With vaping continuing to grow in popularity, it can be hard to keep track of all the different kinds of vaping devices that are available. While veterans may be able to easily navigate the differences, beginners can easily be overwhelmed with choices, especially if terms are used seemingly interchangeably (like "vape pen").
If you've ever been confused about what specifically a vape pen is, then this article is for you! We'll deep dive into what those devices are, what features they usually offer, and how to best take care of vape pens for long-term use.
What is a Vape Pen?
A vape pen is a small, cylindrical device that is able to produce vapor. It includes a battery that powers a heating element within an atomizer. That atomizer is in contact with your vaping substance, and when heat is applied, that substance vaporizes and is inhaled by the user.
True to their name, vape pens typically look somewhat like ball-point pens. This makes vape pens an ideal choice for discreet, public use and usually makes for easy travel. Vape pens can be used to vape a variety of substances, including nicotine-infused vape juice, dry herbs, concentrates, and cannabis oils.
What Are the Different Types of Vape Pens?
Vape pens were one of the first styles of vaporizers available on the market, which means you'll find a huge variety of devices today. Take a look below to see some of the different kinds of vape pens available today.
Disposable Vape Pens
Disposable vape pens are complete vaping systems ready to go out of the box. They are not designed to be refilled, so once the vape juice inside is used up (or the battery dies), the pen is thrown away. Disposable vape pens can come filled with e-liquids (often infused with nicotine) or cannabis oils, like THC.
Reusable Vape Pen Batteries
Reusable vape pen batteries are the most common vape pen style available. The battery is built inside a pen-like chamber, and most are designed to connect to a 510 threaded cartridge. This kind of vape pen can use disposable, prefilled cartridges or can use refillable, reusable cartridges or tanks.
This style of a vape pen usually has nicotine-infused vape juices or cannabis oils in mind for use.
Dry Herb Vape Pens
You may associate dry herb vapes with larger, box-like designs, but genuine dry herb "pens" are available. They maintain a smaller, pen-like design (though it will still be thicker than a vape pen for e-liquids), with a chamber to heat dry herbs. You typically sacrifice chamber and battery capacity for the discreet pen design, so keep that in mind when choosing a device.
Concentrate Vape Pens
Since concentrates don't need a wide surface area to heat, most concentrate vaporizers will sport a pen-like design. The heating chamber just needs to be wide enough to house a heating coil, though there are several genuine vape pens that are made specifically for concentrate vaping.
Finally, pod mods are hefty vape pens that are geared towards heavier vapors. Unlike box mods, which are larger and bulky, pod mods offer a slimmer design while still offering plenty of power. Pod mods are much thicker than a standard, reusable vape pen, but their comfortable, cylindrical form factor is still far less conspicuous than a standard box mod.
Pod mods are generally used for e-liquids with nicotine, though pod mods can also handle a variety of accessories and attachments. Depending on the specific brand, you can find pod mods that can handle dry herb or concentrate attachments, too.
What Parts Make Up a Vape Pen?
Depending on the specific brand of pen, you'll find small variations in the design or offered features. However, you can count on finding the same core components across devices that allow the vape to work. There are three major designs that you'll experience; e-liquid vape pens, dry herb vape pens, and concentrate vape pens.
E-Liquid Vape Pens
E-liquid vape pens will typically have a battery at the base of the device. As you move along the device, the battery will connect to some kind of atomizer. Unless you're using a disposable vape pen, the atomizer can be disconnected from the battery, which allows for cartridge replacements or easier refills.
The atomizer connects to the vapor path, which is how vapor can flow from its container where it is heated. Finally, the vapor will flow through a mouthpiece, where users can take puffs of tasty clouds!
Dry Herb Vape Pens
Most dry herb vape pens do not have a removable heating compartment. Usually, the battery (which is still usually located at the bottom of the device) is wired directly to the heating chamber. This is because the heating chamber of a dry herb vape requires a lot more power than an atomizer does, and a built-in heating chamber allows power to more safely and easily flow.
The heating chamber is where you will load dry herbs into the device. How much dry herb you can load will depend on the brand or model choice, though it's usually much less than a standard dry herb vape.
Once loaded, the heating chamber heats the dry herb (using either convection or conduction heating), which creates vapor. From there, vapor will pass through a mesh filter (usually connected directly to the heating chamber), where it will follow a vapor path to the mouthpiece.
Concentrate Vape Pens
Concentrate vape pens have some of the simplest designs you'll find in a device. The battery serves as the base and connects to the heating chamber. Depending on the device, you may be able to remove the battery base from the heating chamber, which is helpful when performing routine maintenance.
Inside the heating chamber are the heating coils. The concentrate is placed directly onto the heating coils, which will later heat up to super-high temperatures. Heating coils in a concentrate vape pen will eventually need to be replaced, and most devices allow for easy coil exchange for easy overall maintenance.
When the vape is turned on, the heating coils create vapor from the concentrate, which will travel through a vapor path through a mouthpiece. Concentrate vape pens can be made to be slimmer than dry herb vapes since less space is needed for concentrate than for dry herbs.
How Do Vape Pens Work?
Regardless of the style you use, vape pens work in similar ways. A battery provides power to a heating element (which can be a heating chamber, heating coils, or an atomizer) that heats a provided substance enough to produce vapor. The vapor is then inhaled through a mouthpiece by the user.
While that process can vary greatly depending on the specific features a vape pen may offer, or what the pen is designed to use, the basic process typically remains the same for most vapes with a pen design.
Benefits of Vape Pens
Vape pens offer a lot of benefits that other designs struggle to match. If you're thinking about purchasing a vape pen, consider some of the following benefits:
Discreet Public Use
The vast majority of vape pens (including many pod mods) can be concealed in a closed fist. This makes vape pens ideal for inconspicuous public use. If you need a device for vaping while out and about, a pen design may be a good fit.
Most vape pens can be disassembled and easily transported. Even if you don't plan on vaping publicly, if you want to have a device that travels easily, vape pens easily fit the bill. Even if your device can't be taken apart (like most dry herb vape pens), their overall design still lends themselves to be convenient travel companions.
Ease of Use
Vape pens are really, really easy to use, which is why beginners flock to them. Connecting a cartridge or loading a heating chamber is very straightforward, and most vape pens aren't loaded with a full set of complicated features. If you want a quick, easy vaping experience, vape pens offer an enticing solution.
Tips for Choosing the Best Vape Pen
If you're interested in a vape pen, you'll be faced with a huge variety of choices. In order to help narrow those options down, ask yourself some of the following questions to help guide yourself to an ideal product:
What Do I Want to Vape?
First, decide what you want to vape! Do you want to vape e-liquids or dry herbs? Do you want to be able to vape a variety of different choices? Determine what you want your vape pen to be able to handle, and you'll narrow down your choices quickly.
How Much Do You Want to Spend?
While vape pens tend to be budget-friendly, you'll still face a pretty broad price range. Basic pens can be as little as $10-15, while pod mods can be upwards of $100 or more. Landing on a price ceiling before shopping will help to make a faster decision.
What Features Do You Want?
Are you ok with a basic vaping experience, or do you want precision heat control, an extra-large heating chamber, or compatibility across a broad range of attachments? Determining what features you want and which you can live without is a great way to narrow the field of choices.
How to Clean a Vape Pen?
Vape pens are pretty easy to keep clean, though how you do so will depend on whether you have a vape pen for e-liquids, dry herbs, or concentrates:
Cleaning an E-Liquid Vape Pen
There's not much mess to clean up with this kind of vape pen since the entire vaping process is usually completely enclosed. Should light residue buildup on the outside, just use a dry cloth to wipe it down. If you spill vape juice when refilling a cartridge, wipe down the outside thoroughly.
Cleaning a Dry Herb Vape Pen
After every vaping session, you'll need to dump out the heating chamber and clear any remaining spent herb. You should never store dry herb in a heating chamber (that can lead to stick residue buildup and clogs). Occasionally, you'll need to change the mesh filter once it becomes clogged, and most dry herbs vape pens come with spare filters.
Cleaning a Concentrate Vape Pen
Cleaning a concentrate vape pen can be a little trickier since you're dealing with extra sticky wax concentrate. When you're done vaping, allow the heating coils to completely cool and rub-down the interior with a cotton swab and rubbing alcohol. You want to use a very small amount of rubbing alcohol, just enough to give the coils a good scrub.
You should never store concentrate in the heating chamber of your vape pen since it can potentially clog the vapor path or slowly seep into the sensitive electronics underneath. Remember, you'll need to occasionally replace the heating coil regardless, and it is often a reason that your vape tastes burnt.
How to Fill a Vape Pen?
If you're using a dry herb or consecrate pen, just open the heating chamber and place your cannabis or wax inside. If you're using an e-liquid vape tank, the process can be a little more complicated, and there are general steps you can try (which will vary depending on the specific brand of vape you have):
- First, power the device off and detach the vape tank from the vape battery.
- If using a top-fill tank, unscrew or move the top of the tank to reveal the tiny refill hole.
- If using a bottom fill tank, flip the tank over and unscrew the covering to reveal the refill hole.
- Use a syringe (or a bottle with a syringe tip) to refill your tank to the desired level.
- With top-fill tanks, replace the tank cap and reconnect the tank to the battery.
- With bottom-fill tanks, replace the bottom of the tank, ensuring it is completely fastened.
- Then, flip the tank over. Check for any drips or leaks. If there are, flip the tank over and more securely fasten the tank cap.
- If there are no leaks, reattach the tank to the vape battery.
Again, these steps will vary, though they should serve as a good general guide of what to expect when refilling an e-liquid tank.
How to Charge a Vape Pen
Regardless of type or model, the vast majority of vape pens have internal batteries (or batteries that cannot be removed). This means they'll have a charging port (usually Micro-USB) and an included USB charging cable. Many vapes do not come with a power adapter (or the part that plugs into the wall), but you can use any you have available, like those for most mobile phones.
Vape pens are an excellent choice for beginners, but their versatile and travel-friendly design has continued to draw veteran vapers who may be looking for a secondary travel device. Regardless of what you want to vape, there is a pen-like device for it, which means they are a great, low-cost way to try all kinds of vaping substances.
If you are interested in vaping dry herbs and are interested in moving to a high-performing device that moves beyond what a vape pen will offer, consider the Firefly 2+. It uses special convection heating to provide a world-class taste of your favorite dry herbs!