In the last few years, millions of former smokers all across the Globe decided to leave those nasty analogs behind and to make the switch to personal vaporizers. They created strong communities in the process, shaped the industry and many times they had to fight for their right to vape. And since the number of active smokers out there is still very high, I have a strong feeling this trend will continue but the thing is, with so many products on the market today, it's probably hard for somebody who lacks the knowledge to choose a device that can ultimately keep him or her away from combustibles.
I decided to write this guide to vaping in 2016 for all those beginners who want to understand more about the industry, the products we have today, how they work and what are the minimum requirements for a satisfying experience. This is where we stand today, these are the types of devices that are available in most shops, the types of e-liquids and the popular community trends.
The first thing that any smoker needs to understand is that since there's no combustion in personal vaporizers, it's quite hard to replicate the same taste as that of combustible cigarettes. But this isn't necessarily a bad thing since there are countless tobacco flavored e-liquids and devices out there that mimic the draw of these analogs.
There are essentially two styles of vaping and two types of devices that are intended for these styles of vaping. One is called mouth to lung vaping (or MTL) which is how you would puff from an actual cigarette, with the vapor going first in your mouth and then into your lungs. The second is called direct lung vaping (DI), which is more similar to puffing from a shisha and it involves drawing the vapor straight into your lungs (much like how you would breath from a tube when underwater).
The thing you need to understand right from the start is that there is no right or wrong way to vape, and you should stick to whatever keeps you satisfied. While beginners usually go for a mouth to lung type of draw at first, many of them end up making the transition towards direct lung device in a few weeks or months. Vaping however is not all about blowing those massive clouds and filling your room with fog in a matter of seconds, it's about getting your nicotine buzz without any combustion.
But because it's hard to replicate both style of vaping with a single device, the market is therefore divided between the two, with some products addressing mouth to lung users, others addressing direct lung users and some even addressing both by introducing multiple types of coils and different accessories (like mouthpieces) that can offer different experiences.
Any personal vaporizer (also referred to as an electronic cigarette) has a few components that are essential to its functionality. The battery (which can be removable or non-removable), the casing that holds the battery and includes the fire button (or the mod), and the atomizer (which includes the coil, the wicking material and the reservoir of e-liquid).
When you often hear the term mod, it's what people refer to when they mean the rectangular or tubular shaped casing that holds the removable or non-removable battery. A mod also needs an atomizer in order to function and a battery if it doesn't have an internal cell. Mods come in a variety of sizes these days but they can be grouped in two main categories: regulated mods and unregulated mods.
Regulated mods have electric boards and circuits inside and they often come with displays, multiple buttons or LED notification lights while unregulated mods are just simple casings for the removable batteries and they are made from different types of metal, wood or ABS. Regulated mods offer different features like adjustable wattage, temperature control, safety fuses, protections etc. while unregulated mods only have a fire button and they automatically draw the current from the battery (or batteries) at the rate set by the coil on top of the atomizer.
Atomizers are also very important for the whole e-smoking experience because it's these devices that produce the vapor and they clearly need to match one's preferences in order to deliver a satisfying vape. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes and they are also grouped into mouth to lung style devices and direct lung style devices.
Mouth to lung style atomizers include two different categories of products: clearomizers and rebuildable tank atomizers. Clearomizers are essentially what everyone refers to as tanks and they work with user replaceable atomizer heads (or coils). MTL Rebuildable tank atomizers (MTL RTAs) are the type of tanks that require the user to make its own coils and to wick them before use.
These mouth to lung atomizers have a few characteristics that set them apart from other types of atomizers: they usually work with resistances above 1.0 Ohms, they require far less watts for a satisfying experience and they have a tight draw, much like the one on analog cigarettes. Because of the big resistances, they don't require mods with a lot of power and usually 30W is more than enough in the case of mouth to lung vaping.
Direct lung atomizers include four different categories of products: sub ohm clearomizers (or sub ohm tanks), DI rebuildable tank atomizers (DI RTAs), rebuildable dripping atomizers (RDAs), and rebuildable dripping tank atomizers (or RDTAs). All of these devices are intended to be used with resistances below the 1.0 Ohm limit (usually around 0.5 Ohms or even lower), they have a looser draw and they require a lot more power to deliver a satisfying vape. For a direct lung style atomizer, depending on your personal preferences, you will usually need a mod that can reach a minimum of 40W and a maximum of 160W (even more in some cases, but only for enthusiasts).
I always recommend regulated mods to beginners because they work with all these types of atomizers, but let's also talk a bit about the unregulated or mechanical mods. These are usually metallic tubes or metallic boxes that hold one or two 18650 batteries and their sole purpose is to close the electric circuit between the coil of the atomizer and the batteries. Depending on the type of metal they are made of and the type of connectors, they can have a bigger or a smaller voltage drop and the smaller the voltage drop the harder her user feels the device "hits" the coil. These mechanical mods are usually paired with RDAs and they are intended for direct lung users.
They require a perfect understanding of Ohm's Laws of electricity (there are no safety features in case anything goes wrong) because they automatically draw the current from the batteries at the rate set by the coil mounted on top of the atomizer. If the required current is bigger than what the battery can offer, then this might vent explosively and harm the user, so deal with caution. Another thing about mechanical mods is that they often come with hybrid connectors, which means the pin of the atomizer will come in direct contact with the positive pin of the battery and this requires a protruding pin that only RDAs and a few RTAs/RDTAs have.
So, if you decided you're a mouth to lung type of vaper, what are your options?
Well, depending on the budget and type of device you would like, there are a few products out there that are certainly worth checking out. From basic all in one devices like the Joyetech AIO and the Aspire Plato to eGo style starter kits like the Innokin Endura T18 to state of the art mod ecigs kits like the VPark 30W and the Joyetech Cuboid Mini.
You could also buy a separate MTL styled tank like the Cubis and go for a more powerful box mod like the Vaporfi Vox 60, the Sigelei 213 or the IPV5 in order to help you make the transition to a direct lung style tank or RTA in the future.
For direct lung vapers there are plenty of options out there too, starting with some really powerful ego style kits like the Apollo Ohm Go, the Vaporfi Edge and the Smok Stick One to the AIOs Aspire Plato (0.4 Ohm coils), Kanger DripBox, and the Nebox. You can also go for sub ohm mod ecigs kits like the Vaporfi VOX TC kit, the iStick Pico, or the Cuboid Mini. Last but not least you could also pair a cloud machine like the Griffin RTA with a capable mod like the SX Mini Q Class.