Pot is a lot like wine. That is to say, the delivery system matters, and vaping rather than smoking can mean the difference between drinking a Loire Valley organic cab franc from a glass versus sipping it through a straw in a plastic cup.
I had consumed plenty of wine and pot before I could identify what it was I liked, and in both cases, having a mentor, or guide, was key to figuring it out.
Not long after the market was fully legalized, my cousin—a longtime medical cannabis patient—visited from San Francisco. We worked a small dispensary tour into his visit. That’s when I discovered the Mount Hood Magic strain, and stopped using concentrate. Still, I prefer the flower itself, which offers more natural complexity and roundedness than any of its byproducts.
And there are two basic ways to vaporize it: conduction and convection.
Your new device will either cook your weed, as from a stovetop pan (conduction), or it will bake it in a chamber, as in an oven, by circulating air (convection). Convection, done right, produces the purest, highest-quality hits with half the maintenance, while conduction oftentimes requires plowing and repacking, for equal heat distribution and to avoid the aftertaste of burnt toast. But not all vapes are created equal.
To help sort an elusive marketplace and what can be an expensive gamble, I ranked each of these vapes on a 10-point scale, based on taste, versatility, design, portability and sheer coolness—so you don’t have to.
1. Pax3 (Pax) $250
Cool Factor: 9
[Conduction] As far as conduction heat is concerned, this is as good as it gets. Somehow, this is simultaneously the most modest thing to hold and the most impressive to behold and use over time. It’s a work of design genius. Nothing about it is superfluous. The keychain it comes with, alone, to manage the plowing process doubles as a superb Greek worry-beads-style fidget toy. It’s dry herb and concentrate compatible, and you can set the temp via an app on your phone. One button on, one button off—this is how herb is vaporized. Done.
2. Starry (X Max) $99
Cool Factor: 7
[Convection] This is how convection heat works when it’s done right. Dial in your temperature on an LED display and boom, that’s it—the hot air passes from the bottom up, through the chamber where your trees sit. It’s a little clunky, though, and the swivel straw is sort of corny-looking. A less conspicuous, more ergonomic design wouldl improve portability and eliminate the competition.
3. Cloudious9 $199
Cool Factor: 10
[Conduction] If this isn’t the cleanest bong rip around, it’s genuinely just a fun way to do weed. Blue, green, yellow, orange and red illuminate the water to find your heat setting. Hit from the top, as you would an analog bong, and feel like the coolest kid in town. I still don’t know what all the metal dentistry tools it comes with are for. It’s not walking-portable, but it’s the most house-trained.
4. G-Pen Elite (Grenco Science) $119.95
Cool Factor: 8
[Convection] Grenco Science understands a few key things other brand names don’t—namely, that convection works best. But until it can figure out how to do this without also delivering toxic chemical taste, you should leave this one on the shelf.
5. DaVinci Miqro Explorers Collection (DaVinci) $199
Cool Factor: 7
[Conduction] Weak hits and a faint chemical taste on this one. I ran it high a few times to try and burn off whatever it was, but all this did was drain the battery. Otherwise, this is the most portable piece, and the one I wanted most to work better than it actually does. The cryptic, superficial light display is confusing and hard to use. Stripped-down versions are available for less at dispensaries and Walmart. Still, I wouldn’t recommend it.
6. G-Pen Nova (Grenco Science) $35
Cool Factor: 5
[Conduction] A three-in-one vape, this ceramic atomizer is the best, most affordable option if you want to try live or cured resin—and also vape herb in small amounts—all without giving up your 510 compatibility.
7. Launch Box (Magic Flight) $119
Cool Factor: 7
[Conduction] The hippie vape, for those who like the dry taste of a sauna, and perhaps also a little charring. This is a dinosaur, but respect to the OGs who have this and use it still.
8. BONUS: Peak (Puffco) $379
Taste: Punch to the chest.
Versatility: Concentrate only.
Design: State of the art.
Portability: House-trained par excellence.
Cool Factor: More like very,
Overall: Class of its own.
Siri, get me high as shit. This robot dab-rig bong machine is a category unto itself. I hadn’t been this stoned since my former roommate’s older brother was in town from Ohio. If you’re not a dab head, you’ll need the day off. Perhaps this is what they’re after—the eternal day off. I salute your cause.