Woman using blue PAX Pod

Flower / Dry herb vaporizers are excellent tools for getting the most out of your herbal material. Whether you are a veteran vaper or are looking for a new way to enjoy your favorite dry herb material, there are options for you.

Traditionally limited to immobile, yet powerful desktop units, dry herb vaporizers are now available in portable and vape pen styles, so you can bring your favorite strains with you. But how exactly do these vaporizers work, and what do you need to know before using one? This guide offers a step-by-step introduction to using dry herb vaporizers to help you get the most out of every session.

What is a flower / dry herb vaporizer?

A flower / dry herb vaporizer, as the name suggests, is an electronic device used to vaporize ground herbal material. While vaporizers can vary greatly in design, the basic functionality of each is the same. A battery (in a dry herb vape pen) or external power source (for a desktop model) provides electricity to a heating element, which is used to warm the herbal material to its boiling point. Once heated, the cannabis material converts into vapor and inhaled through the mouthpiece.

Many flower / dry herb vaporizers offer several temperature settings, and other still bring a host of advanced features to the table. For example, vaporizers like the PAX Devices are compatible with cannabis concentrate material in addition to dry herbs, and can connect via Bluetooth® to a mobile application that expands their capabilities.

Step 1: Identify your vape style

There are a few different styles of vaporizers you can choose from. Because each dry herb vaporizer varies so greatly from one to the next, the first thing you should do is identify the specific style of your vape. This will help you understand its capabilities and a bit more about how it works. Dry herb vaporizers generally come in one of several different styles, including:

  • Vape pens: Vape pens are typically simplistic and compact, making them mobile. They’re named for their long and slender design. Some vape pens do offer more advanced functionality, like custom temperature settings. Dry herb vape pens typically include a small oven at the base of the device or beneath the mouthpiece.
  • Portable vaporizers: Portable vaporizers are similar to vape pens but are often larger units with additional internal mechanisms, such as a vapor pathway in place of a direct inhalation from the mouthpiece of a vape pen. Dry herb portable vapes, or devices that support both herbal and concentrate materials, are also highly mobile, compact, and discreet.
  • Desktop vaporizers: Desktop vaporizers are a diverse category of large and powerful units that typically need to be plugged in during use. Unlike their mobile counterparts, desktop vaporizers are focused on high levels of vapor production and extreme efficiency for at-home use.

Within each of these styles, one specific model could offer quite a different slate of features than the next, so it's important to consult your device owner's manual to become familiar with your vape before using it for the first time. For example, some portable vaporizers, like the PAX 2, have an oven located on the bottom of the device away from the mouthpiece, while others have an oven located immediately below the mouthpiece. Some vaporizers have pre-set temperature settings, while others can be set to the precise degree.

There is also the consideration of which heating method your vaporizer uses. Across all styles, vapes typically use either conduction heating or convection heating to vaporize your chosen cannabis material. Conduction heating occurs when the cannabis material is placed directly on top of the heating element. When the heating element warms, physical contact transfers heat to the cannabis material until it reaches its boiling point. Convection heating is an indirect method, by which the cannabis material is vaporized when hot air passes over it. In convection vapes, air is heated independently of the cannabis material and pushed over the herbs either by an internal fan or when you inhale on the mouthpiece. Understanding these differences and how they impact overall vape experience is key to selecting a dry herb vaporizer that best suits your preferences.

Step 2: Make sure you have all the accessories you need

Many flower / dry herb vaporizers come with additional accessories beyond the components that come in the starter kit. In each starter kit you can typically expect to find the device itself and a charger for the battery. You might also find a cleaning tool or maintenance kit, oven screens, or inserts for concentrates if your vaporizer also supports the use of oils and waxes.

While these components are everything you need to get started, they're not always all the attachments available for your vaporizer. For example, many vaporizers are compatible with multiple styles of mouthpieces, each of which can change your draw experience. The PAX devices offers flat and raised mouthpieces, which can be easily switched out depending on your preference. Mouthpieces also come in multiple colors so you can customize the aesthetic of your vape. PAX also offers a half-pack oven lid that reduces your device's oven capacity, offering shorter sessions and helping conserve cannabis material. Other accessories include replaceable parts, such as oven screens or concentrate inserts. In some cases, these components might get worn out and necessitate replacement, so having back-ups is always wise.

Step 3: Select the right strain

Your cannabis material is a critical part of your vape experience, so you will want to choose the right herb for the job. Many dry herb vaporizers are intended for use with cannabis flower, which comes in a wide range of cultivars commonly referred to as strains. Each strain has a different profile of compounds like cannabinoids and terpenes which influence everything from taste, to aroma, to overall experience.

Selecting the right cultivar to support the experience is almost as important as the vaporizer itself. You should also understand a little bit about the chemical make-up of your chosen cannabis material prior to vaporizing it. The reason for this is because certain compounds vaporize at higher temperatures than others. Changing the temperature will also influence which terpenes are vaporized and in what quantity. When trying out a new strain, it's recommended you experiment with different temperature settings to see how they can influence your session.

Step 4: Load the chamber

Once you've selected the strain you'd like to use, you should load it into your vaporizer. Before doing so, though, grind your cannabis material finely so that air can easily pass through it. Once your cannabis material is ground, locate the oven or chamber on your device. If you're not sure where it is, consult your device owner's manual. Typically, in a dry herb vape pen, the oven is located right underneath the mouthpiece.

Once you locate the oven, remove the lid. Pack your oven in accordance with the instructions in your manual. Most vaporizers need to be packed densely but take care not to overpack it; packing your vape too tightly can restrict airflow and diminish your experience. When your device is packed, replace the lid.

Step 5: Select your temperature setting

Keep in mind the type of strain you've selected and its chemical make-up when selecting your temperature. If your vape is capable, set the temperature to a level that will vaporize all the desired compounds in your material. In some cases, it might take a few attempts to discover the optimal temperature to suit what you want. Once you've selected your temperature setting, allow your vaporizer to heat up. This typically takes about 30 seconds to 1 minute depending on the device you are using. Some vaporizers will heat automatically, while others require you to hold down a button. Again, if you aren't sure, consult your device owner's manual.

Step 6: Draw on the mouthpiece

Simply draw on the mouthpiece of your vaporizer to pull the vapor through. Continue doing so until your session is complete. The method you use to inhale is largely a matter of personal preference, but it's wise to start slow if you aren't familiar with the device. Take a few short “sips” to become acquainted with how your device hits. Remember: slow and steady wins the race.

Some portable dry herb vaporizers, like the PAX Devices, have built-in lip sensing technology that detect when your lips are near the mouthpiece. Lip sensors allow the device to temporarily cool down when not in use, preserving unused cannabis material still in the chamber without ending the session altogether. Similarly, when you raise the device to your lips, the sensors cause the device to warm up again, making your session seamless and efficient.

Step 7: Keep your vape clean

Whenever you complete a session, it's wise to clean your vape. Every device has a different recommended method of cleaning and maintenance, so consult your owner's manual. Typically, you will want to ensure the device's mouthpiece, oven, and vapor path (if it has one) are all clean of any residue. Many devices come with a cleaning kit or recommend the use of a cotton swab and isopropyl alcohol for the cleaning of these delicate components. Always be gentle, especially around the oven; cleaning is important to protect the longevity of your vaporizer, but so is the protection of sensitive parts. Once your vape is clean and dry, you can reassemble the components.

Step 8: Recharge your vape

Finally, it's always recommended you charge your vape after a session. Every dry herb vape pen or portable vaporizer comes with the charger in its starter kit. Having a fully charged vaporizer is key to enjoying long-lasting and optimal sessions. Every session, no matter the length, depletes battery. When you're finished vaping and you've cleaned your device, allowed it to dry, and reassembled it, check the battery life to see if it needs some time to recharge.

Now you know the basics of using a dry herb vaporizer. It won't be long before you know precisely how to setup your vaporizer to meet your personal preferences and get the most out of your favorite dry herb material.

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