VAPING 101

If you've ever searched the web for information about e-cigarettes or vaping, you know that there is a ton of information out there. And you know that despite everyone's good intentions, little of it is accessible to the beginner. There is a bewildering variety of devices, vendors, mods, styles, everything—and no simple, concrete advice.

This guide is meant to remedy the situation by not getting technical, and by telling you what to buy and where to buy it.

I want to mention up front that I am not selling anything, or working for anyone who is. I'm just a customer. I just happen to be a writer too, and see that there's a need for something like this. If you want to express your gratitude, share the URL (or click the banner and buy an eBook from this site :0)

[Links will open a new browser tab, one for each vendor. This way you don't have to backtrack when you're ordering.—Editor.]

My recommendations will not suit everyone, and are offered as my personal advice. If you want more of an overview, or think you'd prefer something else, you may find a better starting point at ECF's Best E-Cigarette page. Better still, visit a shop if you're lucky enough to have one in your area.

HARDWARE

The most important part of your first kit is the hardware. With a device that works, you'll be off cigarettes in no time. With a piece of junk, you'll waste your money, your time, and your hope.

Get real gear, not something resembling a cigarette. Those little sticks don't work!

The newer models (as of Summer 2012) have gotten better, and cheaper, than ever before. They are also much cooler. Don't waste your money on junk. Instead, get the following stuff:


eGo Twist,
650mAh

Vivi Nova tank,
mini (2ml)

Slim Tank doodad

eGo USB cable

Wall adapter

Average retail cost is about $60. I order from AvidVaper.com, which has fast shipping and responsive customer service. (Click the little images above to load their pages.) GotVapes.com is another good vendor where you can buy everything at once. You can find lower prices if you shop around, but make sure you include shipping charges if you're buying from more than one vendor, because that can offset your savings.

The most expensive item is the battery, which will last you six months to a year; and the only part you'll need to replace with any regularity (once every 1-3 months) costs $3. (Order an extra part or two if you like; I recommend 2.4 ohms for now. If you order the Vivi Nova tank from AvidVaper, you'll get two replacement heads in different resistances anyway.)

You don't need a case. You don't need accessories. You don't need skills. All you need is the gear mentioned above.

NOTE: If you're not sure about using a "big battery" like the one shown here, then buy a cheap e-cig from your local convenience store. Better to blow $15 there, than to waste $50-90 (like I did) on some crapola starter kit that will barely work. Play with it for 10 minutes, and you'll be ready to get real.

E-JUICE

It's harder to recommend e-juice, because people are picky about taste. But since most cigarettes, regardless of brand, actually taste like crap, perhaps it is not that hard to recommend some starting points.

My top choice is Casablanca Blend from Backwoods Brew ($6.50). This is what you might call an "advanced" juice, but new vapers like it as much as experienced ones do. The flavor is a mild tobacco base, with velvety cocoa overtones, and it's not sweet. (It's almost unfair to start with one this good.) Order a 10ml bottle to see if you like it. (See below for my advice about nicotine levels.)

There's a relative consensus that the flavor known as DK-TAB (by the Dekang company, $4.95-6.50) is okay for making the transition. It's what I started with, but a big step down from Casablanca. I recommend a 10ml bottle as a backup in your first lineup. Order the 50/50 (pg/vg) base in the appropriate strength (see below), and figure out what that means later.

I'm never smoked menthols, so I don't know this from experience, but—Halo's Menthol Ice comes highly recommended ($6). Halo has a few other menthol flavors too, and there are many vendors... but this is not my territory, so you may want to search the web too.

Lastly, you may want the Sampler Pack from Halo ($25), which has six different tobacco-based flavors in slightly smaller (7ml) bottles. This will give you a good sense of what else you might like. (If that sounds expensive to you, then search the web for a sampler from another juice vendor. There are many.)

Figure on spending around $30-40 a month on e-juice, after you find what you like. You'll spend more than that while looking, and probably more than you ought to, because testing juices can be fun. In any case, it's still much cheaper than smoking. I used to spend $38 a week buying cigarettes (in Virginia), and your costs are probably twice that.


Casablanca Blend, from Backwoods Brew

DK-TAB, from EVcigarettes.com

Halo's Menthol Ice

Halo Sampler Pack

Order 24mg nicotine if you smoke regular cigarettes, 18mg if you smoke lights. (If you smoke unfiltered cigarettes, go with 24mg too; 36mg is more than you need!) This will be right for many smokers, if you vape as often as you'd smoke and for just about as long, and you'll find what works for you. (If you overdo it, you'll get a slight headache to indicate that you've gone over your accustomed limit.)

Plan to go through 2 to 3.5 milliliters of juice daily, depending on how much you vape. If you order all the e-juice recommended here, you'll have a 62ml supply. If you're not ready to commit, then start with my top choice—Casablanca. (Or the menthol one.)

Don't wait too long to order more juice, or to experiment, because shipping time can be 2-7 days, depending on the vendor. And give your juice at least 10 minutes to introduce itself, because it may grow on you.

(Note: There are fruit and dessert flavors as well, many of which are popular with experienced vapers. But I don't think many people have used them to quit smoking cigarettes. Explore that stuff later, after you've made the transition.)

USE & ADVICE

Don't expect your device to look like a cigarette. It will prove itself to be much cooler than that. Some people compare vaping to smoking a pipe, but with this sort of gear it's more like having a pocket hookah. What it looks like is a sonic screwdriver (Dr. Who) or a lightsaber (in the off position, alas).


Filling

To fill your pocket hookah, unscrew the metal cap of the tank, and drip juice down the inner wall of the clear tube. (Avoid juicing the center hole, which is for airflow.) Fill it to the wicks, or just under: if you completely submerge the wicks it may not vape well. Screw the cap back on, and invert the tank to get juice on the wicks. Then take 5-10 "cold hits"—drags without the battery—to prime the wicks by drawing some juice through them. Screw the doodad onto the battery, then screw the tank on top of that.

Set your battery to about 4.2 volts: there's a dial and some markings on the end. This assumes that your head is 2.4 ohms—you'll see the number printed on the side of the head. If you're using a 1.8 ohm head, try 3.6 volts; if you're using the 2.8 head, then try 4.6 volts.

Alternately, you can start with a low voltage and work your way up. When you're getting nice flavor and vapor, that's the sweet spot. If you're getting wimpy vapor, up the voltage. If it's tasting a little burnt, lower the voltage; if it's feeling too dry in your throat, wet the wicks.

See the Voltage Table below for more about this.


Vaping

Hold down the battery button for 3 seconds as you begin to draw, release the button, and keep drawing vapor for another second or so. Draw gently. You'll get the hang of it pretty quickly. If you get a dry hit, wet the wicks some more. I usually roll them in the juice every few hits, just to keep things awesome. (Some people complain about this, but they're crazy: it's kinda fun.)

The eGo batteries (eGo is the style, not the manufacturer) come with a safety feature to prevent the battery from going off in your pocket. Click it 5 times to power the battery on or off. The button blinks when the status changes. (When the battery is out of power, the button blinks about three times as much.)

One battery might last you all day. It might not. Depends how much you use it. Battery life decreases over time, but my first one lasted me all day as a pack-a-day smoker, and I just charged it overnight. Pretty soon, of course, I was testing extra gear (e.g., for this beginners' guide), so I didn't have to worry much about my battery running out on me since I had more than one. You will probably buy a second (or third) battery soon as well.


Cleaning

At the end of your tank, or if you hate the juice you're using, do the following to clean your tank:

  • Take everything apart, and set the battery aside
  • Rinse the tank parts under warm water
  • Pat everything dry with a paper towel

    Now you can reassemble everything, juice up, and keep going. You can make it more complicated, but that's basically it. Once a week, you may want to soak the head in rubbing alcohol (or vodka) and then in water (rinse thoroughly!) for a deeper cleaning. Dark-colored juices tend to get more gunk on the coil inside the head.

    Search YouTube for explanatory videos, or hit forums like ECF if you want more information. But breathe easy: I told you to buy this gear because it's very easy to clean.


    More Juice Stuff

    People say that if you let your juice "steep" (sit) for a week, the flavor can improve. None of the juices I like have a chance to sit around that long, but perhaps it is true.

    If you really, really enjoy tobacco in its own right, you may want to check out Tabac de Perique from Highbrow Vapor. I find their flavors a bit overwhelming, and of the "tobacco" ones I've tried, the Perique is really impressive—deep and robust, without a mouthful of candy. Their Pear e-juice is great too (hilariously accurate), and I intend to try their Orange one in the future.

    As for other tobacco flavors, from any vendor, know that "555" indicates something extremely nutty (a bit dull for me), whereas "RY4" indicates something with a lot of caramel and possibly vanilla. I really like vanilla, but vaping it gives me a headache. Don't bother with cinnamon, because it may cause your gear to deteriorate.


    The Voltage Table

    Matching the voltage of your battery to the resistance of the coil is not very complicated. It's based on a simple formula known as Ohm's Law—Watts = (Volts*Volts)/Resistance.

    Most people like to vape at around 7.5 Watts. The center column of this table shows the voltage at that level, per atomizer, which is my rough starting point. I've included settings for 7 and 8 Watts as well.

    7.0 W 7.5 W 8.0 W
    1.8Ω 3.55v 3.67v 3.79v
    2.4Ω 4.10v 4.24v 4.38v
    2.8Ω 4.43v 4.58v 4.73v

    I like to vape a tiny bit above the center column here, because I think it brings out a little more flavor. Also, none of your equipment will be perfectly accurate. So tweak the voltage a bit from these starting points and see what you prefer; alternately, start with a low voltage and work your way up (but not too high).


    If you've got your gear and have questions, email me (Jake) at the address shown at the bottom of this page: put "Vaping question" in the subject line so that I know it's not an email about books. (For books, visit the Charles & Wonder homepage.)

    I will add more pictures as I have the chance to. Order your stuff, show your friends, get involved—and happy vaping!

    —Jake Spatz, Oct. 2012


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    © Charles & Wonder, 2012