Vaping weed doesn’t reek. There’s no smoke to tear up your throat. And unless you make a spectacle of it, dubbing yourself that asshole, it’s subtle. Those who vape their cannabis often do so because the dosage is easier to control—chalk that up to the wonders of technology—and the effects feel less jolting than more traditional means of getting high. (Although, folks who don’t regularly partake might find vaping to be more intense than smoking, according to one study.) To be fair, you do lose that transformative experience of coughing your esophagus out over a poorly wrapped joint or getting so high off of one rip from a communal bong that the stars fall to Earth and the moon waves hello. Hey, sacrifices must be made.
Vapes make dry herb, concentrate, or oil hot enough to activate the THC that sets you sailing, but not so hot the cannabis combusts into smoke, defeating the entire purpose of vaping. To broadly summarize the tech in the least boring way possible, there are two kinds of vaporizer heating systems used to extract high-making chemicals and flavor from cannabis: one that uses conduction heating and one that uses convection heating.
Conduction vs. Convection Heating
Conduction heating puts your weed in direct contact with the vape’s heating element—like its coils—often getting you a faster heat time. However, if your product is too close to the heating element for too long, it’ll burn. (Simply shifting it around in the vape’s chamber is an easy fix.) Convection vapes tend to be more finicky and more expensive, but oftentimes are worth it for the vapor alone, especially if you prefer using dry herb. With these, the weed product doesn’t come into direct contact with the heating element. Instead, very hot air from the heating element circulates through the vape with every pull, indirectly vaporizing the product. On one hand, your product won’t combust, and the vapor is more even and flavorful. On the other, convection vapes can take longer to fire up, so patience is a virtue. These days, vapes can stick to one type of heating system or the other, but many market themselves as neither or both.
Vaping vs. Smoking
If you’re here, you’re likely already sold on vaping cannabis in one of its forms. But we’d be negligent to not quickly run through the science of weed vaping. Going the smoke-free route with a vaporizer is considered “likely less harmful than smoking” marijuana, because smoke itself is bad for your lungs. You know, the whole Joe Camel thing. The CDC has linked lung illness and some deaths to vape products with THC—remember the vape outcry of 2019?—but the big asterisk is that the THC products to blame were for the most part acquired from bootleg, black market sources. The lesson here is: Don’t be an idiot about where you get your oil. And because, annoyingly, marijuana is still illegal under federal law, hard-hitting research about vaping it remains scarce in these early days of legalization.
Vaping and Social Justice Reform
Speaking of legalization, getting high continues to be something of a political act, not just in terms of fighting for legality, but in terms of fighting for social justice in the cannabis industry. Even as it booms, the industry is rife with inequality, serving the well-funded startups and venture capitalists more than it does the grassroots efforts that made cannabis legit. Buy a real nice vape for yourself, then make the effort to purchase product from dispensaries and companies that fight for incarcerated people locked up for nonviolent drug offenses, invest in the BIPOC communities that are being boxed out of the industry, or fund political initiatives to end the so-called war on drugs, which has long given police an excuse to target people of color.
We figure you just want to vape, but vape smartly. Here are 14 of the best—and best-looking—weed vaporizers you can get right now. Pair one with quality flower, concentrate, or oil, and get to it.
G Pen Gio+
This is an all-around great pen. Though small, you can adjust the Gio+ to your ideal settings—there are three time-controlled settings to choose from, activated simply enough by a little button on the back of the body. And hey, sometimes small is good. There’s no screen on this pen, but the LED “G” light tells you what’s up. Do note that this vaporizer only takes proprietary G Pen cartridges (CBD is available on the website, but you’ll have to go to a dispensary for more potent stuff), which is not a bad ecosystem of cartridges to immerse yourself in.
Airgraft is one of the newest devices on this list, and that means it packs some of the newest tech. It also means that it’s only available to deliver in California as of January 2021. Its thing is transparency. You’ve got to buy the pods that Airgraft vets, but when you do, the vape will take readings on how much THC (and other compounds) you consume per draw, and heat the oil to the right temperature without making you futz with controls. Add to that its locking mechanism—both child-proof and mooch-proof—and you’ve got one hell of an intelligent vape.
The Rubi is an open-tank oil vape that looks strikingly similar to a nicotine vape like Juul’s, if that’s your vibe. It won’t leak or lose a charge too quickly, and the airflow design ensures immediate vapor quality with each draw, although there are no temperature settings. Consider it for a day out when you require stealth.
APX Vape (v2)
Pulsar’s APX vape is suited for money-conscious users or newbies still on the fence. It takes 30 seconds to heat up the bud in its convection-style chamber, its battery lasts for multiple sessions, and it has five intensity settings. The vapor quality won’t blow you away, but it’ll more than get the job done. If concentrate is more your speed, the APX comes in a wax version, too.
Further along on this list, you’ll come across a DaVinci vaporizer that is a beast to behold—with features and craftsmanship to anchor it firmly in the “luxury” realm. This vape, the conduction-heated MIQRO, is the less-spendy downgrade. For a downgrade, it’s still pretty upgraded itself, with a zirconium airflow system and ceramic pathway that preserve flavor, and controls that toggle between curated and manual pulls.
Storz & Bickel
The Mighty is the Cadillac of vaporizers. With a powerful dual conduction and convection system, it instantly produces a strong, flavorful vapor whose quality lasts as long as the battery—at least an hour and a half. You can thank German engineering for its reliability and durability; perhaps we should say it’s the BMW of vaporizers. It’s chunky, but again, you’re here for the top-notch vapor quality. Besides, chunky is a vibe unto itself.