Vaping: it's definitely still a thing!
We don't exactly endorse e-cigs and vaporisers, but they seem to be a hell of a lot better for you than fags, and hey - you have the right to choose what you suck on, within the law.
One potential use for vapes and e-cigs is as part of a process of giving up smoking entirely. However, we're starting from the assumption here that you're intending to vape because you like it.
Most smokers dread the thought of not being able to have a puff when they feel like it, especially travellers on long-haul flights. Nicotine patches quell the urge to some degree but it's not an instant solution. Vaporisers and e-Cigarettes are the best options in this respect because they fulfil the two main prerequisites of a smoker: nicotine grip in the throat, and the sight of smoke being exhaled.
The clever thing about vapes and e-cigarettes is that the smoke being exhaled isn't actually smoke; it's nicotine-infused vapour (or steam) which appears to be less harmful than carcinogen-laden tobacco smoke. What's more, it evaporates in a flash leaving no nasty smells in its wake.
What IS a vaporiser/vape, then?
A vaporiser looks nothing like a cigarette and that can be a good thing since no one can mistake it for a proper cigarette when smoked (or vaped) in a public place. You can easily spot someone who is using a vaporiser – it looks like they're playing a penny whistle.
Most vaporisers (or vape pens as they're more commonly known) use a screw-in atomizer or clearomiser that encompasses a heating element and a large transparent e-liquid chamber. Simply fill the chamber with e-liquid (there's a huge range of flavours and nicotine strengths to choose from), press the button a few times and the e-liquid is heated to a set temperature.
Vape pens produce far more vapour than e-cigarettes or even ordinary ciggies (we're talking plumes of the stuff – like an oral bonfire). They also provide a much longer and more satisfying vaping experience.
The downside is that, depending on usage, the atomiser section needs to be replaced every month or so. Vaporisers are mostly available through online outlets.
So, what's an e-cigarette?
A cigarette-shaped, electronic smoking device comprised of three main components: a battery, a heating element and a cartridge containing e-liquid (water, nicotine and other ingredients including glycerol). When a user sucks on the end, the e-liquid is automatically heated and turned into vapour, which delivers a decent hit of nicotine.
An average eCigarette produces almost the same amount of vapour as a cigarette does smoke. However, because the electronically-controlled cartridges they use are disposable, they can be quite expensive to use in the long term. E-cigarettes are available from most corner shops.
Vivid Rechargeable E-Liquid Capsule Starter Kit
Vivid has taken a different approach to vaping with this handsome lightweight unit. Instead of having to fill it using fiddly bottles of sticky liquid, it uses sealed, pre-filled capsules that simply twist onto the device's atomizer. The Nespresso of vape pens, if you like.
It's a brilliantly efficient, mess-free system to use and no more expensive to run than most bottle-based vape pens (£4.99 for four 2.5ml capsules). It also allows you to swap flavours and strengths with ease and even have a few extra flavours in your pocket.
However, going down this path means that you'll be committed to using Vivid branded e-liquid products only and currently there are only 10 flavours available.
The Vivid produces huge plumes of vapour and its draw resistance is set just right. This writer loves the practicality of being able to screw in any flavour I want without having to pre fill a chamber that will invariably spill its contents if over filled. The only addition I'd like to see is a small, distinguishing flavour label on the cartridge itself. Otherwise it's a winner all the way.
T3 rating 5/5
Price £20, Vivid Vapours
V2 Pro Series 3
The V2 Pro is the Apple Mac of vaporisers. It's superbly designed as a single unit with a removable mouthpiece cartridge attached using magnetism. Unlike other vaporisers, the V2's cartridges don't need unscrewing in order to change to a different flavour; here you simply pull one out and drop in another.
The mouthpiece's draw resistance is set just right and is pretty close to that of a real cigarette. Like all vaporisers, to turn it on you press the battery button a number of times (three times with this one, five with many others). Now hold the button in and suck. Bingo. Huge plumes of the stuff.
The V2 Pro also comes with a magnetic charging system. Simply hold the end of the unit against the USB plug and it grabs the unit like a long lost friend. You can even puff away while it's being charged. "Specialist" baccy fans will equally fancy a punt on the optional dry herb atomizer (£16). It's essentially the same as the liquid-carrying cartridge only it's been adapted to take herbal remedies. Dry herbs don't produce anything like as much vapour e-liquid but we've heard the results speak (gibberish) for themselves.
In the pantheon of vaporisers, few hold a candle to this model; it's just so efficient and easy to use, and we still prefer it the newer, more high-spec Series 7, which is further down this list.
T3 Rating 5/5
Price £60 |V2 E-cigarettes
Blu Premium Kit
Now this is what a 21st Century Bond would have in his dinner jacket. A black charging case the size of a fag packet opens to reveal three tobacco-flavoured tips to screw into a slim body/battery, all also black. From opening the box to sucking on a pre-charged, thin, nicely weighted, pleasant-tasting e-cigarette in under 10 seconds, with nobody saying 'what the hell is that thing?'.
The batteries are charged in the case (and last for up to 4 months!) and the case can be charged via your computer. The only thing that stumped us was the last hole in the packet to 'store your fully assembled' tab. Ours wouldn't go in more than an inch... maybe we were doing it wrong.
T3 Rating 4/5
Price £10 | Blu UK
VaporFi Pro II Starter Kit
This is surely one of the most elegant vape pens on the market right now. Its silky rubberised skin feels great in the hand and it comes with a classy-looking chromium mouthpiece. It's not too tall either (around 15cm) so it'll easily slip into a trouser or jacket pocket.
As with most vape pens, the VaporFi is split into two parts: the battery and the atomizer-cum-e-liquid chamber. Care needs to be taken when unscrewing the e-liquid chamber or you may end up getting its sticky liquid contents all over your hands. To charge the battery, simply unscrew the flush silver cap on the end to expose the Micro USB port.
The VaporFi produces ample vapour and its draw resistance isn't too low, which is just how we like it. Decently priced, too.
T3 rating 4/5
Price £50 | Tank Puffin
V2 Pro Series 7
The V2 Pro Series 3, also reviewed here, is one of the most fuss-free vaporisers on the market. Well here's its recently-launched big brother.
The Pro Series 7 is shorter than the Series 3 and about twice the width, but it's just as pocketable. It also uses the same magnetic attachment system for both cartridges and the USB charger. Really, this thing couldn't be easier to use.
Simply fill the cartridge with your favourite e-liquid flavour and drop it into the chamber. Now tap the power button three times and you're ready to vape alongside all those trendy Soho middle-management types outside their GoogleFaceTwit workplaces.
The Series 7 comes replete with an e-liquid cartridge, a cavernous dry herb cartridge for puffing on herbal tobacco and other herbs, a USB charging lead and a mains adaptor.
So, which one to choose: Series 3 or Series 7?The 7 has three main advantages: its 1800mAh battery is much larger and longer lasting (over 24 hours with standard use); its e-liquid and dry herb cartridges are bigger (2.5ml) which means fewer top ups; and it features variable voltage for different volumes of vapour. As with all vaporisers, you will need to change the cartridge (with built-in atomiser) every month or so – at a cost of £16.99 each.
However, the larger mouthpiece, lower draw resistance and notably higher price and stupider look of the Pro 7 mean we still recommend the Series 3 for the majority of vapers.
T3 Rating 4/5
Price £130 | V2 E-cigarettes
And now for something a little bit different. At first glance, the Má Vape looks like any other vape pen. However, instead of using nicotine-infused oils, the Má Vape utilizes something more exotic.
Cannabidiol (commonly known as CBD) is found in all varieties of the cannabis plant – including hemp – alongside its infamous stablemate, THC. However, unlike THC which gets you stoned – and a criminal record in many countries – CBD is a non psychoactive component that apparently causes no euphoric affects (it's also legal in many countries though you're advised to check first before travelling).
So what's the point of smoking it, then? Well, CBD is "said to be" an effective treatment against a wide range of medical conditions, and according to some sources, it also induces a sense of relaxation.
With that in mind, I opened the handsome starter pack, squeezed in a little hemp-extracted Má Chill Sweet Leaf CBD juice and took a few puffs. It's very smooth indeed with no raspy nicotine grip in the throat. It tastes good, too. After several more puffs I did begin to feel quite lightheaded. In fact. I've since read reports of some people feeling quite dizzy after having smoked too much CBD oil, so bear that in mind.
The Má Vape Chill Starter Pack comes with a battery, USB charger and a wonderfully slim steel mouthpiece that feels better between the lips than any other vaporiser in this round-up. The box also contains a small bottle of e-juice to get you started. My favourite flavour is Sweet Leaf though there's something to be said for the Strawberry Dream, too.
Now, if you don't mind, I'm off for a quick nap.
Price £39.50 | Má
Apollo VTube V4.0 Kit
Apollo is a major player in vapeland and its e-liquids are among the very best. This newly-updated monster is the mother of all personal vaporisers; it towers over every other model on test and, as the name suggests, looks like an Apollo rocket on the launch pad.
However, be warned: the V4.0 is essentially aimed at the vape nerd, the sort of person who likes to fiddle with wattage to adjust the strength of the hit and vapour volume.
As an experiment, we ramped the wattage up to the 50-watt mark to see what happens and, well, you know those massive cumulous nimbus clouds they have over in the US during the tornado season? It was a bit like that.
But here's the rub... Do you really need so many control options when all you really want to do is vape? Despite being superbly fashioned from the finest metals, we reckon the VTube V4.0 is too technical and complicated for all but the most ardent vaping aficionados.
T3 Rating 3/5
Price £110 | Apollo
Volcano Inferno Starter Kit
If you hanker after something that looks a little more elegant and less like a rocket, try this excellent model from Volcano.
The lady-like Inferno isn't much longer than the V2 so it's quite discreet. It's also available in eight different electric colours. The look and build quality of this vaporiser suggests it was designed from the ground up which is a good thing since so many others look like they've been fashioned from old torch housings (which, incidentally, is often the case).
It also comes with two batteries (one long, the other short) which is very handy for heavy users on a long night out.
The draw resistance isn't as well dialled as the V2 and it also bubbles a bit when drawing; a common anomaly with many vaporisers. But if you're in the market for something a little more stylish, give the Inferno a whirl.
T3 Rating 3/5
Price £45 |Volcano Inferno
Crafty Portable App Vaporiser
This fist-sized dry herb vaporiser looks like a miniature nuclear reactor so you can be sure it'll attract a lot of attention; indeed perhaps a little too much attention should you elect to fill it with non-legal herbs; but that's your problem, hippy.
The Crafty is comprised of a palm-sized, lithium-ion battery compartment, a large herb chamber and a swivelling mouthpiece. The Crafty heats dry leaves up to the default temperature of 356°F (180°C). When ready, the device vibrates and the indicator lamp changes from red to green. Now draw.
Don't expect anything like the same amount of vapour you get from e-liquid. In fact, without a decent sequence of puffs you might not see much vapour at all. But you will feel the effect.
Many vaporisers offer the ability to change the temperature using a sequence of confusing button presses but this one makes it easier by dint of an iOS/Andoid app that allows the user to change the temperature, check the battery charge status, turn the vibration function on and off and activate the alarm and vibration functions for your smartphone. Bit gimmicky, yes, but not useless by any means.
The Crafty is a clever piece of kit but it's not for everyone. If you're intent on smoking herbal-based products then the V2 Pro Series 7 does much the same job for a lot less wonga.
T3 Rating 3/5
Price €298 | Storz Bickel
Innokin Cool Fire 2 Kit
A vape kit of middling complexity - not for beginners, but not as super-technical as some here.
It contains a dial that allows you to adjust the wattage between 7.0 and 12.5 in 0.5W increments. This comes into its own when you start to get a feel for which flavours work best with a bit more or a bit less power behind them, which also affects whether you get wetter or dryer throat hits.
Features for this one include a traffic lights full-medium-low power indicator, short circuit protection and a 10 second cut-off to prevent overheating. It's not bad at all.
T3 Rating 3/5
Price £50| UK E-cig Store
Gamucci Continental 500
This is more like what you've probably spotted in your newsagent. No set up, no battery, no charging... just rip it out the package and you're away. Available in original or menthol, one of these big plastic electronic cigarettes (sold in ones) contains the same amount of smoking that you'd get in two packs of traditional snouts.
They're not as fancy as all the above, but they're cheaper and don't require the same commitment. Also a decent alternative if you've left your vape pen or fancier e-cig in your other jacket.
T3 Rating 3/5
Price £7 | Gamucci
Liberty Flights EVOD 2
Liberty Flights Evod 2 is one of the shortest, though still weighty and robust. It also had the least idiot-proof instructions - we poured into the wrong bit and had to have a clean up - our fault. You'll only do that once though.
Drawn to this one by the gift set's range of five old-school flavours (Dandelion; Burdock, Sour Cherry, Blood Tonic etc... all very similar: sweet and sour, berryish, little sickly but overall quite pleasant), you go from complete vape newbie to puffing away in no time (as with all on test, you learn after the first throat-smashing pull that gentle inhaling is best).
The Evod 2 is easy to operate, discreet - although it's hard to tell in the dark how much liquid is in the tank with this one - and, for this reviewer's usage, lasted a full week on one charge. Vape strength could have been more consistent.
T3 Rating 3/5
Price£25 |Liberty Flights
This older model is is rather more flashy than many of its generation, and attracts attention when out and about ("whoa, that's massive!"). The 360 tank is great, making it very clear just how much nicotine juice you have left.
There are numerous flavours, but the 'Tobacco Leaf' liquid it came with wasn't, to this vaper, terribly pleasant ("I'm getting moss, pencils and damp fag butts"), and the taste lingered in the tank for a day after cleaning and changing to something different.
The coil also started loudly crackling after a couple of days (instructions advise you to change it every 1-3 weeks). A good, consistent 'draw', mind.
Price £20 |Multivape