Vaporizers & Vaping

What Is a Vape Pen? Exploring Your Vape Pen Options

Gabi Antunes

Jul 19, 2019

There’s an ever-expanding universe of portable vaporization products on the market, all of which come with unique features and controls that support the needs of casual and frequent consumers alike. Vape pens are a fast-growing product category within the vaporization world, with rising numbers of consumers in legal medical and adult-use cannabis markets opting for this device due to its small size and ease of use.

With so many styles and features to choose from, it’s not surprising if you feel some “decision fatigue” while trying to decide which vape pen is right for you. This guide will walk through the myriad options available, as well as some quick questions you should ask yourself when narrowing down your choices.

What is a vape pen?

Named for their long and slender design, vapor pens, sometimes called “batteries” and often just called “vape pens,” are highly-portable and lightweight vaporization tools. Vape pens are compatible with cartridges pre-filled with cannabis oil that screw on or attach magnetically to the battery; there are also empty cartridges available which can be filled with the oil of your choosing. Most cannabis oil cartridges available on the market today are compatible with these vape pens, utilizing the standard 510-thread connector. Select pen-style models are compatible with dry herb material. While vape pens are named for their shape, batteries come in all sizes and designs.

Many vape pens have the same basic functionality. Some have a heating element called an atomizer that is activated when the power button on the battery is pressed. This heating element instantly turns on and heats up the materials in the cartridge. Some vape pens are set to a single temperature, while others have low, medium, and high temperature settings.

As the name implies, these electronic devices use a heating element within the cartridge or within the device itself, depending on the model, to create vapor from plant material or concentrates. Vape pens warm the material to the temperature necessary to release the flavors. This temperature point, ranging between approximately 320°F and 450°F, is well below the 600°F or hotter flame from a lighter or a match when combusting cannabis. The result is a vapor that doesn’t taste burnt.

Different types of vape pens

When you say “vape pen,” you may visualize a thin device that’s slimmer and shorter than a permanent marker. However, your choices aren’t limited to just a vape pen battery and screw-in cartridge. Multiple variations with advanced features are available for you to try out. Here’s a brief overview of what you can expect from different styles of vape pens.

1. Pod-style vapes

Pod-style vapes are a two-part system which includes the battery and a pod that clicks into the device. Instead of a screw-on cartridge like with a common vape pen, pods are popped in to the battery for an effortless start-up vaping experience. Just like a vape pen, pod-style vapes offer instant heat-up times, smooth draws, and ultimate discretion. Pods can be purchased pre-filled, or you can fill an empty pod with the material of your choice in legal markets.

Pods are often manufactured specifically to the battery in question, like how certain coffee pods are manufactured for use exclusively with compatible coffee makers. The PAX Era, for example, has more than 50 cannabis extract partners in legal markets across the United States, which produce more than 250 cannabis strains for easy pod-style vape use.

2. Disposable vapes

Vape pen batteries and refillable cartridges are designed to be reused (pre-filled cartridges and pods are not), but for those who are looking for one-time use, disposable vapes are now an option. Often pre-filled with cannabis oil or industrial hemp-derived CBD oil, disposable vapes are used until the material inside is fully consumed. At that point, they are thrown away, recycled, or otherwise disposed of according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Disposable vapes cannot be recharged or refilled.

Advanced functionality

The basic functionality of most vape pens means that you don’t have to re-learn a whole new device if you wish to use these devices. However, the rapidly-growing market of vaporization products is introducing advanced functionalities all the time. Some of these innovative features include:

  1. App-controlled experience: Some advanced vape pen models support Bluetooth connectivity, opening a whole new world of vape pen experiences. These apps can fine-tune everything from session potency and flavor to temperature. Some apps, such as the PAX Mobile App, even have a lock/unlock safety feature so that only you can use your vape pen.
  2. Precise temperature control: Most basic vape pen batteries only have a single or a limited range of temperature settings, which can be detrimental to the vaping experience. Too high temperatures, for example, could burn through the material quickly and result in a bitter-tasting vapor. Select advanced vape pen models support fine-tuning these temperatures for flavor and vapor production, down to the degree. Oftentimes, these settings can be adjusted through the companion app.
  3. Measured draws: Tracking how much material is being vaped can be a difficult task, but some vape pen models are designed to measure out precise amounts. With these models, you inhale until the vape pen vibrates, signaling that you have consumed a predetermined, precise amount of cannabis.
  4. Session-specific vapor output: Basic vape pens aren’t “smart”. They don’t adjust to accommodate for environmental factors or how the device is being used. Top-of-the-line vape pen models come with built-in detection systems which can adjust vapor output based on the strength of your draw, session length, desired vapor delivery, and elevation. These features are usually controlled through a companion app, through which you can watch your session in real time.

How to use a vape pen

Select the product you’d like to consume. There is an array of cannabis oil products in pre-filled cartridge form available in licensed medical and adult-use cannabis dispensaries, for example.

Screw the cartridge onto the battery or click in the pod, depending on the model you have. If the vape pen only has a single temperature, press the button while inhaling. If the vape pen has multiple temperature settings, follow the model’s instruction manual to adjust it to a higher level or a lower level. Hold the button and inhale once the temperature is selected. Disposable pens are even simpler, with no loading of materials required. Visit our vape pen guide to learn more.

How do you choose the right vape pen?

Within each vaporizer category are a plethora of makes and models. Here are some questions to answer before deciding which vaporizer is best for you:

  • What material types are you consuming? Some vaporizers are designed to only work with dry herb material. Others have chambers which you can fill with concentrates or can use with cartridges that come pre-filled with cannabis oil. Choose the vaporizer model that supports the material type you plan to consume.
  • How much control do you want over your session? Vape pen models run the gamut from basic one-button, one-option functionality to the full suite of advanced features we detailed above. Fine-tuning your vaporization experience may require a more advanced vape pen which can support these specific needs.
  • Is ease of use a priority? Pre-filled pods and cartridges come with an undeniable ease of use. All you do is screw on or click in the cartridge or pod, and you’re good to go. This mess-free, one-step installation makes these vape pen types a popular choice, especially if you’re not interested in tweaking temperatures or using advanced tools to influence your vapor production.

Choosing a vape pen: it’s all about personal preference

Choosing your vaporizer is a truly custom experience, with devices available that can be tailored to your needs. Some consumers prefer the full power of an array of tech-controlled features, while others want the simplicity of placing a cartridge or pod and immediately putting the vape pen to use. There’s no right or wrong answer to your decision – it’s all about what fits best with you.