Dab Pen vs. Vape Pen: What’s the Difference?

You’ve heard people call inhaling cannabis concentrate taking a “dab,” and you’re sure those clunky devices former smokers are puffing all over the place these days are called “vapes.” The world of cannabis terminology can sometimes be needlessly complex, but dab pens and vape pens relatively clearly denote their functions in their names: A dab pen allows you to take a portable dab, and a vape pen contains a tank full of cannabis concentrate.

In truth, the differences between what people are talking about when they refer to “dab pens” and “vape pens” can take some parsing out. In this guide, we’ll thoroughly determine the difference between a dab pen and a vape pen once and for all.

What is dabbing?

In the context of cannabis, dabbing is when you heat cannabis concentrate to its vaporization point without burning it. Most types of pure, unadulterated cannabis and hemp extract can be dabbed, and there are dozens of different ways to take a dab.

What is a dab rig?

Cannabis users commonly refer to the devices they use to take dabs as “dab rigs.” To make a dab rig, all you need is some form of tube for inhalation and a heat source. Most cannabis users make their dab rigs a bit more complex, however, and some dab rigs can be almost ridiculously futuristic. Here’s what you’ll find in the type of conventional dab rig you can buy at almost any glass or vape shop in the country:

  • A base that’s essentially identical to a bong
  • A nail that inserts into the stem of the bong
  • A dome to cover the nail
  • A heat source such as a kitchen blowtorch

To take a dab with a conventional dab rig, you simply heat the nail and apply cannabis concentrate before lowering the glass dome. These days, electronic nails that don’t require a blowtorch are more popular, and some electronic dab rigs combine all the components you need to start dabbing into one all-encompassing unit.

What is the difference between dabbing and vaping?

Limited to the context of inhaling cannabis concentrate, there is no difference between dabbing and vaping. “Dabbing” is simply, for whatever reason, the word the industry chose to denote the act of inhaling vaporized cannabis concentrate. While dabbing may be a form of vaping, that doesn’t mean dab pens and vape pens are exactly alike.

What is a dab pen?

A dab pen takes the concept of a dab rig and miniaturizes it. Most dab pens don’t offer any form of water filtration, and they feature small, refillable bowls that vaporize cannabis concentrate.

Shaped like an average pen, dab pens are discreet and offer users impressive levels of customization. Dab pens are rechargeable, and some of them can deliver surprisingly thick clouds of cannabinoid vapor.

Does a dab pen make you high?

Yes, if used correctly, a dab pen containing high-THC cannabis concentrate will certainly get you high. Users commonly note, however, that dab pens often offer finicky results and have short operating lives. You’ll need to get to know your dab pen quite intimately to ensure you get the results you want from every hit.

Are dab pens for beginners?

No, dab pens are not appropriate cannabis vaporization tools for beginners. Every dab pen is different, and they are often hard to load and clean properly while being prone to battery failure and component breakdown. A cannabis concentrate ingestion tool as small as a dab or vape pen wasn’t ever meant to be anything more than disposable.

What is a vape pen?

In the world of cannabis, the term “vape pen” usually refers to a two-part product consisting of a disposable vape cartridge and a rechargeable vape pen. The cartridge contains all the mechanisms required to produce cannabis vapor, and all it needs is a connection to a battery to get started.

Once the cartridge (usually 0.5-1g) is empty, the user simply discards it and replaces it with a new one. There’s no mess, and you’re able to use a considerable amount of cannabis concentrate before you need to replace your cartridge.

Does a vape pen make you high?

Yes, a vape pen containing THC should have no problem getting you high. If your cartridge isn’t delivering thick clouds, simply switch out the battery. Even if you need to buy an upgraded battery with more power, there are countless ways to troubleshoot issues with vape cartridges that might be preventing you from enjoying the effects of THC.

Are vape pens for beginners?

Yes, the combination of a disposable vape cartridge and a rechargeable vape pen is one of the easiest and most convenient methods of inhaling cannabis concentrate for beginners to grasp. There are no tiny jars of cannabis concentrate you have to transfer into a tiny opening using a delicate metal implement. Simply connect the battery to the cartridge, and start vaping.

Dab pen vs. vape pen FAQ

Now that you know the difference between a vape pen and a dab pen in the world of cannabis, let’s finish up with a few answers to commonly asked questions on the subject:

What is the difference between a pod and a vape pen?

Some vape cartridge manufacturers prefer the pod-shaped precedent set down by Juul, one of the most popular disposable nicotine vape manufacturers. From a functional perspective, pods are not much different from normal vape cartridges, but they snap into place rather than screwing on like standard 510-threaded carts.

What is the difference between a vape pen and a mod?

In the world of nicotine vaping, the term “mod” is often used to refer to a modified vaping device that has been upgraded to offer more power or tank capacity. Mods are not generally used to vape cannabis, but dab pens are at least reasonably reminiscent of these high-tech vaping devices, which can often be quite colorful and bulky.

Are dabs better than carts?

Some users prefer the full-throated appeal of the dab compared to the relatively wimpy hit of a vape cart, but each method of inhaling cannabis is appropriate for certain circumstances. Once you’re at home, certainly feel free to let it rip with big dabs from your desktop rig. There’s no denying the convenience of vaping a fully charged battery and vape cartridge at your side when you want to use cannabis incognito while you’re on the go, though.

Are dab pens worth it?

Even the highest-end dab pens are limited by their lack of longevity. The same caliber of components that are meant to be discarded after a period with vape cartridges are often included in dab pens on a permanent basis, leading to device failure with no possible solution. 

If you only take a dab here and there, a dab pen might be right for you. Daily cannabis users run through their equipment too fast, however, for dab pens to be an economical option.

Do dab pens smell?

Dab pens and vape pens shouldn’t smell very strongly when they aren’t in use. Even the vapor you exhale after hitting your vape pen should dissipate within a few moments, making it relatively difficult to detect the use of dab pens and vape pens as opposed to ultra-odoriferous cannabis flower.

If you’re concerned about potentially unwanted aromas, it’s usually easy to re-cap a vape cartridge with its original silicone cap to make an airtight seal. Dab pens are often considerably harder to cap in this way.

What are the side effects of vape pens?

Over the last few years, a number of side effects have come to light that can occur when people inhale vapor that has been contaminated with dangerous cutting ingredients like vitamin E acetate. When adulterated with toxic contaminants, even the most benign substances can become dangerous.

Cannabis vape pens are not known to have any seriously dangerous side effects as long as they only contain substances naturally found in cannabis flower. THC is known to cause certain side effects in some people, but other cannabinoids, such as CBD and CBG, are widely considered to be very well-tolerated in human subjects.

To avoid potential vape pen side effects, always choose your products carefully. Prefer brands with hundreds of five-star reviews that also furnish up-to-date, batch-specific lab tests from a third party testing lab.

What does dabbing do to the body?

When you dab a cannabinoid like CBD or THC, it floods into your lungs at a massive rate and makes its way into your bloodstream. The advent of the dab has made it possible for cannabis users to inhale lungfuls of cannabis vapor larger than anyone ever thought possible, and some dabs can contain upward of 90% THC. Dabbing will certainly make the effects of hemp or cannabis powerfully known throughout your body, but there is no indication that taking a dab is any more harmful to you than inhaling natural cannabinoids and terpenes via any other route.

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