What Is Vaping?

When it comes to enjoying herb, there's smoking and there's vaping. These two practices are the most popular ways of inhaling the benefits of dry herb, botanical concentrates, and eliquids, but they couldn't be farther apart. Smoking burns material, adding nasty particles to what you breathe in, while the latter extracts the essential compounds from materials without burning them. This is achieved using a vaporizer, a personal device that unlocks key compounds found in herb and other materials without creating smoke. While smoking ignites dry herb, adding harmful particulates to each draw, these units maintain the ideal temperature for activating the essential compounds found in dry herb with minimal combustion. Specifically, they have the ability to heat herb at temperatures just below 392F, the point of combustion. This sweet spot unlocks flavors, aromas, and effects from dry herb without introducing irritants to each hit.

Girl Vaping

Thanks to its convenient, cost-effective, and efficient nature, vaping has become a popular alternative to smoking. Because little is known about its effects, it remains a subject of controversy. It has been found to be 40% cheaper than cigarettes, according to NerdWallet. Some choose to use them simply because they're more discreet than smoking. You can fit a handheld unit in your pocket, and hide it in your palm as you're taking a hit, which won't hang in the air like smoke.

There are many ways to enjoy the benefits of dry herb, concentrates and eliquids, but smoking limits these experiences. In contrast, vaporizers come in a variety of types, and every unit offers a different experience with its own unique design, heating style, temperature range, and controls. There are many options out there, from portable, pen-style, and desktop, but the essential purpose of vaping remains the same--to deliver clean-tasting, flavorful vapor that many prefer over smoke.

Vaping Materials

When people hear the term vaping, chances are they'll think of the nicotine eliquid that so many use as an alternative to tobacco. But vaporizers are compatible with many other materials, including dry herb, wax, and oil concentrates. Most devices handle only one material, while others are multi-functional. These materials fall into three categories:

material types

Dry Herb

For the traditionalists, dry herb dry herbs offer the natural flavors, aromas and potency levels that have been around for centuries. This material is ground down to finer granules before being vaporized. This creates more surface area with which heat can make contact, promoting thorough heating. Herbal vapes generally feature a heating chamber made of conductive material such as ceramic that heats dry herb without burning it. These units usually feature either conduction or convection heating, or a combination of both heating styles. Herbal vaporizers can feature a variety of temperature settings. Precision control allows users to choose specific degrees of temperature from a wide range of settings, while variable voltage units generally feature 3 to 5 preset temperatures.

Wax Concentrates

Some prefer higher potency levels and a wider range of flavors. This is where wax concentrates come in. They are derived from dry herb and generally feature increased potency levels. Wax comes in a variety of types including crumble, concentrate, and oil. Vaping wax generally requires a pen-style unit. This slender device features an atomizer, a heating chamber that usually features a heating element such as a quartz rod wrapped in titanium coils. Wax concentrates can also be consumed using an enail, a high powered device that vaporizes concentrates at extra hot temperatures to create huge, robust clouds. This practice is known as dabbing. Wax can also come in a liquid form, which is vaped using an oil cartridge powered by a battery.


Those switching from smoking to vaping generally turn to eliquid, also known as ejuice, a liquid usually comprised of vegetable glycerine, propylene glycol, flavoring, and a nicotine solution. Ejuice has become a popular substitute for loose leaf tobacco for a number of reasons. For one thing, this substance comes in a variety of nicotine levels so the user can customize their level of intake. Secondly, users don't breathe in as many irritants as they do when smoking. Finally, vapor from eliquid does not linger in the air like smoke, making it a more discreet, cleaner way to enjoy nicotine. This material is generally consumed using an eliquid vaporizer, which features a liquid tank or cartridge and a battery with a control button on it.

Modern History Of Vaping

History of vaping

How Does Vaping Work?

When you look closely at the science of vaping, there are many moving parts. This can get a little complicated, but it all boils down to the vaporizer. This device converts materials such as herb, wax and eliquid into consumable clouds using heat. In most cases, the user simply loads the heating chamber with material then activates the heating system using a button. When we break it all down to the essentials, there are three main components at play here--the power source, heating element and air path. Let's take a closer look at each part to better understand how vaping works.

The components of a vaporizer

Power Source

The first essential component found in vaporizers is the power source. Each unit has one, and it usually comes in the form of a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. These types of batteries are favored for their high power output and compact size. However, there are other forms of power including AC/DC outlets and butane torches. One day alternative sources such as kinetic or solar power might even be used.

Heating Element

The next important component is the heating chamber, which pulls energy from the power source to heat your material. These chambers use heat to extract the desired ingredients and effects from your materials, similar to how steam is created by boiling water. Because certain compounds found in dry herb are activated at specific temperatures, different effects can be achieved at different heat settings. Generally speaking, concentrates and eliquids will require higher temperatures to achieve vaporization than dry herbal materials.

Vapor Path

The air path is the final stage of the vaping process. When the user inhales, clouds travel from the heating element down through the air path and into their mouth. Portable units generally feature mouthpieces, while desktop vaporizers offer either "whip-style" or "balloon bag" delivery methods. Whips are medical grade tubing through which the user sucks out vapor, while balloon bag systems fill a bag with vapor which can be consumed from a mouthpiece nozzle. Some users prefer to attach a water bubbler to their desktop unit for cooler hits.

Vaporizer heat source

Conduction Heating

Most vaporizers feature conduction, which occurs when your heating element comes into direct contact with your vaping materials. Think of it like butter on a skillet--the heating element itself is working to change your material into a different state of matter. Conduction vaping generally utilizes higher temperatures than convection heating, which causes a minimal amount of combustion. That's why conduction units aren't as smooth and clean-tasting as convection devices.

The main benefits of conduction heating include quick heat up time and larger, more robust clouds. Because these units heat material directly, vapor is created much faster. This comes in handy for on-the-go vaping when you're strapped for time. The direct heating also creates bigger clouds with a thicker profile. This type of heating is the most popular method of vaping dry herb and especially wax.

Convection Heating

We've covered conduction heating, which suits those who want a more rapid heat up time. But those vaping for flavor, potency, and purity turn to convection heating. This style uses indirect heating, sending hot air into the chamber rather than burning materials against a heated surface. This air extracts the desired effects as it passes over the materials. Think of an oven that heats the air around uncooked food. The food is cooked without the heating element ever coming into direct contact with it. That's the essence of convection.

Instead of rapidly heating materials, convection heating slowly brings them to temperature, gradually releasing the essential compounds found in herb without causing them to burn. Most convection systems also operate at lower temperatures than conduction units. This means that they will not create as large of clouds when used with concentrates and wax.

These types of units are generally more spacious in their design because the heating element cannot touch the material and there needs to be room for hot air to flow over the product to create vapor. This means they generally feature deeper bowls and are capable of holding more herb for longer vaping sessions.

Hybrid Heating

Hybrid systems feature aspects of both conduction and convection to make vaping faster and more efficient. Hybrid systems work by heating the chamber quickly. Once the air in the chamber has reached the desired temperature, the heating element will then automatically set to a lower temperature to create convection heating. This is similar to heating liquid in a sauce pan to high heat, then bringing it to a simmer. This works to cut down the heat up time when vaping, while still minimizing wasted product. While vape pens never feature hybrid heating, portable and desktop units often do.

Choosing A Vaporizer Type

The great thing about vaping is there's a unit for everyone. The three main types--portable, pen, and desktop--offer their own pros and cons. It all comes down to your preferences, whether you prioritize portability, performance, or ease of use. For example, many users prefer pen-style units for their discretion--not everyone wants to enjoy vaping in a conspicuous manner. Others prefer better vapor quality over portability, opting for larger, more powerful desktop vaporizers. Let's break down the three main types.

Portable Vaporizer

Many of us are commuters who need a unit that can easily hide in our pockets and deliver hits in a flash. That's why portable vaporizers are one of the most popular types out there. These units are battery-powered, pocket-friendly and powerful. Portable vaporizers tend to be more feature-rich than their vape pen counterparts. It is not uncommon to find affordable portables with features like precise temperature control, LCD displays, and advanced heating methods. But they don't usually offer the level of vapor quality found in desktop units.

Vape Pen

If you need a unit that's even more stealthy than a portable, these vaping devices are by far the most compact on the market. Slender like an office pen, you can easily conceal these units in your hand during use, and they won't weigh heavy in your pocket. Vape pens also tend to be more affordable, making them the go-to option for on-the-go users on a budget. And they're easy to maintain and operate.

Most pen-style units utilize standard 510 threading which allows parts to be easily replaced. This also allows usage with pre-filled cartridges. All vape pens utilize conduction heating and offer a great way to enjoy oils, wax and concentrates. These units are rarely made for dry herb.

Desktop Vaporizer

For those who prefer vaping at home, a desktop unit is the best option. These offer better vapor purity. Most desktop units offer at least one of two inhalation methods: Whip-style and balloon-bag. The whip style method is most popular, but many units such as the legendary Volcano feature balloon-bags that are filled with vapor. Despite their lack of portability, desktop devices remain an attractive option for those looking for excellent vapor quality.

Vaping Tips For Beginners

  1. Don't Inhale Too Hard - Don't worry about taking hard hits. Vaping only requires short sips that stoke the vapor on the first hit. Once you start to taste the hit, take a longer, slower pull of up to ten seconds.
  2. Experiment With Heat Settings - Lower temperatures create smaller, more flavorful hits, and give you more hits out of one bowl. Higher temperatures create larger, more robust clouds. Trying different vaping temperatures will unlock different effects, flavors, and aromas.
  3. Pack The Bowl Correctly - Start off with a bowl that is more loosely packed, do not overfill. This will allow air to pass through the herb and prevent it from overheating in one spot, causing combustion.
  4. Charge Fully The First Time - Most vaporizer batteries require an undisturbed first time charge. This will ensure better battery life moving forward.
  5. Clean Your Vaporizer - Regular brushing of the heating chamber after each vaping session can extend the life of your vaporizer and maintain the optimal vaping performance. For heavier cleaning, isopropyl alcohol is recommended.