Best vape 2018: vape pens and e cigarettes for the discerning vapeur

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 vape pens

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We don't exactly endorse vape pens, but they seem to be better for you than cigarettes, and hey, you have the right to choose what you suck on, within the law. These, then, are the best vape pens and e cigarettes you can get. 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.

Especially with the new year and hence, new year's resolutions coming up, certainly one potential use for vapes and e-cigarettes, 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 vape pen, then?

Best vape pen

Vapes come in all sorts of shapes and sizes

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?

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 current favourite is the new Vype ePen 3. 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. 

Interestingly, it's made by tobacco giant BAT – they obviously know which way the wind is blowing…

The best vape pens, in order

Best vape: Vype ePen 3

1. Vype ePen 3

Best vape pen

Reasons to buy
+Great price +Satisfying hit with high vapour volume +Very light
Reasons to avoid
-Quite long for the pocket -We actually preferred Vype's discontinued Pebble

• Buy ePen 3 direct from Vype 

British American Tobacco’s cute Pebble seems to have 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 not quite so discreet. Nevertheless, it still deserves the coveted spot at the top of our best vapes list.

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 by far the best option 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 huge 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: Bo One

2. Bo One

Best premium vape

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

• Buy Bo One 

Designed in France – but of course – this ultra stylish vape 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!

Best vape: Iqos Mesh

3. Iqos Mesh

A different take on the vape from Philip Morris

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

• Buy Mesh direct from Iqos

Philip Morris joins the e-liquid nicotine set this month 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: Logic Compact

4. 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 new cartridge-based product that resembles the Bo One in many ways, including size, shape and the way its e-liquid cartridges are inserted. 

However, there are only flour flavours available at the time of writing – Berry Mint, Menthol, Cherry and Tobacco – and only two nicotine strengths – 12mg and 18mb – so it loses a point or two to the Bo One in those respects.

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 and nicotine strengths, the Logic Compact is definitely worth a punt, especially given the current low price of the basic Starter Kit.

5. IQOS 2.4

Best vape for cigarette taste and feel

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

• Buy iQOS 2.4

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

The new, improved iQOS 2.4 uses 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’ it, you 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. 

While it does initially leave a faint tobacco smell in the air, this soon evaporates and leaves no smell on your clothes. 

The iQOS 2.4 system also includes a pocket charger: when you’ve finished puffing, simply put the mouth unit in the charger and it’ll be topped up in about four minutes. 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 has allegedly rejected that claim, though it does agree that smokeless cigarettes definitely do 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 Marloboro Green (menthol) and tastes very similar. 

Five packets of 20 Heets retail at £37.50.

Best vape: JAC Vapour S17

6. 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.

Best vape: Vaporesso Aurora

7. 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.

Best vape: Apollo OHM GO

8. 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.

Best vape: Firefly 2

9. 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.

Best vape: V2 Pro Series 3

10. V2 Pro Series 3

Very 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.