Vaping Diaries #7: Cartomizers vs. Clearomizers vs. Tanks

If you have a vaping device with a 510 connection then you have a number of ways to experience delicious e-cigarette juices. Three of the most common delivery mechanisms are cartomizers, clearomizers, and tanks. They deliver and handle juices in different ways. One of these isn’t necessarily better than the others, but there’s probably one that’s best for you. It all depends on your personal preference.

Here’s a basic guide to cartomizers, clearomizers, and tanks. Please note that the vendors linked to in this article are places where I’ve purchased gear in the past. This site is not part of an affiliate program with companies that sell vaping goods.

Cartomizers: These are the most common products on the market. They’re simple screw-on cartridges that go on top of your battery. Cartomizers are cylindrical metal housings that contain polyfill to hold your liquids and an atomizer to turn those liquids into vapor. Companies like Safe Cig and V2 sell them prefilled, while V2 also sells blank cartridges that you can fill with juice of your choice.

The advantage of cartomizers is that they’re super-simple to use. You screw one on top of your battery and vape away. Some people dispose of them after they’re empty, but they’re pretty easy to refill, allowing you to get more for your money and enjoy a variety of juices.

There are a few disadvantages to using cartomizers, but not all of them will matter to you. Firstly, they don’t hold much juice — typically 1ml or less. Heavy vapers will go through several cartidges a day and would be better served using clearomizers or tanks. Some people feel that the filling in cartomizers mutes the taste of juices. Others are sensitive to the polyfill material used in most cartomizers and find that it ruins the whole vaping experience.

Personally, I’m over these types of products because of capacity issues, but there are some days when I miss the ease of use.

Clearomizers: This category is a fairly broad one, encompassing products that look like cartomizers and those that look like tanks. Clearos consist of a clear tube, the atomizing devices, and wicks that deliver the juice to the atomizers. Some of them have atomizer coils and wicks housed at the top (warmer vapor), while others have them on the bottom (better wicking).

One reason people love clearomizers is that they’re clear (duh), making it easy to monitor juice levels. If you know you’re going to be away from home for a while then you can add more juice or swap out a half-empty clearo for a full one. The juice capacity is superior to what a cartomizer holds, with different models holding anywhere from 1.5ml to 3ml. Many of these products are reusable and last much longer than a typical cartomizer. Some of them are rebuildable, allowing you to keep the tank and replace the atomizer/wick housing; these types of clearos are especially cost effective. Lastly, some vapers feel that clearos offer a purer taste than polyfill cartos.

Many people have experienced juice leaking and inconsistent quality with clearomizers. Remember, we’re talking about small, mass-produced parts made by the thousands; quality control can be an issue. I’ve had clearos from the same manufacturer perform well, some perform poorly, and some perform very differently from each other. The plastic tank enclosures are problematic for some vapers. They can retain flavor that can stick around when changing juices. Some flavors, like cinnamon and citrus varieties, can cause the plastic to crack.

My current clearomizer of choice is the Kanger T3. It offers great taste and good vapor, while being easy to refill and maintain. I have two in rotation at the moment and one pulls tighter than the other.

Tanks: These products are relatively big enclosures with a cartomizer slotted through the middle. They come in a variety of sizes and materials (plastic, glass, metal). Tanks pair the performance of a cartomizer with large capacity, making them the preferred choice of many heavy vapers.

The obvious advantage to tanks is that they hold a lot of juice. I’ve seen capacities range from 3ml to 10ml. Many vapers choose a tank that will last them a whole day or more. Tanks made from certain materials are also impervious to the erosive properties of cinnamon and citrus juices. Many vapers proudly show off their beautiful glass tanks and slick stainless-steel models. Once you learn how to handle them properly, tanks are simple to maintain — wash, slot in a new cartomizer, and replace the grommets as needed.

Due to their large size, tanks look funny on slimmer vaping devices and often make them un-pocketable. Maintaining a tank can be tricky for newcomers; slotting in a new carto and refilling can be messy. If proper seals aren’t maintained, tanks will leak. Since tanks house a cartomizer, those sensitive to polyfill will want to avoid them.

I currently have two tanks in rotation: a glass one from Cirrus Vapes and a polypropylene model from Valley View Vapes. The former is a gorgeous product made from Pyrex glass and aircraft aluminum, while the latter features a clever design that makes refills a snap.

What’s Best For You: All three designs have their strong points and weak points. Those looking for no fuss and no muss will dig cartomizers. Those that want capacity that’s a little higher in a relatively low-maintenance package will like clearomizers. Those that want higher capacities and some sweet-looking products will opt for tanks. Remember, there isn’t a “best” solution here. It’s all about what best fits your vaping needs.

If you have any questions about cartomizers, clearomizers, and tanks (oh my!) then drop me a question in the comments section.

Vaping Diaries #6: Ovale USA Elips-C Review

For the last week, I’ve been vaping with the Elips-C from Ovale USA. This is a simple e-cigarette with a really svelte and stylish form factor. While it doesn’t have the versatility of Ovale’s eGo-C, I was very happy with the device. It offers very good performance for its size. This is a good kit for beginning vapers that want something that’s easy to use, but aren’t ready or don’t care to experiment with the myriad of parts available for vaping devices with a 510 connection. It’s also good for advanced vapers that want a complementary device — something small and pocketable for when they leave their big gear at home. Here’s a breakdown of my thoughts on the Elips-C.

What’s in the Kit: Currently available for $89.99, the Elips-C kit comes with two batteries, five atomizer heads, two atmozer locks, two mouthpieces, five tank cartridges, three mouthpiece covers, replacement O-rings, a USB charging cable, a USB wall adapter, and a user manual.

Form Factor: In terms of length, the Elips-C is actually shorter than most “standard” e-cigs that mimic the look of tobacco cigarettes. However, it’s wider and flatter. It reminded me of a kazoo…which reminded me of WWE Edge and Christian. And as E&C taught us, kazoos totally rule! When I sent a photo of the device to you guys in the RPad.TV Google+ group, RPadholic N8R mentioned that it looked like a stick of lipstick. Whatever the case, this is a very small device that feels great in the hand is very pocketable. I was very happy with the Elips-C’s form factor and build quality.

Performance: The Elips-C kit comes with two 350 mAh batteries. For comparison’s sake, the V2 standard battery is 250 mAh. I was getting a little under three hours of run time off of a single charge. When I used the Elips-C as an all-day device, I usually went through four full batteries a day. The kit comes with a USB passthrough cable, but performance is only “pseudo” passthrough. You can vape and charge at the same as long as there’s life in the battery. If the battery is completely dead, you won’t be able to vape while it’s plugged in. That’s not too big of a deal though since you get two batteries.

Given its size, I had middling expectations of the device’s flavor and vapor production. Those expectations were exceeded. Both the flavor and the vapor were good. While you’re not going to get the same kind of performance as you would from a large tube mod (nor should you expect to), this little baby does well for such a small vaping device. When you compare this $89.99 kit to what you get from Safe Cig or V2, you’re getting more for your money. The one minor quibble I had was that the Elips-C’s draw is a little tight. That’s a personal preference though.

Consumables: One of the biggest advantages the Elips-C has over the original Elips is that it uses standard eGo-C atomizers. The latter used an all-in-one cartridge that was expensive (currently $15.99). Regular eGo-C atomizers are cheaper (five for $25.99 at Ovale USA) and can be found from numerous vendors. The device also uses a proprietary e-liquid cartridge (five for $6.99), which was expected given its atypical form factor. Ovale USA sells juices with fine tips that fit directly into the cartridge. If you’re using juice from another vendor then you’ll probably need a syringe for refills.

Verdict: I was very happy with the Ovale USA Elips-C. The form factor is just cool and stylish, while the performance is better than most devices this size. For novice vapers, this is a great kit that’s super-easy to use and maintain. For experienced vapers, this is a nice complementary device for when you’re out and about. It’s very pocketable and fantastic for stealth vaping (at parties, dentist offices, restaurants, etc.). The downside is that you’re tied to proprietary consumables and won’t enjoy the versatility of something like the eGo-C. However, I don’t think this product is really in the same category as the eGo-C. In my mind, it competes with starter kits from companies like Safe Cig and V2. In that context, this is a better kit that appeals to more types of vapers. And really, it just looks cool!

Vaping Diaries #5: Why I Love the World of Vaping

In addition to it being a healthier alternative than smoking tobacco (my opinion, not an endorsement), there are two reasons why I’m really into vaping — the community and the vendors. I touched upon the community aspect a bit in Coffee Talk #527. In general, the vapers that post in forums like ECF are really supportive. They’re all former cigarette smokers that are happy to help others find the best way to avoid tobacco cigs. They welcome newcomers and help people learn about the different gear available. Given the vast number of choices out there, vaping can be daunting, but there are many vapers that are more than happy to help others learn.

One of the biggest differences between the vaping crowd and the tech crowd is that “noobs” aren’t looked down upon. Let’s use mobile phones for example. If someone posts about how much they enjoy Symbian phones, there are thousands of Android and iOS users just waiting to tear him or her down. In the vaping world, if someone enjoys e-cigs like Safe Cig or V2, they’re not looked down upon. Yes, they’re considered “beginner” devices, but it doesn’t matter if these people don’t want to move onto advanced devices like the ProVari or mechanical mods. The important thing is that they found something that helps them avoid tobacco cigarettes.

Then there are the vendors. Many of the companies involved in vaping are small businesses. Yes, they’re trying to make money, but they’re trying to do so by promoting a positive hobby. I love underdogs, so I love that these businesses are competing against huge tobacco companies. As a (really) small business owner myself, I feel good about supporting these kinds of companies. There’s just something about purchasing from mom-and-pop companies that makes me happy.

Buying a game from GameStop is nothing more than a clinical experience for me. Supporting a shop like The Vapor Spot gives me good vibes. As far as publishers go, I feel nothing when buying a game released by Activision, EA, etc. When I buy a tank from Valley View Vapes or e-juice from Orb Vapor, I get warm fuzzies.

So yeah, for me vaping is a much better option than smoking tobacco. As I learned more about the world of vaping, it became way more fun than I ever thought it would be. And that’s largely because of the wonderful community and excellent vendors involved. I love these guys (and dolls)!

Vaping Diaries #4: A Visit to The Vapor Spot (Los Angeles)

After lunch, my friend Paul and I stopped by The Vapor Spot. While there are hundreds of web site where you can purchase vaping goods, there aren’t very many physical stores, so I was curious and excited to see what this place had to offer. Seconds after walking in, I was greeted by the owner, JJ. He’s very friendly and customer-service oriented. You can tell straight away that he wants to make his customers happy. I asked him a bit about the shop, browsed around, and did some scouting for a video interview RPadholic N8R and I will be shooting there in the future. I left the shop thinking, “I want to hang out here!”

The Vapor Spot has a bunch of vaping gear and juices for sale. As you’d expect, there’s a higher markup than Internet stores since JJ has to pay for physical space and utilities. The idea is that personal attention and customer service will keep people coming back. I watched JJ work out gear issues with one of his patrons and he was very accommodating. The shop lets users sample loads of e-liquids. You can walk in with your own gear, buy some cartomizers for $1 a piece, and sample away — very, very cool. Those are two examples of how The Vapor Spot hopes to succeed.

One of the highlights of my browsing was coming across these gorgeous Pyrex tanks by Cirrus Vapes. These are hand made in the USA. At a glance, the quality seems excellent. The beauty was undeniable. I was very much smitten with these tanks. Paul had to smack me on the back of the head because I was just staring at (and possibly drooling over) these gorgeous products for like three minutes. The Vapor Spot is one of the few stores in America where you can pick these babies up.

It will be interesting to see if The Vapor Spot will succeed. From my brief visit, it seemed like a busy store with loyal customers. In many ways, it reminded me of an old-school record store. Remember those mom-and-pop deals that were super friendly and where you could spend hours hanging out? It’s totally like that. While many vapers use the Internet to learn more about products and buy goods, there are many people that would like to get advice and recommendations from an actual person. This is where The Vapor Spot can excel. Vaping is a relatively new phenomenon and new products are coming out all the time. It can be daunting and confusing for newcomers. Shops like this one can be a valuable resource to vapers.

Even though I generally hate the brick-and-mortar retail experience, I really hope The Vapor Spot does well. It’s a cool store that can help people find the right gear and e-liquids — cool stuff!

Vaping Diaries #3: Why Use a Variable Voltage E-Cig?

In addition to experimenting with different flavors and different ingredient percentages of e-liquids, hardcore vapers can take things to the next level of (awesome) nerdom by using variable-voltage devices. Typical e-cigarettes, like Safe Cig for example, run at 3.7 volts. Variable voltage models allow you to change the voltage anywhere from three to six volts in increments of 0.1, depending on the model. This allows for even more versatility and experimentation. Different voltages will cause different results with various juices and atomizers, allowing for a myriad of possibilities. Being able to control voltage helps people find the perfect vape.

As far as e-liquids go, voltage levels can alter throat hit, vapor production, and flavor. They’re especially useful for people that are sensitive to or are allergic to propylene glycol. Juices that contain heavy levels of vegetable glycerol or are completely comprised of  it can perform poorly on some e-cig setups. With variable voltage devices, those juices can result in blissful vapes.

Low-resistance atomizers are a no-no on many fixed-voltage devices since they result in more watts. Some batteries simply can’t handle atomizers rated at two ohms or lower. Variable-voltage devices can accomodate atomizers of all ratings. Again, this allows for more experimentation (i.e. nerd fun) that can help people find the perfect vape.

Variable-Voltage devices are another reason tech geeks enjoy vaping. It’s all about experimenting in order to find the perfect blend of taste, throat hit, and vapor. Well-made juices and great equipment will get you far, but finding the voltage that complements that combination perfectly will take things to the next level.

Vaping Diaries #2: What’s in E-Liquid/Juice?

One of the most common questions my friends ask when they see me vaping is, “What’s in that?” That’s a great question and a fairly simple one to answer. Unlike tobacco cigarettes, most of which contain hundreds of additives, the ingredients in e-liquid or juice are pretty straightforward. For the most part they all contain distilled water, food flavoring, nicotine (optional), propylene glycol, and vegetable glycerin. Fancier juices may contain natural tobacco extract too. While there are still ongoing studies of the longterm effects of vaping, I personally feel better about smoking a straightforward blend of ingredients instead of hundreds of known carcinogens (that’s not an endorsement though).

However, not all e-liquids are the same. Some vendors sell “Made in China” goods that can be low-quality. In general, I try to stick with reputable vendors that use quality flavorings and pharmaceutical-grade ingredients. Two of my current favorites (that I’ve been leaching from my friend Kim — love you for that!) are Ahlusion and Heather’s Heavenly Vapes. These vendors sell made-to-order blends and I’ve been blown away by the quality.

One thing to keep in mind when ordering made-to-order e-liquids is that you should give them time to steep. Mass mixed juices are ready to go right out of the bottle, but made-to-order juices need some aging. On the advice of friends, I use a simple method. When my e-liquids arrive, I take off the caps and let them air out for two days. Then I close the bottles up and let them sit for an additional 12 days or more. That should take care of most of your made-to-order juices, though ones with tobacco extract could benefit from a bit more steeping time.

The care involved with made-to-order juices appeals to the nerd in me (which technically is all of me). It’s fun to experiment with different levels of propylene glycol (more throat hit) and vegetable glycerin (more vapor). It’s fun trying different flavors, whether it’s varieties of tobacco, desserts, and beverages. When you find the right blend for the right flavor, it’s a kind of magic. Like I said in Coffee Talk #525, these aspects of vaping are one reason that tech nerds are flocking to the hobby.

If you have any questions about e-liquid, just let me know!

Vaping Diaries #1: Safe Cig vs. V2 Cigs

“Mini” electronic cigarettes are the most popular way to get into vaping. There are a number of reasons for their popularity. Minis look like regular cigarettes, so they feel familiar and they make it easy to blend in with other smokers. They’re also easy to use, consisting of a battery and a cartomizer (cartridge/atomizer) . The battery provides the power (duh) while the cartomizer contains the flavor, nicotine, and the atomizer that turns the liquid solution into vapor. It doesn’t get any easier than they, hey?

Two of the most popular mini e-cigs are Safe Cig and V2 Cigs. I’ve been using V2 e-cigs since March 2012 and Safe Cigs since May 2012. For people new to vaping, they’re very good products that offer simplicity and are backed by fantastic customer service. Each product has its own advantages. Here’s a comparison of Safe Cig and V2 Cigs “standard” e-cigarettes.

Battery Life: Both companies offer batteries in different sizes with different capacities. For simplicities sake, I’m going to talk about each company’s standard batteries. Safe Cig batteries are rated at 3.7 volts, while V2’s are rated at 4.2 volts. The former lasts longer, while the latter has more power. For people that are used to smoking a pack or more per day, multiple batteries are needed for both products. If you’re sticking with standard cartomizers then Safe Cig is the better choice. Longer battery life is always good and the extra power of the V2 battery is more beneficial if you’re using clearomizer (larger, tank-like products) heads.

In terms of aesthetics, the V2 has a smooth finish that can be slippery. Safe Cig batteries are textured and feel paper-like — a very nice touch.

Edge: Safe Cig

Throat Hit and Vapor: In addition to battery power, there are several factors that contribute to throat hit and vapor production. Higher nicotine levels and higher propylene glycol percentages give you a heavier throat hit, while higher vegetable glycerin percentages give you more vapor.

For comparisons sake, I used the Marlboro and menthol equivalents from Safe Cig and V2 at the light and medium levels. The V2 cartomizers offered more vapor, but a relatively weak throat hit. Safe Cig cartos had a little less vapor, but a more satisfying throat hit. The vapor difference wasn’t that big of a deal, but the difference in throat hit was much more evident.

Edge: Safe Cig

Flavors: Safe Cig offers a wide variety of tobacco-type flavors. You’re bound to find something that tastes similar to your favorite cigarette. Unfortunately, most of the company’s flavors are only available at the 18mg nicotine level. V2 doesn’t have as many tobacco flavors, but offers novelty tastes like cherry, chocolate, coffee, and vanilla. More importantly all V2 flavors come in a variety of nicotine levels, as well as nicotine-free. This is huge if you’re trying to lower your nicotine intake.

Edge: V2

Flexibility: Safe Cig batteries use an RN4081 connection. You can find third-party cartomizers for these batteries, but that’s about it. V2 batteries use the more popular KR808D-1 connection. There are way more aftermarket products available for this type of connection, allowing you to dabble with more advanced types of vaping.

Additionally, V2 sells the tank-like LiquiMax product for people that want to easily use e-liquids from other vendors; many third-party vendors offer juices that are cheaper and available in a wider variety of flavors. V2 also sells a 5.0 volt USB product for people that want a powerful vaping experience while using their computers. This is a nice complementary device that can help you save battery life on your other e-cigs.

Edge: V2

Service and Support: Both companies offer generous limited-lifetime warranties for their starter kits. This is one reason people feel secure going with them when jumping into the vaping world. RPadholic N8R has had outstanding customer service experiences with his V2 products. As far as warranties go, it’s a tie. Here’s more information on Safe Cig’s and V2’s warranties if you’re interested.

As for ordering cartos and other products, V2 is good. My orders with the company were usually mailed out within two business days. One pet peeve is that I’m often given a tracking number a few hours after ordering, but the package isn’t actually mailed for two days. My Safe Cig orders have been much faster, with my orders always being mailed out within one business day. Mail time also depends on where you live; Safe Cig is based in California, while V2 is based in Florida.

Edge: Safe Cig

Conclusion: For novice vapers and those that don’t want to get into things like large personal vaping devices, refilling their own liquids, and experimenting with different vaping heads, Safe Cig and V2 are both very good companies. While they’re on the pricey side for what you get, the customer service is outstanding and the products are super-easy to use.

If you think there’s the slightest chance you want to experiment with advanced vaping equipment, I recommend V2. The product offers more flexibility and is a better gateway to advanced devices. If you just want to stick with a simple mini-battery-and-cartomizer system then I suggest Safe Cig. Its batteries feel better in your hand and last longer, its cartos offer a more satisfying throat hit, and its shipping service is faster.

If you have any question about Safe Cig and V2 e-cigarettes, please leave a comment!