Best vape 2018: from straight cigarette replacements to vapes for the more sophisticated vaping gentleman

Is vaping bad for you? Well, it's not as bad as smoking. So enjoy the biggest clouds of fruity or herb-tinged vapour possible with the best vapes and vape pens

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We don't exactly endorse e-cigs and vaporisers, but they seem to be a hell of a lot better for you than cigarettes, 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 giving up or not being able to have a puff when they feel like it. Nicotine patches quell the urge to some degree but it's not an instant solution. Vaporisers and e-Cigarettes (their ciggie-shaped counterparts) 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 is that the smoke being exhaled isn't actually smoke; it's nicotine-infused vapour (or steam) which appears to be, on balance of current medical evidence, less harmful than carcinogen-laden tobacco smoke. 

What's more, it evaporates in a flash leaving no nasty smells or residues in its wake. Okay, if you're a non-vaper, it does stink if you walk through a cloud of it, but your clothes won't smell of synthetic fruit afterwards, which is a step up from fags.

What IS a vaporiser/vape, then?

A vape pen or vaporiser doesn't necessarily look anything like a cigarette and that can be a good thing since no one can mistake it for a proper cigarette when used in a public place or at least those venues that allow it. 

Most vapes use a screw-in atomizer or clearomiser that encompasses a heating coil and a transparent e-liquid chamber. To prepare, fill the chamber with e-liquid (there's a huge range of flavours and nicotine strengths to choose from, but more on that below), press the button a few times to turn it on, then press and hold the button while drawing on the mouthpiece. 

Vaporisers produce far more vapour than e-cigarettes and ordinary ciggies (we're talking plumes of the stuff – like an oral bonfire). Indeed, most ‘cloud chasers’ tend to opt for customisable sub-ohm models that are capable of producing massive quantities of vapour from a single draw. However, many of the more highfalutin models are so ludicrously complicated you’d need a degree in electrical engineering to operate them. 

Many vaporisers also leak e-liquid occasionally which is why this writer much prefers the sealed cartridge versions which involve zero maintenance. Why do some vaporisers leak? I haven’t a clue but clearly the system has a design fault in there somewhere. Answers on a postcard please.

The other downside with refillable vaporisers is that, depending on usage, the small screw-in coil section (the part that heats the liquid) will need to be replaced roughly every two weeks, but thankfully they’re cheap to buy. Vaporisers are widely available through online outlets and on most high streets.

What is E-liquid?

Most vaporisers use a liquid suspension called e-liquid to deliver nicotine, throat hit and flavour. The vast majority of e-liquids are comprised of vegetable glycerin (VG), propylene glycol (PG) and nicotine. 

VG is a thick, sticky, sweet liquid that produces maximum vapour at the expense of throat grip and flavour. Hence, E-liquids with higher VG to PG ratios are preferred by ardent cloud chasers who tend to use the direct to lung technique (DTL), a method that involves literally sucking in a full lungful of vapour as if breathing through a pipe.

PG liquid, on the other hand, provides a much better throat hit similar to that of a tobacco cigarette. E-liquids with a higher PG ratio are therefore better suited to those more used to the mouth to lung (MTL) technique of cigarette smoking. 

In a nutshell, a VG50/PG50 mix is best for those who like an intense flavour as well as a throat hit, while a PG20/VG80 provides a much smoother inhale with bigger clouds and a mild flavour.

Nicotine is the final ingredient that indicates the amount of throat grip and overall satisfaction. As a general rule, consider choosing a 3mg e-liquid if you only smoked one or two cigarettes a day, 6mg if you smoked under 10 per day and want a decent throat hit, 12mg if you were up to and above 20 a day and 18mg and higher if you puffed like a chimney.

What is the best vape?

There are all sorts of vapes in this guide but our current favourite is the doddlesome Vype Pebble. This might not be to the taste of cloud-chasing extremists due to its ease of use and lack of resemblance to something from the Star Wars cantina scene. But it is the best you can get, and made by a reputable company – tobacco giant BAT obviously knows which way the wind is blowing…

1. Vype Pebble

Best vape for convenience

Reasons to buy
+Great price+Pocket sized+Satisfying hit with plenty of vapour
Reasons to avoid
-Not so many flavours available

British American Tobacco’s cute Pebble has just been given a makeover and it’s a little cracker that fully deserves immediate promotion to our one spot.

This is easily the smallest, most pocketable and convenient vaporising unit on the market right now. Its flat pebble shape is perfect for stashing in even the tightest of slim jeans pockets and a boon for those who might occasionally sneak a quick puff where they shouldn’t. 

The Pebble is a conventional e-liquid vaporiser that uses disposable pre-sealed cartridges in six different flavours (from Golden Tobacco and Tingling Mint to Wild Berries and Fresh Apple) and three nicotine strengths (6, 12 and 18mg). 

A sealed cartridge system like this is far and away the best option for beginners and those who just want to vape without the rigmarole of having to fill a chamber with sticky e-liquid. With this model you simply swap cartridges whenever you want to change flavours.

The Pebble couldn’t be easier to use. Simply push in a disposable e-liquid cartridge (£5.99 for two), charge it up via the Mini USB port, press the titchy ‘on’ button and puff. There is no need to hold in buttons while you draw on this model as the heating coil is activated automatically. Against all odds, the Pebble produces a substantial amount of vapour, too.

Of all the vaporisers I’ve tested, this is the model I use the most – it’s just so small and practical. The new model – replete with Dodge Viper-style racing stripes – is due shipping now.

2. JAC Vapour S17

Best refillable vaporiser for beginners

Reasons to buy
+Easy to use and adjust+Plenty o' vapour
Reasons to avoid
-Lacks capacity

This snazzy model from the house of JAC is perfect for beginners and former smokers seeking a vaporiser that emulates the tight draw of a cigarette.  However, because it comes with an air-resistance valve to adjust the strength of the draw, it’s also suitable for those who prefer the direct-to-lung technique and massive plumes of vapour.

In the pantheon of refillable vaporisers, this one’s easier to use than most: simply fill the chamber with e-liquid, adjust the draw strength by turning the little thumb wheel, hold in the button and puff. 

If you want a longer-lasting vaping experience, consider its bigger stablemate, the S22 instead; it’s essentially the same product as the S17 but with a wider mouthpiece and a larger battery and e-liquid chamber. Excellent choice.

3. Vaporesso Aurora

The hipster vape

Reasons to buy
+Cool looks, cool taste
Reasons to avoid
-Small e-liquid tank

What a surprisingly impressive little steam engine this Zippo lighter-style model turned out to be. Granted, it’s fiddly to fill and the magnetic e-liquid reservoir is tiny but what an easy thing to use. Just flick the lid Steve McQueen style, swivel the pipe-like mouthpiece a few degrees and draw; the e-liquid is automatically heated with no button pressing required.

Despite its size, this thing produces a surprisingly large volume of flavoursome vapour that is smooth enough to allow the use of higher nicotine contents without having your throat ripped to shreds. For the ultimate tobacco flavour, I recommend loading it with Gourmet E-Liquid’s superb Cuttwood Tobacco Trail blend.

The Aurora is available in a range of liveries and is either the coolest looking model in the roundup or trying desperately hard to be cool, depending on your age and style standpoints. Well worth a punt as a vape either way.

4. Bo One

The premium vape

Reasons to buy
+Sophisticated and discreet design+Easy to use
Reasons to avoid
-Wobbly USB charger

Designed in France – but of course – this ultra stylish vape pen is the most elegant model on this page and one of the easiest to use. Simply press in a pre-filled, colour-coded cartridge (called a Bo Cap), put your lips around the mouthpiece and suck like a limpet. That’s it. No buttons to press and no messy fluids to fill.

The USB charging cradle is a bit wobbly and some cartridges were really difficult to remove. It’s also not the biggest cloud chucker in the pack, but that's not necessarily a negative. If you’re looking for something discreet yet stylish, by vape standards, you could do a lot worse than this classy and reasonably-priced vape stick.

5. Apollo OHM GO

Best vape for cloud chasers

Reasons to buy
+Adjustable draw resistance+Humungous vapour volume+Two methods of vaping+Great battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Large and quite heavy

Apollo is a major player in vapeland and its e-liquids are among the very best. This highly engineered sub-ohm beast is the largest model on the page, being 16cm in length. 

If you want to go head-to-head against your town's most ardent cloud chasers then this is the model to turn up with. It produces spectacular levels of smooth, strato-cumulus-like vapour that just keeps on coming. Very impressive.

It’s pretty easy to use, too, and comes with a draw-resistance dial and an extra coil that allows users to engage in two methods of vaping: mouth-to-lung (rather like a cigarette) and direct lung inhale (like a shisha pipe). You can expect a full day of vaping on a single charge, too.

6. Philip Morris iQOS

Best vape for cigarette taste and feel

Reasons to buy
+Accurately replicates real cigarette smoking+A bit cheaper than traditional cigarettes
Reasons to avoid
-Fiddly to use-Filter tip gets hot

If you find that vaporisers ultimately fail to emulate both the taste and effects of real cigarettes, then consider this tobacco-heating alternative from Marlboro producer Philip Morris. 

The iQOS uses proprietary Heets (HeatSticks that resemble filtered cigarettes in all but length). These specially formulated mini Marlboros are pushed, filter up, into a small handheld battery unit that heats the tobacco to 350 degrees – real cigarettes burn at around 800 degrees.

To ‘smoke’ it, simply put filter to lips and draw. The effect is very similar to that of a traditional cigarette: it produces roughly the same amount of smoke (in this instance a quick dissolving vapour) and provides the same nicotine grip in the throat. 

Similarly, taste, sensation and satisfaction levels are all much closer to that of a conventional cigarette. 

However, the filter tip does get quite warm, as if a smoker with a heavy draw has offered up the last few puffs of a cigarette. The main unit also requires regular cleaning which is a bit of a faff. 

Heets are available in three Marlboro-esque flavours (including menthol) and retail at around £35 for five packs of 20.

7. Firefly 2

Elegant loose herb blower for discerning vapeurs

Reasons to buy
+Beautifully design and build+Superb loose-leaf vaping experience
Reasons to avoid
-Needs regular cleaning

If herbal puffing is your bag, consider putting your lips round this feature-filled loose-leaf vaporiser designed by former Apple employee Mark Williams. 

In the arena of vaping products, the Firefly 2 is a fine thing to behold and is comprised of a borosilicate glass vapour path and herb bowl that accepts both dry herbs and wax concentrates. Touch sensor activation, dynamic convection heating tech and lightweight magnesium alloy construction add classy functionality.

The Firefly 2 heats up in seconds and comes with six preset temperatures accessed via a free iOS and Android app. Users have nothing but praise for this model and this writer is inclined to agree. 

Right now I can’t think of another loose-leaf model that provides such a consistently smooth vaping experience, but like most fine things, you do have to pay for it – a lot of decent phones are cheaper than this vape.

8. V2 Pro Series 3

Most practical pen-shaped vaporiser

Reasons to buy
+Dead easy to use+Interchangeable, refillable drop-in capsules+Excellent range of e-liquids available
Reasons to avoid
-Some capsules have been known to leak over time

The V2 Pro is a well-designed model with a refillable mouthpiece cartridge attached using magnets. 

Unlike other vaporisers, the V2's refillable e-liquid cartridges don't need unscrewing and emptying in order to change to a different flavour; you simply pull out one pre-filled capsule and drop in another. 

The V2’s draw resistance is set just right and is pretty close to that of a real cigarette. It also produces ample vapour.

Specialist baccy fans will equally fancy a punt on the optional dry herb atomizer (about £17). It's essentially the same as the liquid-carrying cartridge only it's been adapted to take herbal remedies. 

Despite having experienced a few leaky cartridges (an anomaly that many users have complained about), I'd still say the V2 is one of the most convenient vaporising pens on the market.

6. PAX3

Slick two-in-one vape pen for connoisseurs

Reasons to buy
+Subtle convenience+Four heat settings
Reasons to avoid
-Not for casual use

The current trend among herbal smokers is towards loose-leaf vaporisers such as this elegant and discreet, tech-filled model from PAX. 

The PAX3 is about four inches tall and less than an inch in width, making it arguably the smallest herbal vaporiser on the market.

Rather uniquely, the PAX3 accommodates both dry herb and concentrate (usually in the form of a wax) so discerning vape aficionados get the best of both worlds. 

The onboard technology here is impressive, too. The main heating coil automatically activates as soon as you draw and offers four different heat levels that can be adjusted with the press of a button or, better still, using the accompanying iPhone/Android app. 

Loose-leaf products like this don’t produce much vapour but aficionados love them because they produce the desired taste without displeasingly whiffy fumes.

10. V2 Trinity

Best vape for the hardcore

Reasons to buy
+Lots of custom settings+Produces huge clouds+Compact design
Reasons to avoid
-Really rather complicated

Given that most vaping aficionados opt for customisable vaporisers of the sub ohm variety, I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon and put one to the test in the form of this chunky high-end, pocket-sized model from V2. 

It certainly delivered huge plumes but, despite frequent referrals to the scant manual, I never really found the correct balance between voltage and temperature.

So, If you have no idea about impedence, voltages and optimum temperature settings, then steer clear of this one because it’s more complicated to understand than the dynamics of the Mandelbrot set. But if you’re an experienced vape nerd who positively loves fiddling with settings then the diminutive yet immensely powerful Trinity ticks most of the boxes.