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Which Type of Vaporizer Best Suits You?

January 27, 2016

Living in such a tech-forward era comes with many conveniences, but also with many questions as you choose a vaporizer amidst a sea of endless options. This can be particularly difficult for those who are just now diving into the cannabis game or returning from a very long hiatus. A changing legal climate has given rise to all kinds of newfangled contraptions that deliver your desired effects with unprecedented precision, efficiency, safety, and quality of flavor. But how do you choose from the astonishing number of options now available?


How Does Cannabis Vaping Technology Work?

Here, we’ll give you a brief primer on vaporizer types to help you narrow your search down. Each vaporizer type caters to different lifestyles and budgets, so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself on the basics before committing to one.

Table-Top Vaporizers

Two table-top cannabis vaporizers on a wooden table

Refers to: Larger vaporizers that plug into a power source

Ideal for: Homebodies, flavor enthusiasts, medical patients

Portability: If you’re the type of person who only indulges at home, your best option is likely a table-top vaporizer. Due to their size and dependence on a wall outlet, this vaporizer probably won’t leave your house often, if at all. They generally come with a hose-like mouthpiece or a bag that fills with the vapor so you can inhale at your own pace. These stationary vapes aren’t exactly ideal for the one-hit-and-done type of person, but they’re excellent options for sharing and for those who’d normally conquer a full bowl by themselves.

Functionality: Though often too clunky to conveniently lug around, these setups tend to offer the most advanced technology among vaporizers. But, of course, it depends on how much you’re willing to invest. Some of the better devices can cost several hundred dollars but offer precise and adjustable temperature control. This is important as different cannabinoids and terpenes – all with their own unique effects and medical benefits – vaporize at different temperatures. Also, if you’re a fiend for good flavor, a nice table-top vaporizer will go a long way. Cheaper ones can make your bud taste like burnt popcorn, but high-quality devices tend to deliver vapor that stays true to the flower’s natural aroma.

Quality of Effects: The precise temperature control also allows you to get more of the flower’s cannabinoids and terpenes, so the effect profile may change depending on which ones you’re aiming for. Use this guide to help you determine what terpenes and cannabinoids you should target and at what temperature to set your vaporizer at to achieve them – for example, the terpene pinene helps with alertness and memory and vaporizes at 311°F. Play around with temperatures to see how it changes your experience!


Vaping vs. Dabbing: Why You Should Care About Heat

Portable Flower Vapes

Two portable cannabis flower vaporizers next to a grinder filled with ground cannabis on a wooden table

Refers to: Smaller, battery-powered vaporizers with a chamber for cannabis flower

Ideal for: On-the-go flower enthusiasts

Portability: Generally speaking, portability is about the only reason you’d invest in a portable flower vape over a stationary table-top device. Because they’re small and run on a battery, these vaporizers don’t restrict you to one spot at home.

Functionality: While these vaporizers have the advantage of portability, their functionality is often more limited. Many flower vaporizers heat the flower at a single fixed temperature which may be too hot if you’re trying to get more of those flavorful terpenes. Some permit you manipulate the heat but may not allow you to choose a specific temperature. Flower vapes may grant more customization with specific strains compared to portable oil pens, which sometimes offer strain-specific oils but are often blends of many different strains.

Quality of Effects: Although portable vapes don’t often give you the temperature control found in table-top devices, they can still capture some of the nuances of each unique strain. Portable vaporizers with some level of temperature customization are often preferred to those without, as they can be turned down if the product tastes burnt or turned up if you aren’t getting a full enough vapor.


10 Excellent Portable Dry-Herb Vaporizers

Portable Oil Vapes

Two portable cannabis concentrate vaporizers on a wooden table

Refers to: Small, battery-powered vaporizers that use oil instead of flower

Ideal for: On-the go concentrate enthusiasts, small budgets

Portability: Preferred for their portability and discretion, portable oil vapes are perfect for the mobile oil enthusiast. Some don’t require loading or unloading product – it all comes neatly contained in a sealed oil cylinder. However, others can be filled with your own cannabis oil.

Functionality: Vaporizers that look just like a pen or a stylus are gaining popularity because the battery is inexpensive and the CO2 oil inside them hits smoothly and lasts a long time. Some have had issues with battery life and leakage, but this these are generally rare malfunctions. Vaporizers that require you to load your own oils can be great alternatives for those without access to cartridge pens, but sometimes getting the right consistency of oil can be tricky.

Quality of Effects: You may notice that the CO2 oil in cartridge pens offers distinctly different effects from other types of cannabis oil. For some, the high is often more cerebrally-focused with fewer body effects, although these sensations vary across brands and strains. Cartridge oils sometimes carry a thinning agent to achieve the right consistency for vaping—be aware of the ingredients used, as some are considered safer than others.


Everything you need to know about pre-filled oil vape cartridges

Now that you’ve learned the basics of vaporizer types, look out for our next article with specific brand recommendations. You can also browse vaporizer brands and products on Leafly.

Do you have a favorite brand or type of vaporizer? Share your thoughts and advice in the comments section!

  • Shawn M

    I bought a Volcano vaporizer over 8 years ago now and I still use it almost everyday. It’s awesome. I’m impressed with the way thing have gone recently in the portable category! Some are almost as good as my Volcano! I found a pretty thorough list here: they don’t have many plug-ins listed though…

  • sarabelle9

    Grenco came out with the G Pen Elite and I LOVE it! I get a stronger high with the same amount I would put in my hand pipe. Plus when I’m running low, it’s easier to vape a small amount.

  • Rick

    My dad (age 84) has expressed an interest in trying cannabis for quite some time, but is greatly discouraged by the idea of inhaling smoke. Being in proximity of combustion (even slight or mild) makes him cough and irritates his airways. Though I can only assume that vaping is much like inhaling steam and may possibly address this issue, I’m still very unclear whether vaporizers still deliver that smokey “throat hit” effect that we’re trying very hard to avoid. I’d kindly appreciate one of you experienced vapers setting me straight on this issue, prior to making any solid decision to purchase.

    • Ryan Day

      Vaping does have that smoke like feel, because you are inhaling something. I would suggest an edible for dad.

      • Rick

        Thank you very kindly Ryan, your comment goes a long way. I’ve actually been a bit hesitant with suggesting edibles to him, simply because edibles, for unknown reasons, appear to have absolutely no effect on ‘me’ personally… making them very difficult to recommend to anyone from an experienced first-person perspective. On your advice however, I probably will wind up buying him a cookie or something of the sort… but it’s really going to suck explaining to him that he’ll be flying solo during family time ;). Happy 420!

        • Ivan van Ogre

          Bypass the cookies and go with PLUS-type Gummi Bears.
          This way the dose is well defined, more predictable and provides a sense of control.

    • Réal Guy

      @disqus_lQQtcMsdAi:disqus Your old man doen’t actually need to inhale smoke at all, and there’s hope despite his irritable airways if he already has acquired basic smoker skills in his younger days, m’well that’s my short version of an answer anyway. I’ve tried a few decent table vaporizers and that was no good, not because the machines didn’t work as advertized, but instead because of what these machines lacked which i knew nothing about until i started digging. My observations were that water needs to be part of the solution or it’s just a Dry-Baking Ovenizer and this won’t work inclusively for every single user.

      Cold or warm, fog can help moiturize the “fumet” but i found out that still didn’t suit me well on the long run. Then in parallel i became increasingly curious with a butane-operated pipe (which purists like to despise by the way): the clean-burning of butane results in 2 super-hot gases, water and carbonic gas (H2O and CO2), plus “zero impurities” (15 ~ 30 ppm) from the butane can so i like to call that “comet dust”. The trick here was to switch from a dirtier yellow flame to a cleaner blue flame, then i explored dosage methods, etc. It’s been a long while but my quest for a “final” solution is over at last and i’d refuse to trade my 100 $ moddified vapo-pipe with a venerable Volcano, for example, simply because i can’t have a sustained use of it: i need my water element and that expensive device still belongs to the Dry-Baking Ovenizer category as far as i’m concerned. Plus, the “locomotive” effect from using balloons promotes abuse, IMO. It’s because after waiting 2 ~ 3 minutes for a bag to fill up there’s no way i want to waste half of it once it’s there. The moddified pipe works in radical different manner: it emulates some ritual aspects of cigarette smoking without the nuisance, by allowing me to have a toke, then a pause, then another toke… Though with my solution it’s now possible to optimize consumption by avoiding long/intense baking/over-heating situations before and after each toke. This way it doesn’t matter how long a pause really is anymore and hence i can forget my pipe where i left it without a any fear of wasting cannabis since it cooled off rapidly as a direct consequence of my toking action: i toke with my blue flame removed… E.G. that means i depend on transitional STORED heat instead (which in turn helps with the stealthy aspect), and since the core has finite parameters this implements some aproximative dosage feature as well. Etc., etc.

      In addition, the condensing water in my transparent PVC Flexible Tubing Extension provides an early visual hint that i may be abusing, because the amount is proportional to the number of tokes after all, etc. Using a 125 mg bowl filled with well-cured and resinous cannabis i can enjoy about 6 tokes, so i evaluate 1 toke to be worth ~ 20 mg… In comparison my HerbalAire felt tasty enough only when loaded with 300 mg! Hence, while a balloon would at most contain 6 ~ 7 toke equivalents i now find that my pipe can double this offer, not to mention that its “organic” ritual shares similitudes with playing a musical instrument – a bonus feature complemented by excellent aroma/taste hints during a time-compressed appreciative experience that measures in seconds instead of minutes. M’well, minutes often pass beteween 2 tokes, meanhile the warm metal of my “Bronze” handle generates gentle heat that heals my articulations somehow… So, maybe it still takes 20 ~ 30 minutes overall anyway, but the main difference is there’s no rush anymore. On one hand i had the option to recenter my universe on some electric extractor that i suspect rendered me allergic, on the other hand i got my final “daily driver” and this one also appears to de-sensitize (undo the previous sensitization) as a result of the more responsible “Micro-Dosage” method. Plus, i now focus much more on my cannabic perceptions instead of when the machine will be ready. Etc., etc.

      Honestly i shall turn back to abstainance if/when that ever fails too, considering i tried hard to find this solution for many years.

      So, what i’m saying is that despite irritable airways it’s possible to avoid nuisible caughing by having Inlet Self-Moisturization as performed with a butane-operated pipe as mine, contrary to most other water accessory scenarios. My guess is it’s different because the water vapor and carbonic gas are super-hot while in a Dry-Baking Ovenizer there’s only ambiant air and none of these additives at all. A tiny amount of moisturization corresponds to a relatively large amount of heat, i figure, while dry air lacks this advantage. Too bad there are no ready-made commercial products doing exactly that out of the box. Take note i acquired my 1st VG pipe in 2012 and gave it away within the week, because it required expert skills i didn’t have (and never ever developped). The year later i gave modding a fair try and eventually succeeded, recently this present year… That means i feel a bit involved when reading posts as yours i guess!

      Of course i’d still be worried having to deal with a 86 years old individual, because the pipe when used with fire can be quite powerful and even cause such intense effects reminescent of fainting… I call this symptom the “punch-in-the-face” effect, since my visual field narrows significantly and tinitus affects my hearing, etc. Frightening stuff when not prepared, i must admit. But the good news is that it can be fixed thanks to electro-magnetic induction heat, the bad news is that’s just not on the manufacturer’s menu, at least not that i know of so far… Meaning skills may remain a difficult problem.

      Briefly put, maybe your dad could get satisfied with a few “shot-guns” (i hope i got that expression right) from a younger, more alert, lady stoner who’s role would be to supplement his lungs with her own, so to speak. After that there are other consumption methods but i must admit i like my vaporizer pipe very much and the habit would still justify itself without the THC buzz, cause today we’re going to get CBD tobacco substitutes (it’s legal in Switzerland already!)…

      Ah and here’s what i had as a former smoker decades ago (left) vs what i use on a routine basis (right):

      Although it doesn’t show here on that particular snapshot it puts cotton in my cannabic path, near the PVC/Bronze mating junction, and there’s moisture collecting in it which eventually traps fine particles. The Bronze scenario offers excellent eye-contact and hence less operator errors while the wood or aluminium “Classic” look handles (not shown) are somewhat superior in aroma/taste.

      Good day, have fun!! 🙂

  • Recently purchased a Firefly 2 vaporizer and all I have to say is it’s the best move I made as a daily smoker (I have a glaucoma)! Edibles are not a viable option for me and using a vape puts way less pressure on my lungs I am LOVING it. My next move is to invest in a kick a.. desktop vaporizer

  • Shelby Wagner

    If you are looking for an awesome portable vaporizer that can also work in a bong check out the Vapor Slide V2! It is the perfect hybrid between a pen and a dab. It is perfect for those who are always on the go or also enjoy vaping in a more social setting. Highly recommended for first time Vaporizer users and the everyday vaporizer users as well!

  • Adam

    Recently i got my new portable vaporizer (FIREFLY 2) i made a perfect decision through customer reviews site highly recommend!

  • kickedbenzos

    it’s a “burden” for you to shop for vapes?

  • Darin Kel J

    It would be nice to be able to get vape oil by itself instead of disposable cartridges which just makes more trash

    • noel1234

      You can refillable cartridges for your vape pen

  • johnny G

    STAY AWAY from cheap herb vapes (including the G pro) they are all made in china for next to nothing and even the g pro which is retailed at $100 is a remodel titan vape ($30) on wish, but STAY AWAY FROM THEM because they release toxic fumes from the heating element being so close to the circuit board and other crap inside the pen, multiple cases of heavy metal poisonings have been cause by these vapes and there is no real cure and it makes your life miserable, if you’re going to buy a herb vape its better to go big and buy a nice one like a pax or araizer

    • Susie Mmpatient

      Seriously, stay away from anything with a “G” in the name. the G Pro, Snoop Dogg’s G pen, the G Elite — unsafe and provide a rather nasty vape experience.