Beginners' Tutorial: Vaping Basics
Vaping offers a world of products to explore and experiment with, a variety which makes it an exciting space to explore. Luckily, picking up the basics of vaping isn't difficult. This guide is designed to get you started on that road, with some background information on vaping, the products available to you, and some key tips to keep in mind when you're getting started.
What is vaping?
Vaping is the act of vaporizing dry herbs or concentrate cannabis for the purpose of inhalation. Vaping has been with us in one form or another for thousands of years. In fact, the first ever recorded account of vaporizing dry herbs comes to us from the Greek historian Herodotus in 5th century B.C., who wrote about Egyptians who heated herbs and oils on hot stones to create a vapor that would fill a confined space.
Today, vaping is primarily conducted with electronic devices that heat your chosen material prior to consumption. Vape devices come in many shapes and sizes, from small, round vape pens to large, conical desktop units. The first step you take into the world of vaping will be with one of these devices, so let's examine what's available on the market today.
Types of vapes available today
Even within the same category, two vape devices can be quite different from one another. Your selection is a personal choice that should reflect the type of experience you want to create. To get started, it's useful to break down vaporizer types into three broad categories:
- Vape pens: Vape pens are portable devices that often employ screw-in cartridges outfitted with a standard connector compatible with most battery types. These are often among the simplest vapes out there and can be quite inexpensive, although some advanced models can cost a bit more. Vape pens come in reusable and disposable varieties.
- Portable vaporizers: Portable vaporizers offer the same functionality as a large desktop vaporizer with all the benefits of the vape pen’s small size. Some portable vaporizers work with only dry herb, others are designed solely for concentrates, and others still support both material types.
- Desktop vaporizers: Desktop vaporizers, as the name suggests, are designed for stationary use. They often require an external power source but make up for their lack of mobility in increased power and a high level of vapor production. Some desktop vaporizers offer multiple functionalities, allowing the vaporization of a wide range of materials, including dry herbs, oils, and waxes.
Once you've identified which type of vaporizer is best for your intended use, you can drill down into the specific models available. That means understanding not only the anatomy of a vaporizer, but the different settings and features that are available to you.
Vaping devices for beginners
Most vaporizers have several components in common which work together to heat your material and deliver the vapor to you. These components can be arranged in different ways, but they essentially serve the same purpose. The most common components that can be found in virtually every vape include:
- Power source: Every electronic vaporizer requires a power source. For vape pens and portable vaporizer, that power source is a battery. Typically, a battery makes up the bulk of the device. For desktop vaporizers, the power source is typically a wall outlet.
- Heating element: Vaporizers rely on a heating element to warm material for vaporization. The type can vary from device to device. Vape pens, for example, include a heating element in each individual cartridge. A portable vaporizer with a chamber could employ a heating element which heats the material directly by surrounding it, called conduction heating, or it could use the flow of hot air to vaporize material, called convection heating.
- Chamber or cartridge: Every vape needs a place for the material you'll be vaporizing. In many vapes this is the "chamber" or "oven," a small area where dry herbs or concentrates can be loaded into the vape prior to heating. Other vapes require the use of screw-in cartridges that are pre-filled with material. Others still, like the PAX Era, employ a pod system.
- Mouthpiece: The mouthpiece allows you to inhale the vapor produced by your device. Typically, the mouthpiece is located on the top of the device but for some models, like certain models of desktop vaporizers, it might be located at the end of a tube from the device. Some devices, like the PAX 3, support the use of different types of mouthpieces depending on what you find most comfortable.
What to look for in a vape
Identifying which features are most important to you is a great way to narrow down the field when looking for your first vape. Understanding these features can help you differentiate between models and determine which device is right for you.
- Battery life: The battery impacts the time it takes to fully charge your device, as well as how long it lasts. The size of a battery can also impact the design of a vape, its weight and its mobility.
- Temperature settings: Some vapes only offer a single or a handful of temperature settings, while others can be fine-tuned to the degree. Consider which materials you'll be vaporizing and the optimal temperature required for your sessions, and select a vape that supports this experience.
- Heating time: Heating time is dependent on several factors, including the selected temperature and the power of your vape. Many vape pens and portable dry herb vaporizers heat up in seconds.
- Vapor production: Some devices produce a great deal of vapor, resulting in dense clouds. Others are better suited for light draws and offer smaller clouds of vapor. Vapes with multiple settings, such as the PAX 3, offer different levels of vapor production depending on the type of session you'd like to create.
- Accessories: Many devices are compatible with vaporizer accessories. These can include different types of mouthpieces, useful tools for cleaning and maintaining your vape, or inserts that support compatibility with oils and waxes.
Understanding these features and settings and prioritizing based on your desired experience is a critical part of the buying journey, especially when you're first becoming familiar with vaping. As you become more experienced, you'll begin to understand what makes for your optimal session. A great vape allows you to tailor each session to meet your needs.
Common vaping mistakes to avoid
1. Buying the wrong vaporizer
Many beginners are so overwhelmed by the sheer volume of choice that they'll pick a device at random. This could result in selecting a device that doesn't suit your needs or expectations. Take time to research the devices to be sure that their functionality will suit you. Sometimes, it's best to buy a simple vape that does what you want than a complex device that can do it all. The device that is "best" is always the one that most closely lines up with your intended use.
2. Forgetting to charge your battery
Vaporizers rely on their batteries for power, so a dying battery inevitably results in a poor experience. Before using your vaporizer, be sure you've allowed the battery to charge fully. This will deliver the required power to the device throughout your whole session, ensuring vapor production is efficient and adequate.
3. Using your vape improperly
No matter which device you choose, you should thoroughly read your device owner's manual. Understanding what your vape is designed to do – and what it’s not designed to do -- is an important part of being a responsible vape owner. If you try to load concentrates into a dry herb vaporizer, for example, you are likely to damage the vape. Always use your device as designed; if your vape doesn't support your intended use, it is time to select a new device.
4. Failing to clean and maintain your vape
Failure to clean and maintain your vaporizer regularly could result in decreased function and, over time, device failure. Be sure to frequently clean out the chamber or oven, ensure that connections between components are clear of obstruction, and clean out the vapor path and mouthpiece in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. When in doubt, consult your device owner's manual.
Feel comfortable using your vape
If you still feel overwhelmed by the choices, don't be. Vaping is an immense space with a lot to learn about but getting started isn't difficult. You can always begin with something smaller and simple, or use the basic functions on a more advanced device, and work your way up to all the customization that select vapes provide. Continue researching, be patient, and soon enough you'll find the experience that’s right for you. With the bevy of vapes available to you, you're in control; all you have to do is take the reins.