Cannabis vaping is incredibly popular… and surprisingly misunderstood.
Many marijuana consumers who try vaping pick up whatever product is cheapest, then revert back to flower because they didn’t get the right experience. Others put off buying a vape pen (or upgrading to a better one) because they don’t know what product is best.
Shopping for a vaporizer doesn’t have to be complicated, though. Here’s everything you need to know to find the best vape pens and cannabis concentrates for your tastes (including a list of our personal favorites).
Finding the Best Method for Vaping
If cannabis flower is beer, concentrates are hard liquor. And that increased strength makes it all the more important to find the right method of consumption.
Doing a dab is like taking a shot: you get a heavy dose in a short amount of time. A vape pen is more akin to sipping on a cold beer or a glass of wine: you have greater control over how much you consume.
What method is right for you?
Cannabis Vape Pens
Vape pens are far and away one of the most common and discreet ways to get high. If you’re new to vaping, however, the buffet of options you find at the dispensary can be overwhelming.
Some vape pens won’t hit the back of your throat as hard as you like. Others can be too harsh. Some pens activate when you inhale, while others are button-activated. Brands that use prefilled cartridges are exceptionally easy to use, but you won’t have the same range of concentrates to choose from.
We’ll get into specific vape pen features and our top picks later. For now, though, if you find a pen that hits the way you like, stick with it. And if you haven’t had any luck, consider a “smart” vaporizer that allows you to control exactly how your pen hits.
Pros of Vape Pens:
- Refillable (or you can use pre-filled disposable pens)
- Variety of styles and functionality for a pen that looks and hits exactly like you want
Cons of Vape Pens:
- Require charging
- Different refill methods and cartridge sizes may limit concentrate options
- Variety of styles and functionality can be overwhelming
Doing a dab is more of a process than hitting a vape pen, and it’s easy to feel intimidated if you haven’t seen a dab rig in action. But if you don’t mind the simple set-up and general lack-of-portability, dabbing delivers more cannabinoids per hit than other vaping methods.
Mile High Glass Pipes offers advice on how to choose a dab rig (or build your own) and what tools to use. “Ultimately, your dab rig will come down to a personal preference. Experiment, ask friends and experienced dabbers what they use and ask questions to get the best possible experience.”
Pros of Dabbing:
- Strong hits
- Fast effects
- Easy to alternate between different concentrates
- Popular party accessory
- Requires additional tools
- Less portable
- Not discreet
Vape pen technology has come a long way in the past five years, and that has reduced consumer demand for larger desktop vaporizers. But the tabletop vape (or home vaporizer) remains a worthy addition to your cannabis collection.
While they aren’t portable or discreet—and they carry a higher price tag than portable vape pens—the desktop option offers better performance, higher quality vapor, and can better preserve the rich flavor of whatever strain, oil, wax, or shatter you are vaping.
- Better performance for more and higher quality vapor
- Preserves rich flavor of the strain/concentrate
- Nostalgia – tabletop vaporizers were the original way to vape
- Less portable and discreet than vape pens
- More expensive than portable vapes
Dry Herb Vaping
The market for dry herb vaporizers has dwindled as the number of companies producing high quality, affordable cannabis concentrates has increased. There are still a few high quality options available if you prefer to vape dry herb, though.
Some portable and desktop vaporizers are designed for vaping flower rather than concentrates. And a few, like the XVape Aria, allow you to vape either herb or cannabis oil.
- Healthier alternative to smoking flower
- Greater efficiency than smoking from a bowl, bong or joint
- Larger, rotating selection of strains to choose from
- More noticeable smell (you need to carry around marijuana flower, after all)
- More expensive than most bowl or bongs
Once you decide on the right method to vape, it’s time to find the best cannabis concentrates.
Finding the Best Cannabis Concentrates
Not all concentrates are created equal. And the quality of your cannabis oil, wax, or shatter will affect everything about your vape experience, from strength to flavor to the type of high you get.
Here are a few factors to consider when selecting concentrates for vaping.
Pre-filled cartridges or refillable?
Some vape pens are refillable—you can purchase almost any cannabis oil, shatter or wax and use it for your next session. Other portable options use pre-filled cartridges. Carts make reloading your pen much easier, and they typically come in a variety of options (indica, sativa, hybrid, strain-specific). If you like alternating between oil, shatter, and wax, though, you’ll be better off with a refillable pen or desktop vaporizer.
What’s your go-to concentrate?
If you have a go-to concentrate that tastes like a dream and gives you exactly the high you want, make sure any pen or tabletop vaporizer you purchase can work with that particular concentrate. Or if you want to try a wide range of products, stick with a refillable vaporizer that works with all concentrates.
Do you already have a preferred vaporizer?
Let’s say you already have a portable or home vaporizer you love… or you just don’t want to buy another one. Consider what concentrates that product was designed for when making your next dispensary run. Don’t buy a gram of hash oil if your vape pen only takes pre-filled cartridges.
Thankfully, the low cost of many modern vaporizers has made it easier than ever to switch to a new brand if you feel like your current pen is too limiting.
Is the concentrate CO2 extracted?
Many concentrates are extracted using butane or ethanol. While products go through a filtration process and are tested for contaminants, some concentrates carry a subtle butane odor or aftertaste that can overpower a strain’s unique flavor profile.
Concentrates extracted using CO2 as a solvent provide a purer product that preserves a strain’s cannabinoid and terpene profile, allowing for richer flavor.
Sativa, Indica, or Hybrid?
Just like marijuana flower, cannabis concentrates can have different effects depending on the strain and whether it’s a sativa, indica or hybrid.
Finding the Best Vape Pen
Many vape pens are developed using proprietary technology, and they don’t all work the same way (or with the same efficiency). Some use a wickless heating system. Others use single or even dual wick. Some pens have one setting, while others allow you to control everything from temperature to amount of vapor produced.
Here are some of our favorite portable vape pens (and why we love them so much).
Best Value Vaporizer, Best Starter Vape Pen
“I didn’t want to spend a lot because I didn’t think I’d vape that often… now I prefer vaping, and I still haven’t tried a pen I like more.” -Brad (Karing Kind Customer)
The Yocan Evolve vape pen offers smooth, rich vapor in a small, stylish, and easy-to-clean device. The quartz dual coil atomizer provides a cleaner burn and purer vapor, and the patented design works just as well with different concentrate consistencies (wax, shatter, oil).
Durable, efficient, discreet, and easy to use with a wide range of concentrates, the Yocan Evolve is a powerful portable at a lower price than you might expect given its features and functionality.
What can you vape? shatter, wax, live resin, CO2 cannabis oil
How does it work? Button-activated
How do you refill the Yocan Evolve? Refillable: add your preferred concentrate
Learn more about the Yocan Evolve.
Karing Kind Labs 5.10 Thread Vape Carts
Best Recreational Vape Pen
“I used to avoid concentrates because they got me too high. The CBD carts help me relax without losing my motivation or focus.” -Jessie (Karing Kind Labs Customer)
Karing Kind Labs new CBD product line is perfect for the recreational CBD consumer. With a wickless ceramic coil and glass cartridges assembled without any glue or synthetic adhesives, the 5.10 Thread Vape cartridges ensure every part of your vape—from the oil to the heating element to the cartridge—delivers a purer, more flavorful hit.
Made with artisan, terpene rich, CO2 extracted cannabis oil and available in 1:1, 2:1 and 10:1 CBD/THC ratios, the Karing Kind Labs CBD vape line delivers
What can you vape? Karing Kind Labs pure CO2 oil
How does it work? Button-activated
How do you refill the 5:10? Pre-filled cartridges. Just screw in a new one and you’re ready to go.
Learn more about the 5:10 Vape Cartridges.
FAQs About Vape Settings
What’s boost mode?
Pens with boost mode allow you to get a stronger hit when you want it without changing your usual temperature or flavor settings.
How does stealth mode work?
Stealth mode is a setting some pens have that reduce the amount of vapor and prevent the pen from lighting up when you take a pull.
Why would I want to adjust the temperature?
Higher temperatures will provide a harsher hit but can reduce flavor and efficiency. You might increase temperature if you want the feel of smoking flower, or if you feel like your pen is hitting too softly. Lower temperatures preserve more of a strain’s unique flavor and aroma with a softer hit.
Smartpens allow you to customize your temperature settings, from max heat to how quickly the coils heat up. Play around until you find just the right settings, or go with a preset option to increase flavor or efficiency.
Is there an advantage to using button-activated or inhale-activated pens?
Not really. Button-activated pens can give you better control over temperature (hold it down for more heat, prime the button for less), but that isn’t always the case. Inhale-activated pens are incredibly easy to use, but pressing a button isn’t exactly difficult.
Try a few different pens of each type and see if you have a strong preference. If not, focus on finding a brand with features and concentrate options you like.
What Are You Vaping?
We hope this guide helps you find the best vaping method, device, and concentrates for your tastes. Let us know your favorite vaporizer and concentrates in the comments. And if need help choosing, stop by Karing Kind in North Boulder. Our award-winning budtenders are here to answer your questions and make sure you walk away happy.