Compiled by the HIGH TIMES Editorial Staff

Since our first vaporizer buyer's guide in 2011, a plethora of new pen-sized vapes have hit the market – offering cannabis consumers a stealthy, convenient way to get high in almost any location or situation. But with so many options, how can John Q. Stoner know which ones are worthy of their cash and stash, and which ones are worthy of the trash? Well, fear not, loyal readers – that’s where we come in. Our diligent staff has reviewed and rated (on a scale of 1 to 5) 15 top vapor pens so that you can get ripped without getting ripped off. We’ve provided vital specs on each of the following devices and judged them based on seven criteria: affordability, durability, versatility, high, stealth, health, and ease of refill. But first, some general info ...

Some of these products are listed for use with “glycerin only.” This refers to concentrates that are dissolved in a base solution – usually propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin – that acts as a hygroscopic (water-attracting) component to transform the solution into a vapor when heated. The heating element responsible for vaporizing the substance is called an atomizer. If the atomizer is integrated into a metal cartridge or plastic/glass tank as a single unit, it’s known as a cartomizer.

There are two basic heating methods used for vaporizing: convection and conduction. In convection heating, the substance never touches the heating element; instead, it’s added to a “polyfill” medium, and then air heated by the element, releasing the active ingredients. Convection systems usually incorporate a cartridge rather than a tank.

With conduction heating, the substance to be vaporized is placed on a metal element that is then heated to release the active ingredients. These types of vaporizers generally consist of a wick (usually silica) and a metal filament or coil (made of nickel, aluminum or steel), often encased in a small bowl (typically ceramic) and positioned in the center of a chamber or tank. These systems may produce smoke if you dry-burn them, so it helps to soak the wick with concentrate first, either by filling the tank with solution or applying a dab and letting it drip down. Accessing the wick tank often requires prying off a small plastic lid, which is used to contain the glycerin solution. If you’re using more solid concentrates (such as wax, budder, etc.), the plastic lid should remain off.

Since many of these products operate from the same base unit (powered by a lithium ion battery), they not only look extremely similar but also have interchangeable parts and chargers. For the purposes of this review, we’ll refer to all of these as “standard” components. It’s worth noting that, like most electronics, all of these standard units are manufactured in China. We’d also like to point out that while the materials used to make these products were taken into account in our judging, we did not test them for their effects on the user’s health – only their performance.

However, most of these units have been tested and approved by the FDA (for use with nicotine in e-cigarettes) and supposedly present no health issues pertaining to their components. Nevertheless, the old saying applies here – buyer beware: Regardless of which device you choose, read the instructions carefully to ensure safe and effective usage, and fully charge the battery unit before first use to establish long battery life. Good luck ... and happy vaping!

The Winners

atmos raw

Atmos Raw – First Place

The device at the top of our list alphabetically also happens to be at the top of the ratings. Of all the pens we tested, the Atmos Raw was the only one to rate a perfect score – almost unanimous 5s all across the board. It had the easiest pull and clearest taste, with one judge even commenting that it was “the closest a pen has come yet to doing a dab.” The fact that you can use it for flowers as well as concentrates without having to change the tank makes it one of the most versatile units. Our only criticism was that the power button was a little too stealthy – it’s more difficult to locate than those on other pens. All things considered, though, we felt this was the best-quality product we tested.

Materials: Aluminum and stainless steel

Heating: Stainless steel coil; 375°F to 450°F

For use with: Flowers, concentrates, glycerin (with separate attachment)

Kit includes: Standard battery unit; ceramic-lined tank; rubber mouthpiece with ceramic filter; USB charger and AC adapter; packing/dabbing tool; cleaning brush; two replacement coils (Optimus glycerin tank sold separately)

Website: atmosraw.com

Price: $189.95

Rating: 5

thermovape

ThermoVape – Second Place

The Thermovape by Thermo Essence came with so many different attachments in so many different kit variations that it was very confusing trying to figure out which pieces were meant to be used in what ways. However, all of the modular variations are based on a single battery/body unit (which comes in either black or white) and made from the same materials, so we only need to provide one set of stats. All of the kits come with the base unit as well as batteries, chargers and adapters. The only difference among the sets are the chamber modules and mouthpieces, which are all available as conversion kits as well (so you don’t need to rebuy the base unit).

Let’s break down the various options: The T1 kit is for use with flowers and comes with a wide metal chamber with a steel bowl attached to the top, a screw-on metal lid and a small plastic mouthpiece. The Evolution is also for use with flowers and includes a different heating unit, a thin metal convection cartridge, a small rubber gasket, a plastic insulating sleeve (which includes a tiny radial air deflector) and a mouthpiece. The Revolution kit is for use with concentrates and comes with a small plastic mouthpiece and a thin, cylindrical steel chamber that “revolves” to reveal an opening into which you place your concentrate. When it’s attached to the body, the device resembles a screwdriver. Other components available include the Liquid Conversion Kit (for use with glycerin), the Dart (Direct Application and Reloading Tool, for use with concentrates), the Pure Flow Filter tip (for Revolution), the Smooth Flow Moisture Conditioner tip (for T1), a glass adapter hose, extended mouthpieces, Tru-Flow UFO mouthpieces ... like we said, it gets pretty complicated. But you don’t need to concern yourself with any of these advanced options if you prefer not to; simply buy one of the main kits and you’re good to go.

Regardless of which kit you get, this is a top-notch product. It’s very easy to load, easy to clean (either by boiling or by soaking in rubbing alcohol and then rinsing with warm water) and easy to activate. The Thermovape includes clear, simple directions, and there’s also a series of instructional videos online. In addition, all of the materials are 100 percent medical-grade (the company states that user safety is its top priority) and, unlike all of the other devices we tested, 100 percent designed, manufactured, and assembled in the USA – something that mattered a lot to us. Sure, it’s not as thin as the standard pens (stealth was the only category it lost points in), and it takes a few seconds longer to get going, and one judge even claimed that his hit tasted a little like popcorn, but so what? We love popcorn ... and we love the Thermovape.

Materials: Aerospace-grade, cold-finished aluminum; lead-free, nickel-plated brass; FDA-approved Delrin plastic polymer

Heating: Wire; ceramic; aluminum and brass housing; 420°F

For use with: T1, Evolution: flowers; Revolution: concentrates; glycerin (with conversion kit)

Kit includes: Body; four “Tenergy” RCR123a batteries; battery charger; car adapter; wall adapter

Website: thermovape.com

Price: Revolution, $149.99; Evolution, $154.99; T1, $199.99

Rating: 4.5

G Pen – Third Place (Tie)

g pen

Tying for third place (with the Trippy Stix) is the G Pen by Grenco Science. Though it’s a standard pen, it’s not interchangeable with other brands’ components, as the threading on the battery unit and charger are different. The tank uses a wick and coil cartomizer and holds about two grams of concentrate solution (around 400 puffs). The G Pen’s packaging is truly baller – especially the carrying case, which (unlike the larger zipper cases that come with most standard pens) is actually a small cigarette-style case. It’s also FDA-registered, pulls great and delivers a very smooth, tasteful hit. Definitely one of the top-of-the-line pens available.

Note: Grenco Science has a new unit coming out called the G Tank, which is made entirely from stainless steel and glass, with two separate vape chambers, a nail for dabbing and another for vaporizing essential oils.

Materials: Stainless steel casing; glass and copper accents; ceramic bowl

Heating: Inert-nickel/aluminum-alloy coil

For use with: Concentrates, glycerin

Kit includes: Standard battery unit; standard tank with window; dabbing tool; plastic mouthpiece; USB charger and AC adapter; two concentrate jars; one-year warranty (carrying case sold separately)

Website: grencoscience.com

Price: G Pen only, $60; G Box kit, $100

Rating: 4

Trippy Stix – Third Place (Tie)

Trippy Stix calls itself the “world’s first no-cartridge vaporizer” and says it delivers 800 puffs per charge. We didn’t have the wherewithal to test that claim, but we did determine that it had a clean dry-burn, was easy to fill and hit great (“as strong as a dab,” one tester said). It also features an auto shut-off after seven seconds, which is good because it seemed to get hotter than some of the other standard pens. It’s also US-owned and -assembled (though still manufactured in China) and SGS-certified, and it comes with a staggering variety of options, including regular and digital versions, three different tanks, and a whopping 13 color options – which gave it top ratings for versatility. Stands alongside the G Pen (with which it tied for third place) as one of the better standard pens.

trippy stix

Materials: Stainless steel casing

Heating: Nickel (80%) and chrome (20%); 275°F to 300°F

For use with: Concentrates, glycerin

Kit includes: Standard battery unit; tapered chamber; two tank tips; plastic mouthpiece; USB charger (cartomizer tank, window tank, and clip cap all sold separately)

Website: trippystix.com

Price: $112 to $150

Rating: 4

The Rest of the Field

Atmos Thermo

atmos thermo

While this device scored high on stealth – it was one of the smallest pens of the bunch – it lost points in the versatility and refill categories, as the tank is plastic and the top isn’t removable. The only way to fill it is to inject liquid concentrate through a tiny hole at the top, and there’s no refill bottle supplied to do that. Maybe instead of a second pen – the kit comes with two – they should have included the refill bottle (it’s sold separately). Nevertheless, if you do manage to get it filled, it’s a solid unit that delivers discreetly.

Note: Be on the lookout for the two latest Atmos models for thin to waxy concentrates, which hit the market around the time this article went to press: the Nail, which offers three vaping options, and the Nuke, a twin-tank version of the Thermo with a switch that lets you activate either tank separately or both together for a “power hit.”

Materials: Aluminum and stainless steel casing

Heating: Atomizer

For use with: Glycerin only

Kit includes: Two battery units; two cartridges; USB charger (refill bottle sold separately)

Website: atmosrx.com

Price: $159.95

Rating: 3

CANNAcig Vapor Inhaler

Coming in at the size of a typical cigarette, the Cannacig is about as stealthy as you can get. Like the Atmos V2, it comes two per kit. It has no power button – all you need to do to activate it is suck. It also scored high marks on ease of refill, since you merely have to dab your concentrate onto the cotton polyfill inside the mouthpiece and pop the tip back on. On the downside, using cotton as a filler material isn’t necessarily the healthiest way to go, and the glowing red LED tip ain’t exactly stealthy. Plus, as several judges pointed out, you can actually taste the cotton; some testers even felt the hit tasted “harsh.”

cannacig

Materials: Stainless steel casing; cotton polyfill

Heating: Titanium atomizer; 230°F to 420°F

For use with: Concentrates, glycerin

Kit includes: Two battery units; two heating units; two tips/cartridges; USB charger; seven-day money-back guarantee; one-year warranty

Website: vinhaler.com

Price: $99.95

Rating: 3

Elevape

Unlike many standard devices, the Elevape’s tank is in its mouthpiece, which is filled with glycerin – making it visible and therefore a bit less stealthy. While it employs the standard battery unit, the Elevape also features an added LCD screen with a battery meter and digital counter that tells you how many hits you’ve taken since the last charge (the company claims 150 to 200 puffs per charge). It also features a unique battery management system with “dosage control” that automatically shuts off the heating element after ten seconds, making larger hits impossible. This is a glycerin-only device, so it lost points for versatility, and some judges said it “felt cheap” and that the hits had a “plastic taste.” Add to this the fact that it comes with no accessories except the charger, and this was not one of our high scorers.

elevape

Materials: Stainless steel, nickel-plated brass

Heating: Titanium alloy, ceramic

For use with: Glycerin only

Kit includes: tank/tip; standard heating unit; standard battery unit with LCD digital readout; USB charger; carrying case

Website: ipuffusa.com

Price: $139.99

Rating: 3

Eureka

eurekaThe Eureka features a slightly different battery unit, but it’s still compatible with standard attachments. The cartridges are aluminum stuffed with cotton polyfill, not unlike the Cannacig. The Eureka delivered smooth, monster hits (up to 650 per charge), but the taste and smell of burning cotton was undeniable. Some judges felt the cone sheath was an unnecessary part and that the cartridge filter was a bit difficult to remove for refill. Overall, this pen scored high in the “high” category and around average in most others.

Materials: Stainless steel casing; aluminum cartridge; cotton polyfill; porcelain filter Heating: Stainless steel and ceramic; 375°F to 450°F

For use with: Glycerin, concentrates

Kit includes: Battery unit; cone sheath; USB charger and AC adapter; three-year warranty (cartridge sold separately)

Website: Eurekavapor@gmail.com

Price: Kit-$80; cartridge-$65. Available only at dispensaries in California

Rating: 3.5

Fusion Osmosis

fusion osmosis

This is a solid, durable device with an excellent heating unit and a clip cap that makes it look more like a regular pen. Also, the tank and sheath both have windows that allow you to see how much concentrate is left inside without opening it up. At the same time, the Fusion Osmosis lost points because it’s glycerin-only, and the cartridge/tank doesn’t even come with the kit – you have to buy it prefilled from a dispensary. You can also fill it yourself, but the tiny plastic lid is a pain to remove and is easily lost. Some of the testers thought the glycerin supplied had a sweet, fruity flavor, while others said it tasted awful – like a magic marker or “bad Chinese food.”

Materials: Stainless steel and aluminum casing; plastic cartridge and mouthpiece

Heating: Steel atomizer; 350°F to 390°F

For use with: Glycerin only

Kit includes: Standard battery unit; standard tank sheath with window; USB charger; clip cap; carrying case (plastic Tankomizer glycerin tank/ cartridges with window and attached mouthpiece sold separately at dispensaries)

Website: fusionpvinc.com

Price: $149.95

Rating: 3

Hydrovape

hydrovape

The creators of the Hydrovape (Super-dragon Group UK) make a lot of unique claims. They say they own the only true patent for the technology and that all other standard devices are knock-offs. They say their new atomizer has zero toxins and creates the “only true, clean” vapor hit. They even claim they’ve received “five International Gold Medals for Best Invention.” We don’t know about any of that; what we do know is that the Hydrovape works nearly as well as the G Pen (which it’s almost identical to). Also, unlike all the other standard pens we tested, it comes with a screen so you can vape flowers, as well as a squeeze bottle for refilling the tank with liquid concentrate. And, for what it’s worth, the Hydrovape has been approved by SGS (the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing, and certification company), according to its creators. All in all, not a bad deal in our book.

Materials: Aluminum-alloy casing

Heating: Wire; 350°F to 390°F

For use with: Flowers, concentrates

Kit includes: Standard battery unit; standard tank with window; clip cap; USB charger and AC adapter; squeeze bottle for refills; one screen; carrying case

Website: hydrovapepens.com

Price: $80 to $100

Rating: 3.5

Omicron Persei

omicron persei

The Persei delivered the biggest hits of all the models we tested – by far. It comes with a lifetime warranty, which is impressive compared to the one- to three-year guarantees most other pens offer. By switching from the two small batteries to the larger one, you can go from 3.7 to 6 volts (though why that’s necessary, we’re not sure). You also have the option of switching to a double-barrel cartridge cap, though that too seems unnecessary as well as a bit braggadocious – especially considering that we could get only one of the barrels to fire. Unfortunately, its larger size and conspicuous appearance made it one of the lowest scorers in the stealth category. But the biggest problem with this device is the lack of a sheath to enclose the cartridges, as they become scalding hot when used and a few of our judges actually burned their hands while testing it. Handle this one with caution!

Materials: Rubber mouthpiece; ceramic bowl; silica wick; food-grade seals and laser welds

Heating: Nichrome wire; 440°F

For use with: Concentrates

Kit includes: Body unit; single and double cartridge caps; two cartridges; two mouthpieces; steel refill funnel; one 18650 ion battery; two 18350 batteries; battery charger; lifetime limited warranty

Website: omicronvaporizer.com

Price: $199.99

Rating: 3

Omicron V2

omicron v2

Manufactured by Utopia Planitia Technologies (formerly THC Scientific), Omicron gets props for being pioneers of the vapor pen industry (and for the cool Futurama references in their company/device names). Omicron has a few portable vaporizers on the market, none of which use the standard battery/tank system. Instead, their batteries are removable, and a full charge can reportedly last up to a week. The V2 uses a thinner metal cartomizer cartridge instead of a tank, and it also gets points for including a steel funnel that you can use to melt down concentrates and fill the cartridge – an accessory no other pen we tested had. There are a few other accessories available separately, including the HVD upgrade (which is waterproof and more durable and allows you to use your V2 at a different voltage or as a mini-unit), a variety of colored mouthpieces, and the Hammer – a heat-wand attachment that can be used in place of a lighter or blowtorch when smoking concentrates from a nail or bowl. Our verdict: one of the better vapes around.

Materials: Aircraft-grade aluminum casing and mouthpiece

Heating: Nichrome wire; 400°F to 440°F

For use with: Concentrates; glycerin (unit sold separately)

Kit includes: Battery unit; mouthpiece; two 3.7-volt batteries; cartridge; steel fill funnel; battery charger; carrying case; limited lifetime warranty (HDV upgrade sold separately)

Website: omicronvaporizer.com

Price: $129.99

Rating: 3.5

Pax

pax

The Pax is unlike any of the other devices we tested, both in design and appearance. It has a very cool, space-age look – more like an iPod than a pen. Plus it has no tank; instead, it uses an “oven” chamber with a magnetic lid that’s super-easy to open and close, and a steel screen that can be packed just like a regular bowl. The downside to the magnetic lid is that it isn’t airtight, so concentrates can easily leak out through the seam. It also features a retractable mouthpiece that doubles as the power switch; it’s a bit tricky to master at first, but incredibly stealthy. The Pax has three heat settings, which can be adjusted with a button underneath the mouthpiece, and you can check the battery life just by shaking it. The manufacturer, Ploom (a company based in San Francisco), says the Pax has been extensively lab-tested and is consistent with FDA guidelines. As the highest-priced unit of all the ones we rated, it loses points for affordability, but overall, it’s a sleek, solid device that delivers smooth, stealthy hits. We believe it’s worth the cash (assuming you have it). Comes in black, blue, or purple.

Materials: Anodized aluminum casing; laser-welded, surgical-grade, stainless-steel vapor path and components; highest-quality food-safe plastic

Heating: Ceramic; three settings (low 370°F, medium 390°F, high 410°F)

For use with: Flowers, concentrates

Kit includes: Unit; pop-out mouthpiece; charging cord and stand

Website: http://www.vapeworld.com/pax-vaporizer-by-ploom

Price: $249.99

Rating: 4

Stok

stok

We barely tested the Stok vape pen, for two reasons: First, the odor and amount of smoke that the heating element gave off during the dry-burn were unappealing; and second, the first time we attempted to load it, the bowl snapped in half. Since we were only supplied with one solo unit and no backup, and since we felt this product may have been poorly constructed (it’s a standard pen but had a somewhat sketchy-looking seal at the bottom of the unit), we were reluctant to smoke from it, frankly. We could be totally wrong – it might have been just one defective unit – but considering that we were trying to judge it from the perspective of the average buyer taking it straight from the box, we felt that we had to give it a low rating. Sorry, guys.

Materials: Polypropylene casing

Heating: Nichrome and ceramic, 440°F

For use with: Concentrates, glycerin

Kit includes: Two standard battery units; two standard tanks with window; two plastic mouthpieces; two tank/tips; two clip caps; USB charger and AC adapter; 1 Skilletool; carrying case

Website: stokusa.com

Price: Solo kit, $85; Dual kit, $170; Pro kit, $250

Rating: 1.5

Vaped Luxury Extract Vaporizer

vaped luxury extract

Yet another standard pen, this one put out by Vaped Inc. (from the Bay area). Unlike most other standard devices, however, it includes a car charger as well as a dab tool, comfy metal mouthpiece and lots of other accessories. It has a super-hot/bright heating unit that produced a clean dry-burn and a great hit. But it did smell a bit like a toaster, and one judge thought it delivered something of a metallic taste. Also, we felt that it was a little over-branded – having so many logos on it killed some of the stealth aspect. Still, this is a pretty decent vaporizer for the money.

Materials: N/A

Heating: N/A

For use with: Concentrates, glycerin

Kit includes: Standard battery unit with LCD digital readout; one rubber mouthpiece; one chrome mouthpiece; cap clip; standard tank with window; tapered sheath/bong adapter; stainless-steel cartridge; dab tool; USB charger with AC and car adapters; carrying case; one-year warranty

Website: ruvaped.com

Price: $129

Rating: 4