Best vape 2020: vape pens and e-cigarettes for the discerning vapeur

Give up smoking or enjoy the biggest clouds of fruity or herb-tinged vapour possible with the best vape pens

Best vape pen

While we don't exactly endorse e-cigs and vaporisers, they do seem to be safer than cigarettes, even if some medical establishments may tell you otherwise (see below).

The best vapes fit into two categories really. There are the premium ones made by big legacy tobacco brands, aimed at people trying to give up smoking cigarettes. And there are those aimed at a slightly more underground culture, which involves people who vape because they like it, and feel reasonably confident about the health risks. There are also some tobacco heating products – Philip Morris' iQOS, for instance – that the manufacturers insist are not vapes… But for simplicity's sake, that's what we're going to call them.

Certainly, one obvious use of vaporisers 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. Because the best vapes are not only cigarette replacements, they are WAY RAD, as this video amply demonstrates.

Is vaping bad for you?

It’s all a bit up in the air at the moment but according to recent reports, over 1,400 ‘unexplained’ cases of lung disease (and over 30 deaths) could be attributed to vaping. On the other hand, three quarters of those patients affected apparently reported that they had been using unregulated THC-based e-liquids (THC is the psychoactive compound in marijuana). Some medical institutions have also suggested that some fruit flavours may be to blame. The Trump administration has since proposed a ban on fruit flavours, and leading vape brand Juul has already suspended sales of its fruit-based products in light of that.

Until more conclusive evidence is put forward, and so long as you’re happy to take the risk in the meantime, we’d recommend sticking to well established brands with high quality control – and perhaps forego the fruit flavours if you’re really not sure.

What IS a vape pen, then?

Best vape pen

Vapes come in all sorts of shapes and sizes

Many 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 arguably 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 great thing about vaporisers is that the smoke being exhaled isn't actually smoke; it's nicotine-infused vapour (or steam) which 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.

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?

Best vape pen: e liquids

Some vape accessory packaging is not the most sophisticated, admittedly

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 favourite is still the refillable cartridge-based Renova Zero from reputable vape brand Vaporesso. 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 currently the best you can get. 

The best vape pens, in order

Best vape 2019: Vaporesso Renova Zero

1. Vaporesso Renova Zero

Pocket-sized pal is the best vape pen money can buy

Reasons to buy
+Excellent consistency with massive vapour volume+Extraordinarily compact

This titchy game-changing cartridge-based vaporiser from Vaporesso is a bit like Nespresso, but for vaping. Available in a variety of colours, the Renova Zero measures just 8cm x 3cm and is small enough to fit the coin pocket on a pair of 501s. It’s also an absolute cinch to use: simply switch it on with five presses of the button and draw, baby, draw. 

The Zero is superbly designed and comes with a hefty zinc alloy casing and a magnetic snap-in pod system that is a joy to use. It also produces surprisingly large plumes of vapour – possibly even more than the mighty OHM Apollo reviewed below. We’re talking serious plumes, dude, serious plumes. 

What’s more, you can also alter the device’s wattage by pressing the same button three times. Wattage adjustment supposedly affects the general volume of vapour though it must be said that this writer failed to detect any major differences between the three settings.

Where the average cartridge-based vaporiser uses sealed pods that you throw in the bin when empty, this one uses refillable cartridges that can be used for at least ten refills before they need replacing. This opens up a whole new world of e-liquid flavours and VG/PG mixes that normal sealed cartridge-based systems simply cannot match. The Zero comes with just one cartridge but they’re readily available to buy online at around £5 a pair. All you have to do is buy an e-liquid of your choice and fill the cartridge via the Zero’s ingenious one-way press-to-fill valve.

Each cartridge is equipped with a high-quality, long-lasting ceramic coil that produces one of the smoothest, most satisfying puffing experiences in Vapeland.

The Zero also features dry hit protection that shuts down the coil when it’s time for a refill. This not only prevents damaging the coil but it also stops you getting a foul lungful of burnt vapour – a common anomaly with cotton-coil vaporisers. Another major bonus is that the Zero is said to be leak free and that means no more sticky, smelly liquid all over your clothes and hands.

If you’re looking for a discreet but extremely versatile vaporiser that delivers a constantly smooth hit replete with mammoth amounts of vapour, then look no further than this little pocket titan. And if you’re on the lookout for a decent e-liquid to fill it with, mosey on over to our new e-liquid guide and nab yourself some new tantalising flavours.

Best vape 2019: Vype ePen 3

2. Vype ePen 3

Best sealed-cartridge vape pen

Reasons to buy
+Great price +Satisfying hit with high vapour volume +Very light
Reasons to avoid
-A bit long in the pocket 

British American Tobacco’s cute Pebble has been discontinued which is a great shame because it was a cracker that you could stash in even the tightest of jeans pockets. By contrast, its replacement, the ePen 3, is much longer (12cm) and hence not so discreet.

Available in range of colours, including a series of arty House of Holland liveries, the lightweight ePen 3 is a conventional e-liquid vaporiser that uses disposable pre-sealed cartridges in seven different flavours (from Golden Tobacco, Blended Tobacco and Crisp Mint to Wild Berries, Fresh Apple and Vanilla) and three nicotine strengths (6, 12 and 18mg).

A sealed cartridge system like this is great for beginners and those who just want to vape without the rigmarole of having to fill a chamber with messy e-liquid. With this model you simply swap cartridges whenever you want to change flavours. There’s no need to change the heating coil either because it’s built into the cartridge. However, it’s impossible to tell how much liquid is left in the cartridge so you'll want to habitually pack a spare or two.

The ePen 3 is very easy to use. Simply push in a disposable e-liquid cartridge (£5.49 for two), press the ‘on’ button five times and then hold the same button in while drawing on the comfortable mouthpiece. This is roughly the same method used for most vaporisers but personally I preferred the previous Pebble system, which let you drag on the mouthpiece without having to hold in a button.

The ePen 3 is certainly not left wanting in the meteorological department – this thing produces large volumes of rich, intensely-flavoured vapour. If you’re moving over from light cigarettes, then opt for the 6mg nicotine cartridge, which provides just the right amount grip in the throat without ripping it to shreds.

Best vape 2019: Ripple

(Image credit: Ripple)

3. Ripple

Natural plant-based option with zero nicotine

Reasons to buy
+Uses plant extracts and essential oils+Non addictive
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive for a disposable-If you crave nicotine, it’s not here

Ripple is a new type of sealed disposable ‘holistic’ vaporiser that uses a combination of plant extracts like ginseng, chamomile and valerian root and various essential oils instead of the usual concoction of nicotine, vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol. The brainchild of a brother and sister team, Ripple is apparently a much safer method of vaping that is completely non addictive because there’s no nicotine involved.

The main Ripple unit looks like any other stick-type vaporiser on the market, the main difference being that it’s disposable and ready charged out of the box. To activate it you simply put your lips around its tip and suck, for want of a better phrase. According to the blurb, each Ripple is good for about 500 puffs (the makers suggest between 10 and 20 puffs per day ‘for maximum benefit’, whatever that may be).

This writer gave all four flavours (jasmine, peppermint, lavender and lychee) a whirl and while I can’t say any of them made me feel noticeably more relaxed – or controlled my urge for another nicotine hit – they all tasted extremely pleasant, and without the raspiness associated with normal vaporisers. They also produced a surprisingly large volume of vapour.

Whether the Ripple will make any major, er, ripples on the market is a moot point but hats off to the developers for entering the market from such a fresh angle. However, we would suggest they offer individual trial units instead of packs of four at £40 a hit.

•Buy this vaporiser from Ripple

Best Vape 2019: IQOS 3 and IQOS 3 Multi

4. IQOS 3 & IQOS 3 Multi

Best straight cigarette replacement

Reasons to buy
+Accurately replicates cigarette smoking+Cheaper and less unhealthy than traditional cigarettes+Two systems to choose from
Reasons to avoid
-Not as safe as a liquid vaporiser-Requires occasional cleaning-Filter tip gets warm

• Buy direct from iQOS

If you find that e-liquid vaporisers ultimately fail to emulate both the taste and experience of real cigarettes, then consider these two tobacco-heating alternatives from Marlboro man, Philip Morris.

The new, much improved iQOS 3 and its stablemate, iQOS 3 Multi, use proprietary Heets (tobacco sticks 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’ a Heet, you simply put filter to lips and draw. The effect is remarkably 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. 

Granted, it’s not precisely the same as smoking a genuine cigarette – the smell and taste aren’t quite there yet and the filter tip gets warm – but nothing else comes as close to replicating the experience.

You should get about 15 puffs or six minutes out of each Heet stick before the heating element turns off and the unit emits a warning buzz. While the system does initially leave a faint tobacco smell in the air, it soon evaporates and leaves no smell on your clothes – a major bonus.

While both the IQOS 3 and IQOS 3 Multi perform the same basic function, they differ in one key area. The iQOS 3 requires a pocket charger to function: when you’ve finished puffing, simply put the mouth unit in the charger and it’ll be topped up in about four minutes. The IQOS 3 Multi, on the other hand, comes with a bigger battery so doesn’t require a separate charger. This means it can be used multiple times – around ten puffing sessions according to IQOS – before requiring a top up.

As to which model is best, the IQOS 3 charger is 1cm shorter and twice the width of the IQOS 3 Multi, though its Heet holder is much smaller (nearly 3cm shorter and half the width of the Multi) and much more discreet. Swings and roundabouts is a phrase that springs to mind.

If you’re trying to give up cigarettes then this system is an excellent alternative but we wouldn’t advise using it if you’ve never smoked before because the jury’s still out on how much safer the system is than cigarettes.

According to independent research carried out on behalf of Philip Morris, the IQOS system reduces the harm and risk of tobacco smoking. However, the US Food and Drug Administration declared that this claim could not be made in US advertising, although it did agree that smokeless cigarettes reduce a smoker’s exposure to harmful chemicals. 

That said, most people agree that heat-not-burn products like this do not produce carbon monoxide and tar, so that’s a bonus.

Heets sticks are available in three Marlboro-esque flavours: Amber, Yellow and Turquoise. Amber is the nearest to a red Marlboro cigarette and has the most agreeable taste and smell. By contrast, the milder Yellow isn’t as smooth a smoke and it doesn’t smell that great. Turquoise is equivalent to a Marlboro Green (menthol) and tastes very similar.

best vape 2019: vaporesso podstick

(Image credit: Vaporesso)

5. Vaporesso PodStick

A higher-tech version of the Renova Zero

Reasons to buy
+Refillable pod system+Highly adjustable+Comes with two pods
Reasons to avoid
-Not as practical as the Renova Zero

Despite some extra onboard tech, Vaporesso’s latest entry can’t quite match the brilliant Renova Zero model (reviewed above) for both practicality and design. While still small enough for a loose trouser pocket, it’s bulky pen-like shape and size isn’t as comfortable a fit for a tight jeans pocket and it doesn’t feel as tactile in the hand. Also, it doesn’t come with the automatic draw feature of the Zero. Instead, you need to press a button on the side to activate the atomiser. You will also need to remember to switch it off after each vaping session.

Like the Zero, the PodStick uses a removable e-liquid container (or pod) that can be filled with your blend of choice. Simply slide the mouthpiece back to expose the filler port and use the supplied dropper to fill the reservoir. The package includes two different pods: a 1.3 ohm CCEL for those who prefer extra draw resistance and the mouth to lung method; and a 0.6 ohm Meshed pod for fans of the direct-to-lung inhalation technique. You can also change the power output in three stages: the lowest ‘red’ setting is best for those who want a weaker hit and less vapour, ‘blue’ produces marginally more vapour and a little more grip in the throat, while ‘red’ is for those who require a full-bodied hit with maximum vapour production.

It has to be said that the hit from the PodStick feels quite a bit harsher on the throat than the Renova Zero, even when using the same e-liquid on the lowest ‘red’ setting. Bear that in mind if you’re moving over from a low-nicotine cigarette. 

If you’re after a standard stick-style model that offers a variety of strengths settings and the wherewithal to engage in two methods of vaping, then steam right in. But if all you want to do is vape in the most basic and simplest way, we’d advise you make a bee-line for the Renova Zero instead.

•Buy the Vaporesso PodStick from Vapelink

Best vape 2019: Bo Vaping

6. Bo Vaping

Best premium designer 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 e-pen is one of the most elegant models around, but also a doddle 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 fluids to pour.

The Bo One is a slim stick of a thing (10cm x 1.5cm) and perfect for a few hours of vaping. It’s smooth Nextel coating feels lush in the hand and for an extra £40 you can purchase the pocket-sized, leather clad charging station; simply pop the Bo into the slot for a quick battery boost while on the move.

Bo produces some great e-liquids in both 8mg and 16mg nicotine configurations at £5.99 for three capsules. I’ve tested quite a few flavours and my two favourites are: Classique Tobacco RY4 (a deliciously smooth tobacco taste with a hint of caramel) and Orange Light (pear flavour with a faint hint of mint). 

True, the USB charging cradle is a bit wobbly and some cartridges have been known to seep a little, but in the main this is a very solid vaporiser that’s both efficient and relatively cheap to feed. 

It’s not the biggest cloud chucker in the pack, but if you’re looking for something discreet yet stylish, you could do a lot worse than this classy and reasonably-priced vape stick. Bo, selector!

•Buy the Bo Vaping e-pen from Bo

Best vape 2019: JUUL

7. Juul

Somewhere between a gadget and an e-cigarette

Reasons to buy
+Simple pod system+Some excellent flavours
Reasons to avoid
-Rather small pods

Most popular vapes are either made by smaller, boutique brands or giant tobacco/cigarette companies seeking those sweet vape dollars. Juul is neither: it's a Silicon Valley startup valued at a not-unimpressive $40 billion. 

The Juul product isn't technically speaking a vape or an e-cigarette, at least according to Juul. However, since the Juulpods that it uses contain e liquid – sorry, 'proprietary salt-based nicotine e-liquid formula, which is mixed under strict quality-controlled processes' that is vapourised so smokers can inhale it and get a cigarette-style nicotine hit, we are just going to go right ahead and call it a vape.

The Juul gives a smooth draw, and though there are only six flavours available, the Golden Tobacco and Mango Nectar pods are among the best-tasting we've tried. It's a very strong alternative to similar products from IQOS and Vype. I certainly found it preferable to Vype's new and much-hyped iSwitch.

• Juul vs Vype iSwitch and iSwitch Maxx head to head review

best vape 2019: myblu vape pen

(Image credit: Blu)

8. MyBlu Vape Pen

Super slim e-pen for super slim pockets

Reasons to buy
+Skinny and eminently pocketable
Reasons to avoid
-Not enough flavours and strengths-The 18mg nicotine capsules are overly harsh

Blu’s svelte pod-based vape pen comes in a multitude of colours and is arguably the slimmest model on the market. It also doesn’t require any button pushing to activate it – just suck and puff.

This writer has sampled several different flavours from its sixteen strong roster and, while most of the blends are very agreeable (especially Bourbon Caramel and Instense Strawberry), most of them are only available in 18mg nicotine strength which is strong enough to rip the throat apart and cause a coughing fit. 

Thankfully, there are some 9mg options on their store, but they are few and far between, so hopefully Blu will see fit to introduces a wider variety of nicotine strengths in the near future. Other than that, this is a decent enough option for those who hanker after a full-strength nicotine hit.

•Buy the MyBlu from Blu

Best vape 2019: Iqos Mesh

9. Iqos Mesh

A different take on the vape from Philip Morris

Reasons to buy
+Unique heating element  +Buttonless use+Cheap e-liquid cartridges 
Reasons to avoid
-Quite heavy and large

• Buy Mesh direct from iQOS

Philip Morris joins the e-liquid nicotine set with a different type of capsule-based vaporiser that promises an improved and more consistent vaping experience.

Pretty much all other vaporisers use a wick and coil heating element to heat the e-liquid, whether it’s in disposable capsule form or filled by the user. It’s not an especially efficient system since the quality of the vaping experience is often dependent on how much e-liquid the wick has absorbed. 

Too much liquid and the vaporiser makes a popping sound, occasionally spitting out a bit of sweet, horrible tasting liquid into the mouth. Similarly, as the e-liquid chamber empties, less liquid impregnates the wick and this leads to a burnt taste in the mouth. The system is also susceptible to leakage.

By contrast, iQOS Mesh’s leak-free disposable VEEV capsule incorporates an ultra fine German-made metal mesh heater that is always coated in the correct amount of e-liquid, ensuring that every puff is the same as the last. 

Its Low Liquid Detection system, meanwhile, automatically shuts off the heating element when it senses that the capsule is due for renewal. This writer vouches that it does indeed improve the experience but not dramatically so.

The Mesh pipe itself seems longer and heavier than it needs to be – at 15.5cm in length, it’s 3.5cm longer than the Vype e-Pen 3 and not quite as comfortably pocketable nor as tactile to hold in the hand. However, I do love the fact that I don’t need to hold a button in while inhaling. What I don’t like is not being able to tell how much e-liquid is left in the cartridge.

The Mesh produces a slightly lower volume of vapour than the Vype ePen 3 and its capsule blends aren’t quite as smooth on the throat. Nevertheless, it’s still a top vaper that’s well deserving of a third place. VEEV e-liquid capsules are available in seven flavours and three nicotine strengths (6mg, 11mg, 18mg), and sell for a very reasonable £2.99 for two.

Best vape 2019: Logic Compact

10. Logic Compact

Affordable and well designed vape pen

Reasons to buy
+Excellent design+Affordable starter kit
Reasons to avoid
-Not many flavour options

• Buy direct from Logic

Logic enters the vaping fray with a cartridge-based product that resembles the Bo in many ways, including size, shape and the way its e-liquid cartridges are inserted. 

The ultra-slim Compact measures a shade over 10cm in length and features magnetic e-liquid cartridges that literally snap into place. Logic has clearly thought long and hard about the Compact’s functions and as a result, both draw resistance and the mouthpiece itself are perfectly configured to provide an intensely satisfying and very smooth vaping experience. 

There are no pesky buttons to press either and the amount of vapour it produces is surprising voluminous for such a small cartridge-based model.

Despite a general paucity of flavours (nine in all) and nicotine strengths, the Logic Compact is definitely worth a punt, especially given the current low price of the basic Starter Kit.

Best vape 2019: Firefly 2

11. 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 – you can buy a pretty decent phone for less than this vape.

•Buy the Firefly 2 from Amazon

Best vape 2019: Apollo OHM GO

12. 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

• Buy direct from Apollo

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.