Vaporizers & Vaping

Vape Pen Cartridge: Beginner’s Guide

Gabi Antunes

Sep 5, 2019

Cartridge pens make it possible to consume cannabis with little prepping. These compact and portable devices allow consumers to use cannabis in just a step or two, while the lightweight and discreet profile allows more flexibility.

However, there are so many cartridge vape pen variants on the market that it can be hard to find the needle in the vape pen haystack. How do you know which cartridge vape pen is the best one for you? It all starts with a little research and education.

What is a Cartridge Vape Pen?

A cartridge vape pen is a device designed to vaporize the contents of its screwed-on cartridge. Typically, the cartridge is filled with cannabis oil or hemp CBD oil, but only states that allow the inhalation, and the cartridge is disposed of once depleted.

Many vape pens have a single button used for all controls, including on/off functionality and temperature adjustment, while others have no button on all and work with sensors which react when the pen is in use. The most basic, opening price cartridge vape pens have a single temperature setting. More advanced models are programmed to support several temperature points or have a built-in dial for further refinement. An LED indicator will communicate the device’s status, including temperature, low battery, and connectivity issues.

Cartridge vape pens can be found in all sorts of shapes and sizes. The most common you’ll find is a cylindrical and skinny version that closely resembles a pen. Other common styles include keychain-style vapes which flip open at the touch of a button and a squat, square or rectangle shape.

The universal standard for vape cartridges is called a 510 connector. A cartridge vape pen battery designed to work with a 510-thread cartridge is sometimes called a 510 vape pen. While many brands manufacture cartridges and pens to meet this standard, there are some systems, such as the PAX Era, that are only designed to work with cartridges specifically made for that device.

How do Cartridge Vape Pens Work?

A large portion of the device is comprised of a lithium ion battery. Unless the pen is disposable, the battery is rechargeable. When powered on, this battery raises the temperature of the heating element inside the cartridge. This brings the cartridge’s content to its boiling point, when it then turns into vapor and can be inhaled.

To use a cartridge vape pen, choose whether you are going to use refillable cartridge or disposable ones. If you choose disposable, you can purchase cannabinoid-specific cartridges such as hemp CBD or cartridges filled with cannabis oil that have high THC content. If you choose refillable, select your vaping material and follow the instructions to place the contents into the cartridge. The materials available to you vary depending on your local laws.

Once your material is ready, screw the cartridge onto the battery. Be sure your battery is fully charged before using it for the first time. Once connected, follow the device’s instructions to set your pen to the temperature of your choosing, if your cartridge vape pen supports more than one setting. Depending on your model, you will either press and hold the vape pen’s button as you inhale, or a built-in sensor will detect the strength of your draw and will automatically turn on and work. If you have questions about how to operate your device, be sure to consult its user manual.

When you’re done using the cartridge vape pen, it’s important to keep it clean and store it away safely. The exterior of the vape pen battery should be wiped down as needed, and the connectors should be cleared of debris. A refillable vape should have the cartridge cleaned out before it is refilled. Use a dry cotton swab to gently wipe out the inside of the chamber, taking extra care around the heating element. Remove the mouthpiece from the chamber and place it under running water so water passes through the airway. Do not place water or alcohol inside the chamber.

Pros and cons of cartridge vape pens

There are many ways to consume cannabis or hemp CBD, each method with its own unique advantages and disadvantages. The same goes for cartridge vape pens, which lend themselves to a simplified experience but not to versatility and flexibility.

Some of the most common advantages include:

  • No mess use. Particularly true for pre-filled vape cartridges, cartridge vape pens take hands-on preparation out of the equation. There’s no need to grind flower or set up a dab rig – just attach the cartridge and you’re ready to roll.
  • Little to no maintenance. Cartridge vape pens are among the easiest cannabis or hemp CBD consumption devices to maintain. Unlike dab rigs, bongs, or pipes, cartridge vape pens don’t require regular scrubbing to ensure peak performance.
  • Easy to dose. When you purchase a pre-filled cartridge, you know exactly how much oil is contained within, making it easier to monitor how much you’re consuming.
  • Lightweight and discreet. Clocking in at just a few ounces and typically just a few inches tall, cartridge vape pens add no bulk or weight to your pocket or bag.

Some of the most common disadvantages include:

  • Cartridge vape pens can limit compatibility. If you don’t regularly vape cannabis oil, a cartridge vape pen may not be the right fit for you. These devices are primarily designed to work with screw-on cartridges filled with cannabis oil and not with flower or other concentrate types. Other forms of cannabis or hemp CBD may require special attachments or completely different devices for consumption.
  • A malfunctioning cartridge is difficult to fix. Occasionally, you may come across a cartridge with a broken 510 thread connector. You’ll need an extra refillable cartridge, as well as specialty supplies. If you’re unable (or unwilling) to do this and if you can’t return the broken cartridge to the retailer or manufacturer, you may be stuck with material that you’re unable to consume.

What should you consider before purchasing a cartridge vape pen?

  • Warranty. Whether it’s for one year, two years, or even a lifetime warranty, a guarantee from the manufacturer allows for repairs and replacements if your device breaks.
  • Materials. What is your cartridge vape pen made of? Some materials are more durable than others, designed for many sessions for years to come. Review the construction of your prospective vape pen before making the purchase.
  • Price. The cost can vary widely depending on the features you want. The most basic devices start at around $10, but expect only one temperature setting and a basic pen-style design. The more advanced features can cost significantly more.

Navigating the world of cartridge vape pens

Choosing a cartridge vape pen isn’t as simple as selecting the first device you see online or in a store. How much you want to spend, the device’s warranty, and its durability are all factors to consider. Weighing the pros and cons is important, too – it could be that a different consumption device is better suited for your end goals and usage habits. No matter which cartridge vape pen (or other device!) you end up selecting, doing your homework will ensure that you end up with a device that you can enjoy happily for many sessions to come.