Cannabis Dab Pens: Are they Worth the Investment?
Published on Nov 6, 2020
Whether you're shopping at a dispensary or a head shop, there are nearly endless ways to consume cannabis concentrates. First, there are now dozens of types of marijuana extracts ranging from waxes and shatters to sugars, diamonds, resins, and rosins. And when it comes to hardware: dab rigs, vape cartridges, honey, straws, and dab pens all come with their own advantages and drawbacks for concentrate use.
Today, instead of debating the merits of torches, carb caps, and the trappings of classic dabbing, we're going to go high-tech and turn our attention to the wide world of concentrate vaporizers - or as they're typically known, dab pens. Dab pens have been around for more than half a decade now, but as the cannabis industry continues to evolve, so too has the technology driving on-the-go consumption. With dabs more popular than ever before, it's a perfect time to delve deeper into questions like how do dab pens work, do dab pens smell, how much are dab pens, and most importantly, are dab pens worth it? Before we get into coils, chargers, and pricepoint dab pens, though, let's start with a refresher on all things dabs, oils, and all things cannabis concentrates.
What are Cannabis Concentrates?
Cannabis concentrates, dabs and oil are generally interchangeable words that all refer to cannabinoid-rich extracts made from the marijuana plant. Using water, heat, and often highly-volatile solvents, cannabis extractors pull the THC, CBD, terpenes and other desirable compounds out of the weed while leaving excess plant matter behind. The resulting products come in a variety of consistencies and potencies depending on specific processes and post-extraction curing, but in general, concentrates are golden, sticky, and jam-packed with THC.
Unlike packing a bowl or rolling a joint and sparking your favorite Bic as you would with flower, concentrates combust at a higher temperature than most corner store lighters can reach. So, instead of smoking, most concentrates are consumed by vaporization or dabbing. By vaporizing concentrates on quartz, titanium, or ceramic surfaces heated to temperatures ranging from 500-700 degrees Fahrenheit, dab connoisseurs are able to preserve the delicate terpenes and cannabinoids in the expensive product. For most dabbers, that process means purchasing a dab rig, nail, carp cap, wand, and a blow torch. But if that set-up sounds a little too involved, you can always skip the theatrics and opt for a handheld dab pen for discreet, on-the-go concentrate consumption.
Cannabis Vaporization Goes Mainstream
Like concentrates, vaporizing is a general catch-all term that includes any type of cannabis use that comes from heating weed with an indirect, closed-flame heat source. Instead of burning your bud to ash, vaporization heats flower or concentrates just enough to combust the cannabinoids and terpenes. In flower vaporizers, a battery or outlet-operated heating element sets a precise temperature for a chamber that holds your cannabis. Once the power is turned on, the chamber becomes so hot that the THC and terpenes on the flower begin to vaporize, allowing the user to inhale a cloud of potent vapor. Dabs, on the other hand, typically use an open flame in the form of a blowtorch. Instead of heating the extract itself, the torch is aimed at an empty nail made of quartz, ceramic or titanium. Once the perfect temperature is found, the dab is placed onto the nail as the user inhales, resulting in a large hit of vapor that looks just like a bong rip.
What is a Dab Pen?
So, now that you know all about dabbing and vaporizing, we're ready to combine the two. How does a dab pen work? Just like a flower vaporizer, a dab pen allows cannabis users to experience the benefits of your favorite pot products without the need for a lighter. Using a battery-powered heating element, dab pens allow users to load their own concentrates into a chamber equipped with either a quartz or ceramic dish or titanium coils. With the click of a button, the heating element is activated, vaporizing your concentrates for a torch-free, discreet dab.
When most people think about vaporizing concentrates, their mind probably goes straight to pre-filled vape cartridges. And while some dab pens use the same standard 510 thread battery found on most cartridges, the big difference between the two high-tech vaping devices is the ability to customize your concentrate consumption. With pre-filled carts, users are restricted to 500-1000mg tanks of distillates, CO2 extracts, and live resins available. Dab pens, on the other hand, allow users to load up any concentrate they choose, from wax and budder to rosin, sauce, or live resin. With isolated hits of vapor, the cannabis smell from your concentrates will dissipate just as quick as the vapor from a pre-filled cart, sparing your neighbors from weed's potent odor.
In the half-decade or so since dab pens first hit the scene, easily breakable and frequently gunked up titanium coil heating elements and short-life batteries with single heat settings have been replaced with quartz or ceramic chambers and name-brand batteries capable of varying temperatures. Dap pens come in a selection of sizes and price points, with some made to look like innocent fountain pens, others made to fit in your palm and even heavy-duty handheld pens that might be better suited for home use.
And while dab pens are a great option for concentrate aficionados who don't have space or patience for a full dab rig, extract vapes also have a few downsides. For starters, most dab pens have such small chambers to load your concentrates that it can be hard to properly clean a pen after regular use. Because dab pens are battery operated, you can also run into issues with battery life and heating ability, as different extracts vaporize best at different temperatures. What about money, how much is a dab pen? As with most tech products, you get what you pay for, and higher-priced dab pens are typically better functioning and longer-lasting than cheap counterparts.
The 3 Best Dab Pens For Wax & Other Cannabis Extracts
PuffCo is best known for its smart dab rig the Peak, but when it comes to discreet dab pens, the company's Plus model is a longstanding industry leader. The Puffco Plus is a small and sleek silver pen with a ceramic heating element and three distinct heat settings. Instead of a deep chamber that forces users to scrape and melt concentrates onto the heating element, the Plus features an internal dab tool that retracts from the mouthpiece that allows for extremely easy loading. At $90 retail, the Plus is a great option for daily on-the-go dabbing.
Pax came into the cannabis industry as one of the premier dry flower vaporizers, but with the company's third-generation portable vape, Pax added a world-class concentrate component. Using a removable dish insert that comes stock with the Pax 3, users can easily shift from flower to extracts while out and about. The titanium dab chamber comes with a lid so that your sticky oils don't get into the main chamber, and Pax's long-heralded heat settings are perfect for whatever type of concentrate you prefer. At $250 retail, the Pax 3 is pricey, but when a pen offers both dabs and dry herb options, you can expect to pay a premium.
The Linx Blaze is a relative newcomer on the dab pen market, but with a first-of-its-kind all-quartz heating dish and an interchangeable ceramic heating plate, the pocket-sized pen is the closest thing you'll find to taking a real dab in a portable vape. The Blaze packs a huge punch in a small, metal body with a durable glass mouthpiece to add a little elegance to your dab pen experience. At $135.99 retail, the Linx is a perfect pick for the seasoned dabber.
Is your favorite dab pen missing from our list? Let us know about your preferred portable concentrate vaporizer in the comments below!