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Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
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Dab pens and vape pens are used for vaping concentrates, cannabis oil, and dry flower. The main difference between a dab pen and a vape pen is that a vape pen vaporizes cannabis flower or oil. In contrast, a dab pen vaporizes thicker substances like wax or shatter. In other words, dab pens and vape pens differ in the type of cannabis product used and its subsequent effects on the user.
This article will outline the differences between vape pens and dab pens and how to decide which is best for your needs.
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What Are Dab Pens?
Dab pens, also known as wax pens, dab vape pens, or dab wax pens, are portable devices used for vaping wax concentrates. Dab pens can also vape other cannabis concentrates like budder, sauce, and shatter. These devices are popular among seasoned cannabis vapers who enjoy a high-potency hit and are a portable version of a traditional dab rig.
How They Work
Dab pens typically work using conduction heating. The user inserts a “dab” or a thicker concentrate into a chamber where it is exposed to a ceramic coil or heating mechanism. As the coil inside the dab pen heats up, it atomizes the concentrate into a vapor that the user can inhale. Dab pens reach very high temperatures (up to 700 degrees Fahrenheit) to vaporize the wax or concentrate.
Recent years have seen innovations that ensure the heating mechanism in the dab pen doesn’t damage the concentrate or alter the flavor. Ceramic heating elements, for example, heat the dab evenly, gently releasing its terpenes and flavors.
How to Use One
In general, dab or wax pens are relatively straightforward to use. Charge your dab pen before use and set the temperature to the desired setting. Use a dab tool to load your concentrate into the chamber. This can take some practice as dabs can be sticky. Refrigerating your dabs before vaping can make them easier to handle.
When the pen is loaded, you’re ready to vape. Different dab pens operate differently, so reading the instruction guide is essential before you start.
There are diverse benefits to using a dab pen, and the advantages include the following:
- Dab pens are relatively small, compact, and portable, making them easy to dab on the go.
- Dab pens allow you to enjoy high-potency hits.
- Dab pens are discreet and produce an almost odorless vapor.
- You can use a range of concentrates with dab pens, including wax, shatter, budder and sauce.
- You can adjust the temperature setting to suit the cannabis concentrate you’re using.
Risks and Drawbacks
There are also some drawbacks associated with dab pens. Here are some of the most commonly cited disadvantages:
- Dab pens are often more expensive than standard vape pens, and they’re larger and slightly bulkier than vape pens.
- The refillable chamber has to be cleaned after each use.
- Sometimes the atomizer has to be replaced.
What Are Vape Pens?
Vape pens are pen-style devices that vaporize cannabis oil cartridges (carts) or dry herb. The vape cart can be tossed out when empty and replaced with another. Alternatively, there are disposable single-use vape pens, and you can throw the device away when the oil has all been vaped.
How They Work
Vape pens heat the cartridge of cannabis oil via a heating element such as a ceramic atomizer or coil. As the battery device powers and heats the atomizer, the heat converts the oil into vapor inhaled through a mouthpiece. Dry herb vaporizers work slightly differently from oil cartridges, as the dry flower is placed directly in a heating chamber in the pen. Vape pens require a temperature of 390 to 490 degrees Fahrenheit to vaporize the oil.
How to Use One
Vape pens are relatively easy to use. When the pen has been charged, a cartridge containing oil can be attached, or dry flower can be inserted. The pen is then ready to turn on. You can adjust the temperature by clicking the power button. However, some vape pens (typically disposable devices) have an automatic temperature setting. Since cartridges are disposable, there’s no need for cleaning.
Vape pens are associated with several benefits, including the following:
- Vape pens are highly convenient as they’re ready to use as soon as the vape pen battery has been charged and the cartridge is loaded.
- Vape pens are discreet and portable.
- No cleaning is required — simply dispose of the cartridge, or in the case of single-use vape pens, dispose of the pen after use.
- Vape pens are affordable.
- In some vape pens, there is a temperature control setting.
Risks and Drawbacks
While vape pens carry a host of benefits, they also have a few drawbacks:
- Vape pens can be environmentally problematic due to single-use cartridges or pens.
- Vape pen cartridges or e-liquids can contain harmful additives linked to respiratory illnesses. It’s critical to screen products before you purchase them and only buy from trusted suppliers.
- Cartridges can sometimes malfunction, leading to inconsistent hits.
- The battery life of disposable vape pens can be unpredictable.
Similarities and Differences Between Vape Pens and Dab Pens
Vape pens and dab pens have several features in common. Both types of pens are portable vaporizers used to vaporize cannabis products and can be pre-loaded so that you can vape later. Both pens are available in models that allow the temperature to be adjusted. And finally, both use heat to convert the concentrate to vapor that is then inhaled.
However, several noteworthy differences distinguish vape pens from dab pens:
- Vape pens vaporize cannabis oil cartridges or dry flower. In contrast, dab pens vaporize thicker cannabis concentrates such as wax, budder, and shatter.
- Vape pens are smaller in size than dab pens.
- Dab pens use more powerful batteries than vape pens, which need to reach much higher temperatures to vaporize the concentrate.
- Dab pens require frequent cleaning because the dab can leave residue after a session.
- Dab pens generally deliver a far more potent hit than a vape pen.
How to Decide Which Is Best For You
Factors such as convenience, potency, and cost will likely influence your decision when choosing a vape pen or dab pen.
When to Use a Vape Pen
Vape pens are ideal for people looking for an efficient vaping experience. It’s easy to add a new cartridge when the old one is empty, and vape pens require no cleaning. Vape pens are also a good option for people new to vaping cannabis and aren’t seeking an extremely potent hit.
When to Use a Dab Pen
Dab pens are well-suited for cannabis users looking to enhance their vaping experience. Dab pens allow different types of concentrates to be used and adjust the temperature. In addition, as dab pens deliver a stronger hit than vape pens, they’re perfect for people looking for an intense high.
The Bottom Line
The device’s vaporization material is the main difference between dab and vape pens. Vape pens vaporize oil cartridges or dry cannabis flower heated at lower temperatures, and dab pens vaporize cannabis concentrates heated at higher temperatures and deliver a more potent high. The type you choose comes down to personal preference and your individual needs.