Herbal Vaporizers have been a big part of our scene for decades! While starting from humble beginnings, they have become a major industry in their own right, with many options available from numerous manufacturers. This guide will give you a foundational understanding of the different types of vaporizers, as well as some popular choices!
WHY A VAPORIZER?
When herbs are smoked, the entire plant burns and exhausts into your lungs. Ideally, there's only certain essential oils and other chemicals in your herbs that you really want to inhale, not carbon and tar from plant matter! Fortunately, most of these oils evaporate at a lower temperature than the things you don't want. Vaporizers are designed to heat herbs enough to vaporizers their oils, but not hot enough to combust. The health benefits from this are clear, and vaporizers provide a few other pros. Vapor clouds are less visible and smell less than smoke clouds, and some vapes are designed with discretion in mind. Vaporizers are powered by electricity, so no lighter needed!
HOW VAPORIZERS WORK
Vaporizers use an indirect heat source to heat your herbs without combusting them. The two main types of this process are called Conduction & Convection. Conduction vaporizers heat the herb chamber directly, causing the herbs to vaporize as you inhale air through it. Convection vaporizers use a hot-air system, with the air being heated by an element as it travels to the chamber. Either way, the idea is to heat your herbs enough to vaporize all their tasty juices, leaving behind a slightly baked and desaturated husk. We have seen both conductive and convective heat work well in different devices, it's just a matter of how the vaporizer is designed.
There are Desktop Vaporizers and Portable Vaporizers. Desktop vaporizers are designed for home. They rely on an AC power source to heat the element, but as a result can run larger elements, and in turn, can power larger vaporizers. Portable vaporizers came later and are designed for travel. Most are small enough to keep in your pocket. Due to the restrictions of batteries, portable vaporizers are engineered to find a balance of performance and battery life.
The first desktop vaporizers used a Whip System, which was a simple enough design. A hose with an herb chamber on the end goes into a box with a heated element inside. By inhaling on the hose, air gets pulled past the element and through the chamber, convectively vaporizing the herbs. There are a variety of manufacturers that create whip vaporizers, and performance can vary with the design of the body and the quality of the element.
Whip vaporizers dominated the market until Bag System's rocked our world. Storz & Bickel dropped the Volcano in the late 90's, and it remains one of the greatest bag system vaporizers made to date. This german-built desktop unit houses a cone chassis around a high-power element with an air intake fan mounted below. A food-grade "Balloon" bag is attached to the chamber, and the fan pushes air past the element and through the herb chamber, filling the bag with vapor. The user can then remove the bag from the chamber, attach a mouthpiece and inhale the vapor at their leisure!
Portable vaporizers take their form inspiration from hand pipes. They are usually a single body unit with the chamber, mouthpiece, and control interface integrated together. The Magic Flight Launch Box was the first portable vaporizer, and actually runs off OG rechargeable nimH Batteries! One of the most popular portables is the PAX Vaporizer. Currently in it's 3rd version, this lithium-battery powered portable is sleek, discrete and potent for it's form-factor!
DESKTOP VS. PORTABLE
If you plan to use your vaporizer primarily at home, go for a desktop vaporizer! They're more powerful and don't require you to deal with charging, and usually provide a more enjoyable experience overall. You can still unplug your desktop vaporizer and take it to a friend's place!
That said, portable vaporizers are hugely popular for vaping on the go! They also are much smaller and more discrete than desktop vaporizers, so a good choice if you are trying to not grab attention. Lower power isn't a drawback for everyone, as it allows you to control your intake much more by taking multiple hits instead of one large draw!
CLOUD VISIBILITY ≠ POTENCY
Veteran smokers can have a hard time getting into vaporizers, as there is stigma for vaporizers providing weak hits. Since you are only vaporizing 10% of the material that you would combust when you smoke, and since vapor is far less visible to the human eye than smoke, the clouds are most definitely going to be thinner and smaller. Also, because the vapor isn't piggybacking on a cloud of smoke, it isn't nearly as abrasive on your lungs. Because of this, the "head rush" doesn't occur, and instead the effects set in more slowly. So remember, you just need to have patience with a vaporizer, and give the vapors time to have their effect.
DAB VAPORIZERS, PENS & SMART RIGS
Dabbing has taken the scene by storm, and there are multiple vaporizer options if you prefer dabbing over vaporizer herb. Since you are vaporizing a concentrate, there are some very potent delivery options. Some herbal vaporizers even have dabbing accessories available! If you're considering dab vaporizers, we have a dedicated guide - Introduction to Dab Vaporizers, Pens & Smart Rigs. If you're new to dabbing, you may want to check out our Dabbing - What Do I Need? guide as well! Now back to Herbal Vaporizers!
CONTROLLING YOUR HIT
If your vaporizer uses a forced-air solution, such as a Volcano, it controls how fast the air moves past the element so it's the proper temperature when it hits the chamber. But most vaporizers that you draw on though a whip or mouthpiece require you to control how hard you are inhaling. When drawing at the ideal rate, you will get the most vapor. If you inhale too hard, the air flies by the element without heating up enough, and you will hardly get any vapor at all! Most portable vaporizers should be drawn on like if you were sipping from a coffee straw.
OUR FAVORITE HERBAL VAPORIZERS
Storz & Bickel has dominated the market for years with their Volcano. Their Plenty is one of the best Whip Vaporizers in the game, and they also make two of the most powerful portable vaporizers, known as the Crafty & Mighty!
The Magic-Flight Launch Box is made in San Diego, California. It is one of the first portable vaporizers ever made, and includes a lifetime warranty! It operates on replaceable rechargeable NimH Batteries, allowing you to stock up extras for a long trip! Our older customers who want to only inhale small amounts of vapor at a time love the Launch Box!
The PAX vaporizer has been around for nearly a decade, and is currently on its third incarnation. The device is sleek, discreet, and provides excellent battery life and performance for its form.
The Switch by Dr. Dabber is a large-yet-portable vaporizer bubbler hybrid, and provides fat rips and long battery life for both. With multiple chambers and temperature setups for flower or herb, it's a serious unit!
You can browse our entire Vaporizer section here!