You should buy a loose-leaf vaporizer. Maybe one of the four we review here, maybe something else. But you should experience the delights of these little electronic gadgets, which gently bake the intoxicating oils out of ground-up cannabis flower without singeing them enough to make smoke that damages your lungs and makes you cough. If we sound bullish about these four, it's mostly because they're all better than primitive, analog smoking devices.
For people who understand that Android devices function poorly compared to their Apple-made competitors, and also just kinda feel gross in your hand… PAX 2, $279, paxvapor.com.
The Pax 2 does for vaporizers what the iPod did for tunes. It's that slick, that intuitive and that handy. This small, silver, aluminum tube—nearly identical in size to a switchblade—is the follow-up to the original Pax, which has moved a half-million units.
The PAX 2 is small, light and discreet. Just hold the tube to your mouth and inhale from the narrow slit on the edge of the black rubber atop the business end. We originally had trouble figuring out how to turn it off (just tap the single button on top again, duh) but once you've mastered the patterns of button-pressing to activate and to adjust the temperature, you really can't find fault with this device.
For people with exceptionally tidy studio apartments filled with nice things; the minimalists and the perfectionists… K-Vape Micro-DX, $200, kandypens.com.
The K-Vape Micro-DX from Kandy Pens is small and light—about the size of a fat Sharpie and lighter than an iPhone. And yet, for portable vaporizers, it also has a huge oven and far more control options than its competitors.
This unit's largest-on-the-market oven (it holds more than a half-gram) doesn't take many fills to give a good buzz. While not everyone loves the complexity of 80 temperature settings—from 350 to 430 degrees—pros will appreciate the ability to fine tune every sesh to that particular strain. Starting low and gradually increasing the temp also allowed for greater product utilization, giving us vaped herb with oh-so-close-to-burnt-black-but-still-brown leftovers.
It took us a few guesses to figure out that the on/off switch requires five presses within three seconds to activate, but it heats to 400-ish in a really quick 30 seconds, while remembering your last setting.
The unit itself is a matte plastic-y black, making it feel like that cool-ass flight-simulator joystick your geek friend who now works for Microsoft loved as a kid. The heating element is near the middle instead of the bottom, allowing the K-Vape Micro-DX to stay no more than warm to the touch.
One problem: We can't figure out how to clean the screen attached inside the mouthpiece. Alcohol soaking didn't work. Replacements are available for $20 online, but a lifetime warranty isn't all that impressive if you're tied in to proprietary replacements.
For the thrifty and the perma-baked, a device you could use all day on the river and not get super-bummed if it accidentally gets doused… Zeus Smite, $104.53, torontovaporizer.ca.
Canada's largest retailer of vaporizers has a new house brand, Zeus Smite, which retails for only $129…Canadian! As of press time, that works out to just $104.53 American, with free shipping to boot.
The Zeus Smite is a big-boy vape, about the size of a pack of cigarettes. There are slide-open compartments on top and bottom. The top one holds ground-up flower—it's a narrow, deep compartment, and you'll need the little metal tool to manage it. The bottom one holds a rubber mouthpiece that screws on to the top. With the mouthpiece on, the vape looks like a little walkie-talkie. There's only one button, which adjusts between three temperatures. On the highest setting, you can feel some heat radiating off the anodized aluminum case.
The big advantage of the Smite, beyond price, is the super-smooth draw and a battery that's slow to charge through an old-fashioned AC adapter but has a long life, up to three hours in our experience.
For tobacco smokers and dabbers, plus people who keep a Leatherman on their keychain… V2 Pro Series 7, $169.99, V2cigs.com.
Ever wanted to vape loose-leaf cannabis and tobacco juice on the same unit? Now, you can.
Yes, the V2 Series 7 allows you to ingest loose-leaf cannabis, THC oil and good ol' nicotine. All you do is pop in a different cartridge, which connects to the top with a gentle magnet. (A third attachment, which allows it to cook wax, is not yet available.) That makes the Series 7 the most versatile loose-leaf-capable vape on the market.
The device is light and sleek—it handles like a light saber—and the battery will last through several switch-outs. The oven switches temperatures automatically based on the cartridge loaded, but it did seem to run a little hot on the loose-leaf, producing a harsher mist that normal. The oven is also small—plan to refill if you're going to be out for a while. That's not a deal-breaker for us given the versatility, but we'd prefer a different device for loose-leaf only.