Safety Case, with extra room for your vaporizer pen.
Select the Right Strain
While we’re on the subject of preparing your cannabis, don’t forget to select the correct starting material! The type of cannabis you use (i.e. indica or sativa, or a non-intoxicating hemp flower) will directly impact how you feel after you vape. If you need help choosing, use our strain selection guide. As always, quality matters!
Pro Tip: It may be counterintuitive, but herb vaporizers perform better when the cannabis is fully dry! This is because residual moisture in your buds can result in unnecessary throat irritation and produces a wispy, thin vapor.
Load the Chamber
Like with concentrate vape pens, the first step is to remove the cap/cover to expose the chamber. Then, use your fingers to gently load the finely ground cannabis into the chamber. It’s important not to overfill the chamber or pack it too tight–remember, the air still has to pass through there!
A medium pack is usually best across the board, but this is where the conduction vs. convection heating method comes into play. Conduction vaporizers like the Pax 2 and 3 can handle (and actually benefit from) a tighter pack to bring more herb into contact with the heating element, while convection vaporizers like the Grasshopper benefit from a looser pack for improved airflow.
You can experiment with different density packs to see which perform best with your particular pen. You can use your fingers or damper style tool to pack down the ground cannabis evenly. Once packed, replace the lid/cover and close the chamber.
Heat Up the Pen
Herb vaporizers can take anywhere from <10 seconds to over a minute to heat up. It’s imperative to let the pen heat up fully prior to taking a hit, otherwise, your draw won’t do much for you.
Many vaporizer units actually have adjustable temperature settings–lower temperatures produce smoother, more flavorful hits with less throat irritation, while higher temperature settings will provide more powerful hits with thick, dense vapor.
Take a Hit!
Once the pen reaches the desired temperature, you can inhale from the mouthpiece and enjoy the perfect hit! Also, be sure your battery is fully charged for consistent performance from your vaporizer. Many people store an extra battery or charger in their vape pen case to ensure they never run low.
Store in a Smell-Proof Vaporizer Case
You likely paid a pretty penny for your vaporizer and consider it an investment, so treat it like one! Just because it’s portable, doesn’t mean it’s indestructible–we highly recommend using a smell-proof vape case to keep your pen protected and discreet. A safety case has the ability to carry all the other vaporizing essentials needed to pack your vaporizer on the go!
Tips for Dry Herb Vape Pens
Clear the Chamber
Clearing your chamber after each use is just as important as packing it! Because the leftover loose-leaf material is often sticky from heat exposure (vaping tends to leave a residue on the herb, making it potentially beneficial for making edibles), we suggest using a tool to clear it out fully–it’s especially helpful for those stubborn bits. If you fail to clear your chamber adequately, you will restrict airflow and impair the performance of your vaporizer over time.
Which Vaporizer is Best?
The answer to this question will depend on several factors: size, price point, heat up time, intended use, charge time, temperature control, chamber size, warranty, etc. Sound complex enough? Don’t sweat it! The important thing is to purchase based on the factors that are most important to you – after all, you’ll be the one using it!
Keep in mind that desktop vaporizers are in a totally different class than portable vaporizers–comparing between these two vape types is like comparing apples to oranges. There are also lots of reviews and comparisons online if you can’t decide between models.
Vaping Hemp Flower
If you desire symptom relief without the high associated with THC, you might try vaping raw organic hemp flower instead of traditional cannabis buds. Hemp flower can provide a full-spectrum dose of CBD and other beneficial cannabinoids without any intoxicating effects, regardless of the dose. Plus, you can purchase online and have it mailed to you.
We like the organic, non-GMO hemp flower from Canna Comforts, who carefully and sustainably cultivate each strain before batch-testing the buds for quality, purity, and potency. We are especially fond of Canna Comfort’s Lifter strain and Special Sauce. But each of their diverse array of strains looks, feels, smells, tastes, and vapes just like the top-shelf cannabis strains that inspired them, minus the intoxicating effects of THC–you really can’t go wrong!
Knowing When It’s Time To Upgrade Your Vape
Whether the battery life of your vape pen concerns you or you are looking for a chance to be on par with your fellow vapers, you have come to the right place.
Reasons to change your vape
There are several reasons why you may consider upgrading your vape, here are a few:
1. You want a powerful battery backup
Pen-style vapes, just like any other electronic device which operates on battery, lose their battery backup after quite a while. (For nerds, after around 300 charges.) So, you may consider going to better versions of e-cigs instead of buying the same model again.
2. You are looking for a change in flavor of the liquid
Pen-style vapes don’t offer that flexibility with changing the flavors of the liquid, this may prompt you to upgrade to a vape which allows you to change the flavors–there are varieties available.
3. Peer Pressure
Your fellow vapers already have a newer and advanced vape and this may prompt you to upgrade yours so that you can be on par with them.
4. Higher models are available at affordable prices
Technology of today becomes obsolete tomorrow. The same is the case with vapes. Maybe there are new vapes with advanced features, though not latest for affordable rates. You may just want to give a try.
5. You want to try cloud chasing
(or are already a cloud chaser!) and are looking for vapes which produce more vapor with more power.
6. You can make an investment
After vaping for a while, you find it worthy of the experience it offers and look forward to the enhanced experience an advanced vape can offer.
What are other advanced options available?
There was once a time where pen-style vapes were the only alternatives for cigarettes. Gone are those days, there are better options available in the market, below are just a few.
1. Vape mods
These are a bigger, bulkier and more complicated form of e-cigarettes. They are the modified versions of pen-style vapes (hence the name mod—meaning modified). Unlike a pen-style vaporizer, there are no wire connections, no coils ready to screw in. The device will strictly work on battery. They don’t work on tanks you’re familiar with, instead, they work on Rebuildable Dripping Atomisers (RDA). Instead of using readymade coils, you build them yourselves. This demands a fair working knowledge of Ohm’s Law to make sure you are not overtaxing your battery.
2. Box Mod
A box mod resembles a box, understandable right? There are electronics involved here, preventing you from building up something dangerous. It is compatible with both tanks and RDA’s. Most people go with the tank option since they don’t want to keep filling the liquids. A tank can hold up to five millimeters of liquid, which lasts for a quite considerable time. There are several options available in the market today where you can buy the best vape mods.
Five signs you should replace your coil
- It tastes like burnt when you vape: The most obvious sign that the coil needs to be replaced is when the vapor tastes burnt. Replace your coils immediately.
- The e-juice doesn’t taste like you expected it to: If your e-juice tastes different all of a sudden, then, it is an indication that this is the time to change the coil.
- Vape is leaking: If your vape is leaking e-liquids, then worn away coil is the culprit. It may be dangerous if you continue to use a leaking vape. So, try replacing the coil ASAP.
- Vape makes strange sounds while you use it: If the vape is making gurgling sounds while you use it, it’s high time for you to replace the coil.
- The coil is working for more time than expected: It is actually good if you have no problems with your coil for a long time, far beyond the expected period. But prevention is better than cure, so look out for the slightest symptoms and replace the coil.