So far this year, we saw great strides throughout the industry of portable vaporizer hardware, offering all kinds of new and exciting ways to enjoy our favorite herbs and herbal extracts. Portable vaporizers are classified as handheld vaporizer devices, also known as “vape devices” or sometimes “vape pens,” which convert a product into vapor through the use of heat and rely on a rechargeable battery to ensure consistent and reliable power.
Today, there are two main types of portable vaporizer for herbal enthusiasts: wax/oil vaporizers, and dry herb vaporizers. While they both ultimately produce the same effect in the long run, they operate in different ways and take different product types, and the large majority of users have a strong preference between the two.
Wax/oil vaporizers refer to portable vaporizer devices that are compatible with both waxes and oils, which are heated using the same means but ultimately require different temperatures to vaporize properly. Oils are also known as vape oils or e-liquids, while wax is a thicker, wax-like concentrate that has far more potency than oils, and thus produces far stronger results.
Heat Source: Wax and oil vaporizers utilize a coil as their heat source, which tends to be made from ceramic material as it can withstand high temperatures and doesn’t run the high risk of burning the product. The coil receives heat from the battery of the device, and thus heats the oil or wax that is in contact with its wick. These vaporizers have a chamber or atomizer that contains the product, and they are usually quite small as only a little of product is needed to achieve the desired results, compared to, say, dry herb.
Ease of Use: Overall, wax and oils pens are quite user-friendly, although some models are more advanced/high-tech than others. Most use presets rather than precise temperature adjustments, so that you can simply choose from a couple of modes based on the output you desire.
Temperature: Vaporizers that are compatible with both wax and oil must have a relatively wide range of temperatures, as oil and wax require two different temperature ranges. Oils tend to vaporize best at somewhere around 350 to 400 degrees, while the high concentration and thick nature of wax requires around 500 to 700 degrees to vaporize properly. Anything above this would run the risk of burning the wax.
Maintenance: The maintenance requirements of this type of device depends on the construction in many ways, as the more components are involved, the more cleaning is required. Generally, the key component of maintenance is cleaning the actual chamber/atomizer, which accumulates a layer of gunk and residue from the actual product. A simple soak in a solution of salt, water and isopropyl alcohol on a weekly or so basis tends to be adequate.
Cost: Wax and oil vaporizers range from quite affordable to moderately expensive, depending on factors like the battery power, the advanced features and the design elements.
Portability: Wax/oil vaporizers range from incredibly slim and compact all the way to more robust structures that fit higher-capacity batteries. Overall, if travel-friendliness is your priority, you’ll have no trouble finding something that easily fits in your pocket.
Dry Herb Vaporizers
Dry herb vaporizers are vaporizers that are made to vaporize dry herb, also known as flower. They utilize a chamber into which the flower is placed, and the chamber is heated to convert the product into smooth vapor.
Heat Source: When vaping dry herb, a special type of heating method is required so as not to burn the product, but to also properly vaporize it so that enough vapor is produced each time the device is fired. Due to the solid nature of dry herb, the two commonly used heat sources are conduction and convection.
Conduction is usually the less preferable option, although some vapers still gravitate toward it, as it involves the product being applied to direct heat. The reason why it’s less preferable is because it runs the risk of burning the herb, which means that there’s potential for a lot of wasted product. But, conduction also heats the product faster, which can trigger stronger pulls of vapor, hence its popularity among certain vapers out there.
Convection heats the flower by actually moving the product to produce heat energy, which offers a more even heating style while largely preventing the burning of the flower. It takes a bit more time to reach temperature, but the reward is typically a more consistent vaping experience as the entire amount of matter is heated to the exact same temperature.
Ease of Use: Dry herb vaporizers themselves vary in user-friendliness, as some models are simply more advanced and high-tech than others. While many of today’s dry herb vaporizers come with precise temperature settings, others come with more user-friendly presets that don’t require as much precision.
One thing that does make them a bit more tedious to use is that the flower must be properly ground before it’s applied to the heating chamber. This can take time, and grinding it too coarsely or too finely can lead to disappointment due to poor and uneven transfer of heat.
Temperature: Generally, most dry herb vapers prefer somewhere between 350 and 400 degrees, as this seems to be the “sweet spot” at which the compounds are potent, the flavor is pleasant, the draws are smooth and the vapor is abundant. While some vaporizers allow you to vape at lower or higher temperatures, few prefer anything outside of this range.
Maintenance: Maintaining a dry herb vaporizer largely involves keeping the chamber clean, which requires about as much effort as maintaining a wax/oil vaporizer as the same gunky resin can develop on the interior. The cleaning process is also the same, as soaking it in a solution of salt, water and isopropyl alcohol tends to provide the best results.
Cost: Like wax/oil vaporizers, dry herb vaporizers can vary greatly in cost based on their power capabilities, features and design, and overall, the price range is a bit higher on average than wax/oil vaporizers due to the fact that they have more components and more complex technology.
Portability: The most compact dry herb vaporizer tends to be a bit larger than the most compact wax/oil vaporizer, but overall, you can find various sizes and designs to accommodate your needs regarding portability.
Who’s the Winner?
At the end of the day, there’s no objective winner, because each vaporizer supplies a different kind of experience that one vaper will prefer over the other. If you prefer dry herb, then a dry herb vaporizer is the clear choice for you, while those who enjoy what wax and oil have to offer will want a wax/oil vaporizer. With so many models of both unit types to choose from, you’ll have no trouble finding the perfect solution for your vaping needs.