Best vape 2019: 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

Is vaping bad for you? Well, it's certainly not as bad for you as smoking and that's why we have this guide to the best vapes. We don't exactly endorse vape pens, but 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.

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.

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

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 great thing about the best 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 new favourite is 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: 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 new cartridge-based vaporiser from Vaporesso is such a game changer it’s waltzed straight to the top of the list. As the name not-so-subtly hints, it's a bit like Nespresso, but for vaping.

Available in no fewer than nine 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 more vapour than practically any other model in this roundup – 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: 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 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 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: IQOS 3 and IQOS 3 Multi

3. 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: Bo One

4. Bo One

Best premium designer 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: JUUL

5. 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: Iqos Mesh

6. 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: Logic Compact

7. 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.

Best vape: Firefly 2

8. 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.

Best vape: PAX3

9. PAX3

Slick vape pen for dry herb and wax connoisseurs

Reasons to buy
+Subtle convenience +Four heat settings
Reasons to avoid
-Premium pricing -Produces relatively little vapour

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 unusually, 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 the whiffy fumes.

Best vape: JAC Vapour S17

10. 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 conventional 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 Vapour 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: Apollo OHM GO

11. 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.