It's easy enough to list the latest and greatest portable vaporizers and say that it's the best. It's a common thread on many message boards and articles. But what's more important than the final answers are the reasons that lead each reviewer, poster, blogger, and YouTuber to their verdict. Opinions are just that, and unless you understand what your own priorities are and what's most important to you, you will have a hard time settling on what the right portable vaporizer for you is--regardless of how many Top 10 list you read.
Vaporizers are as varied as personal preferences are. No vaporizer will have all the pros and dodge all the cons. Instead of looking for the ultimate answer, it's better to know the right questions.
So, without any further ado, here's what to look for and ask about when choosing the best portable vaporizer (for you):
I know we just said your priorities may vary, but this really should be number one on anyone's checklist. You're investing in a vaporizer to produce vapor. If it can't do that effectively, then what's the point? The more vapor, the greater the effect. So watch reviews and videos, read comments, and find out from fellow message board members which portable vaporizers actually produce decent amounts of vapor. (But do be sure to brush up on what it takes to get the most vapor from a device).
One crucial point to make is that smoke is not vapor. Many vape pens have exposed heating coils which actually produce combusted smoke when you place your dry herbs on them. This is totally fine if you're just looking for a convenient, lighter-free solution to smoking on-the-go. It's also fine if you have glass screen filters to prevent direct contact with the heating coil (which allows for vaporization through conduction). However, many people have come to think that the smoke produced from vape pens is vapor--leading to a false impression of how thick and foggy vapor is (or isn't). So please, don't get confused. Vapor is visible, but it is lighter and dissipates more quickly than smoke.
So what makes one portable vaporizer produce more vapor than the next? It's all about what goes on inside the heating chamber. More vapor comes from:
The oils of the plant are a result of heat, so the closer the vaporizer's chamber can get to just below the point of combustion, the more vapor you're going to get. Ideal vape temperature will vary from herb to herb.
Naturally, since vapor is coming from the herbs, the more herbs you can pack, the more there is to vape. In general, vaping is more efficient than combusting, but that doesn't mean that packing a tiny amount will yield huge clouds. It means that with what you do pack, you will get much more mileage.
Finally, a large, fully packed chamber means nothing if you aren't getting good airflow. Devices that get clogged easily or packing the chamber so full that it blocks the airway will prevent you from getting vapor. You want to be able to pack the chamber full, but properly. Devices that have heating chamber at the bottom (away from the mouthpiece) tend to have the best airflow.
Flavor may be one of the more subjective qualities for a vaporizer, but what creates good flavor (whether your taste buds are picky enough to detect it) remains mostly objective: the materials of the chamber, air pathway, and mouthpiece.
Of course, the herbs and tobacco themselves have the greatest effect on flavor, but all three of these vaporizer parts can add subtle (and to some, profound) qualities to the taste and purity of the vapor. Glass is the absolute best material to have in a vaporizer because it will not affect the flavor at all--you'll just get the purest flavor of your herbs and tobacco. However, because they are more efficient at heating up and cooling off, ceramic and stainless steel are commonly used. While they will detract from flavor a bit, either of these materials will produce fine flavor.
Your portable vaporizer or vape pen is only as good as it lasts. Of course you will want to decide on something that seems durable and sturdy. But, one thing we've learned from cruel, harsh experience: accidents will happen. Accidents come in a lot of forms too. You may drop and break only a small, but necessary part of the vaporizer. Some accidents are entirely not your fault (damaged in transit or factory defects).
While it's important to choose a reliable vaporizer upfront, it's also a good idea to look into both the manufacturer's and store's warranty policies. This is the best way to protect your investment long-term.
This one is especially important if you're on the go a lot without the time or means to recharge the device. Some vaporizers use external batteries, so you can travel with a backup. Other vaporizers just have really long battery life (up to 2 and 3 hours, depending on the temperature setting). But some vaporizers are only going to last 1-2 hours tops at the highest temperature settings.
You should also take note of how the device charges. If the vaporizer uses a standard charging port (like a Micro USB plug found with most cell phones), then even if you're on the go, you may be able to charge the vape at a friend's house or the office.
Finally, battery life is much less important if you know you'll be using the vaporizer mostly at home, where you can always keep it charged. The impact of the battery life will be even less if the device allows you to operate it while it's charging, so keep a look out for that.
Most portable vaporizers are going to require some sort of maintenance. And maintenance requires patience. Whether it's cleaning or replacing filters, polishing out heating chambers, or getting the build up out of an air pathway, you're going to have to perform some sort of up-keep with your vaporizer. Some vaporizer are easier to maintain than others.
Personally, I wouldn't say that maintenance should keep anyone from buying a great vaporizer, but that's just me. As mentioned in the very beginning, preferences and opinions are going to differ. So if you know you don't want to deal with cleaning and caring for a high-maintenance vaporizer, then do yourself a vapor and ask around before making the plunge. There are definitely options out there that are a piece of cake to take care of.
Finally, there's the price tag. Ideally, your vaporizer will be with you for a while, so if you have the money, it's a good idea to invest it in a good vaporizer (one which has the qualities above that are important to you). You do get what you pay for to a certain extent, but not all inexpensive vaporizers are bad (some are quite good), and not all expensive vaporizers are worth the money. Below is a basic list of vaporizers in our store ranging from $29.99 - $149.99.
My advice is to start with questions 1-5. See which portable vaporizers make it onto your list based on those important (or perhaps not-so-important to you) qualities. After that, if you're down to just two or three that are all about the same, then let price decide. If the vape pen you want is out of your budget at the moment, it might be worth it to just save up a little longer--you don't want to buy something for less only to be more let down than excited.
But having said that, there are many great, affordable vaporizers out there, so hopefully price won't be a problem.
So no, we did not end this list with "The Ultimate Portable Vaporizer Ever!" Even if we did, it would likely be an outdated recommendation within a couple year's time. The selection of vapes is always changing, and that's part of the excitement and fun. But the core of what shapes a person's opinion of a vaporizer does not change.
Hopefully these questions will help guide you as you decide on your next portable vaporizer.
Here is our tutorial for using glass screen filters to produce vapor from your vape pen instead of combusted smoke.