When vaporization first caught the attention of cannabis consumers in the late 1990s, stoners would gather around the Volcano, a stationary device that heats cannabis flower and sends vapors into a detachable balloon that once filled, could be passed around the sesh circle.
And as cannabis culture has changed through the spread of legalization and technology, vaporization and vaporizers have also changed along with it.
Judging by the immense popularity of filled cartridges, the most widely used vaporizer type at the moment is the vape pen. A simple combination consisting of a battery and cannabis oil cartridge, vape pens and cartridges have taken the cannabis concentrate market by storm.
And while vape pens are extremely convenient for the modern cannabis user, offering a portable and discreet method of consumption, it might not be your preferred method of consumption. Here are other types of vaporization products to consider in the ever-evolving world of vaping.
A Quick Breakdown of Vaporizers
While vaporizers are available in all different shapes, sizes, and price points, most devices can be consolidated by methodology and style. Here's a quick breakdown of the types:
Vape pens, also known as “hash oil” pens, are a type of vaporizer that have become incredibly popular in the bustling adult-use cannabis market. A plethora of cannabis oil cartridge brands, such as 710 Kingpen and Heavy Hitters, are emerging at the top of the lucrative concentrate market.
A standard vape pen comprises a pen-shaped battery and cartridge that contains cannabis distillates or oils and an atomizer, which is the heating element activated once contact is initiated with the vape pen battery.
The chamber of the cartridge is where the cannabis oil or distillate is situated. When the cannabis distillate process takes place, all flavor and aroma is stripped away from the oil. It can either be left in this raw form, mixed with terpenes for extra flavor, or mixed with some type of glycol cutting agent, such as vegetable glycerin (VG) or propylene glycol (PG), to give the vapor extra mouthfeel.
Vape pods, made popular by the e-cigarette brand Juul, have also found a niche in the cannabis market. These pods are designed to snap directly into the top of the vape battery, activating when consumers take a draw from the mouthpiece on the tip of the pod. This style has been adopted by Stiiizy, a cannabis oil producer that creates its own pod products with varying ratios of THC and cannabidiol (CBD).
Unlike vape pens, which offer a way to consume on the go, stationary vaporizers are ideal for use at home, intended to sit atop a flat surface during operation. While there are many varieties of the tabletop form on the market, most options will include a temperature dial, heating element, chamber for flower and/or concentrate, and a mouthpiece attachment.
Some stationary devices, such as the iconic Volcano vaporizer, utilize a bag to collect the vapors before it's detached and consumed. Others have a long tube attached to the heating chamber, sending the vapors directly to the consumer.
A cross between the vape pen and stationary devices, portable vaporizers hit that sweet spot of convenience, portability, compatibility with your own cannabis flower or concentrate. Most portable vaporizers operate similarly to stationary devices, but are smaller and, of course, easier to transport.
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Standard portable vaporizers consist of a chamber for the flower or concentrate, heating element, and a battery. Most devices will feature temperature control in the form of a button or dial. This is used to activate the battery, heating the chamber and vaporizing the flower or concentrate inside of it. From there, the vapors are sent through a mouthpiece and to the consumer. It doesn't always have to be a decision between flower or concentrate vapes. There are also hybrid devices that can be adapted to be compatible with both.
Portable vaporizers are typically used to consume cannabis concentrates in its many forms, such as wax, badder, budder, and shatter. Some devices are also compatible with flower. Pax Labs is one of the industry pioneers in portable vaporizers. The company's latest device, the Pax 3, is a dual-use vaporizer for both flower and concentrate.
Most traditional stationary vaporizers are designed for use with flower, but electric nail (e-nail) dab rigs, which are specifically designed to work with cannabis concentrates, could also be considered as tabletop vaporizers. Instead of using a blowtorch to manually heat up a dab nail for concentrate consumption, e-nail rigs heat up electronically, giving users full control over the temperature and dab size.
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These vaporizers are usually equipped with high-powered batteries and, like traditional dab rigs, use nails made from ceramic, quartz, or titanium. Still newcomers to the vape market, e-nail vaporizers have become a great alternative for consumers of cannabis concentrates. The Puffco Peak is one of the most advanced concentrate vaporizers on today's market. Dubbed a “smart rig,” it uses a single button to cycle through temperatures and has water filtration, delivering a clean and flavorful hit.
Which Type of Vaporizer is Right for You?
The best vaporizer type is fully dependent on the cannabis experience you're seeking. Perhaps it's the convenience and discretion of a vape pen that is the most appealing aspect to you. If you want to change up your vape game with an e-nail rig or tabletop vaporizer, however, there are a few things to keep in mind before making the switch.
The portability of vape pens is certainly a main selling point, but users lack the ability to use their own cannabis concentrate or flower, instead depending on one of the many cannabis oil cartridge producers to supply a trustworthy product.
While there are certainly reputable brands out there in both the medical and adult-use market, there's something to be said about knowing exactly what's in the vapors you're inhaling. Unfortunately, if you live in a state without a robust adult-use market, it's hard to ensure what's inside of your pre-filled vape cartridge — let alone whether it's a counterfeit.
In this case, a portable or stationary device compatible with cannabis concentrate or flower may be your preferred mode of vaporization.
Compatibility with Product
To choose the best vaporizer for you, it's important to consider the type of cannabis product you intend to consume. This will narrow down your search to only include devices that are designed to accommodate your preferred vape experience.
Another aspect to keep in mind is how much money you're willing to spend on your vaporizer. Vape pen batteries are usually on the cheaper end of the pricing spectrum, but often have a shorter lifespan, while also limiting most consumers to pre-filled cartridges. While it's possible to fill stock cartridges with a homemade concentrate concoction, it requires a certain degree of know-how and could get a bit messy.
Stationary, portable, and e-nail rigs will typically cost more, but give the user more control over what's consumed, how it's consumed, and, importantly, how much they choose to spend on cannabis products.
Feature image photo by Gina Coleman/Weedmaps