When you learn about the wide world of vaping, one of the first things you’ll learn is that even the world “vaping” itself has different definitions depending on who you ask. For some people, vaping means using nicotine e-liquid as a replacement for smoking cigarettes. Other people who vape, however, don’t use nicotine at all. Instead, they use wax- and oil-based concentrates made from cannabis and other herbs. Those people aren’t necessarily using vaping as an alternative to smoking – they’re vaping because herbal concentrates are much more powerful than the herbs themselves could ever be in their original state.
The fact that herbal and nicotine vaping are both called “vaping” can lead to some confusion, though – especially when it comes to the types of hardware and accessories used. In particular, you might notice that both herbal and nicotine vapers will sometimes use the term “vape carts” to describe the component of the setup that stores and vaporizes the oil, wax or e-liquid. In fact, there are three different types of vape carts – and in this article, we’re going to help to clear up some of the confusion that you might experience if you’re new to vaping and are trying to buy accessories for your new device.
First, though, what exactly is a vape cart?
A vape cart is a component that attaches to a vape mod or vape battery. It provides storage for the material you’re vaping, and it also includes the heating element that vaporizes the material. In addition to storing and vaporizing the e-liquid or oil, a vape cart also manages the flow of the material from the cartridge’s reservoir to the heating element. That’s usually done with a wick.
With that basic definition out of the way, let’s discuss the three different types of vape carts.
When people talk about “vape carts” or “vape cartridges,” they’re usually talking about oil vape carts. An oil cart stores and vaporizes an oil-based herbal concentrate, which is usually made from cannabis.
Oil vape carts are usually very narrow, and they often have glass sides in order to preserve the delicate flavors of the expensive oils stored in them. The main characteristic that separates oil cartridges from e-liquid cartridges, though, is that an oil cart will usually have a ceramic wick. That’s because a thick oil can flow reasonably quickly through porous ceramic. Oil generally doesn’t flow very well, on the other hand, through the cotton wicks that most e-liquid cartridges use.
Oil vape carts aren’t always easy to fill. It doesn’t have to be difficult to enjoy the oil vaping experience, though, because pre-filled cartridges are readily available online and in local dispensaries. If you’d prefer to buy your own cartridges and fill them yourself, refillable vape carts are also available. To fill an oil cartridge, you’ll usually need to use a blunt-tipped syringe to get the oil through the small filling opening. It’s not very convenient, but the benefit is that you can save money by buying your oil in bulk and refilling your cartridges several times before throwing them away.
Also called “wax coils” and “wax chambers,” wax vape carts are designed for vaporizing waxy concentrates that are more solid than liquid and aren’t runny enough to load into a small oil cartridge.
When you examine a wax vape cartridge, the first thing you’ll notice is that it doesn’t have the components that you’ll traditionally find in other types of vape carts. A wax cartridge doesn’t have separate sections for the reservoir and the heating element. Instead, it simply has a single large chamber. That’s partially because a wax coil would be impossible to load if it didn’t have a large chamber. It’s also because, even when warmed, a wax concentrate won’t liquify enough to flow through a wick.
Using a wax vape cartridge is very easy since it has no components apart from the single large chamber and removable mouthpiece. To use a wax cartridge, you’ll simply take a small rice-sized portion of wax and put it in the center of the chamber. When you press the button on your vaping device, the chamber heats up and vaporizes the wax. Push the button a few times briefly to soften the wax before taking a deeper puff.
Depending on its shape, an e-liquid vape cartridge may also be called a “pod,” a “clearomizer” or a “vape tank.” Although their shapes may be different, they’re functionally the same. The e-liquid is loaded into the reservoir, which is the main chamber of the cartridge. The heating element is in the center of the cartridge, just as we described a moment ago in the section on oil cartridges. The main difference is in the design of the wick. While oil cartridges usually have ceramic wicks, the wick in an e-liquid cartridge is usually made from a natural fiber such as cotton. Cotton works well with e-liquid, which is much thinner than oil-based herbal concentrates.
Because e-liquid usually ships in squeezable plastic bottles, it’s fairly easy to dispense into a cartridge. You’ll simply open the cartridge, place the tip of the e-liquid bottle in the cartridge’s filling hole and squeeze the bottle until the cartridge is nearly full. After waiting a few minutes for the wick in the cartridge to become fully saturated, the cartridge is ready to use.
An e-liquid cartridge may have a replaceable heating element called an atomizer coil, or it may be fully disposable. As you use the cartridge, the e-liquid will leave a layer of residue on the heating element. Eventually, the layer of residue will become thick and dark, and that will cause the cartridge to produce an unpleasant burnt flavor. If the cartridge is fully disposable, you’ll discard it at that point. If the cartridge has a replaceable atomizer coil, on the other hand, you can replace just that component and continue using the cartridge. Most large glass tanks have replaceable atomizer coils, but many smaller vape pods and clearomizers are fully disposable.