Into the Mystic: Buying My First Vaporizer

PX1I recently purchased a Pax 2 state-of-the-art mobile vaporizer. It’s my first vaporizer, and some have likened it to the iPhone of vaporizers. I would certainly agree with that analogy. It’s a great design that has taken the mobile vaporizer category to a whole new level.

And, as I learned in researching vaping, we’ve come a long way from the gray market that used to supply headshops with cheap paraphernalia and led to the incarceration of comedian entrepreneurs like Tommy Chong. With weed now more potent than ever, it’s nice to see the tools of the trade catching up as well. Getting high has finally reached the 21st century.

To Vape or Not To Vape
For me, the driving factor to explore vaporizing was discretion. Yes, I assumed it would be healthier than sucking the smoke from burning weed into my lungs. But as someone who lives in a 46-story condominium tower in New York City, I was more concerned with nosy neighbors.

I know attitudes towards marijuana have mellowed over the years, but I have responsibilities, both professionally and in the community, which I do not want to jeopardize (said he, writing this often ridiculous blog). And living in a building through which smells tend to travel, all it takes is one uptight right wing fascist who feels they have been called upon to do the lord’s – and the law’s – work. The last thing I need is some cockgrator calling the condo board, let alone the cops. So a vaping I did go.

PX2Vaping 101: What
I Learned Online

I had heard about vaporizers but never actually used one. I had so many questions. And I found plenty of answers – along with other useful information – online (thank you, Al Gore!).

I knew that vaporizers were healthier than smoking. I didn’t realize, however, that they are a far-more efficient as well. With smoking, a lot of it simply goes up in flames, whereas a quality vaporize will slowly extract all the good stuff into a vapor that’s much easier on the lungs.

Another thing I discovered is that it’s best to grind your weed finely and pack it in tightly to optimize vaping performance. Fortunately a friend had given me a grinder years ago, so now I finally have a legitimate use for it.

I was surprised to learn that vaporizers still smell, but it’s not that typical ganja odor. It’s more like burnt popcorn, which is fairly innocuous in a residential building like mine.

I was also surprised by how expensive a vaporizer could be, especially the good ones. I paid just under $300 for mine, which is a top-of-the-line model. And given that it comes with a 10-year warranty, I suppose it’s really not that expensive when you amortize it to less than $30 a year.

But most surprising of all, I learned that weed that’s been vaped (known as ABV…already been vaped) can still be used to make relatively potent edibles. In essence, not only does it use your weed more efficiently, but it basically doubles the value of your dope because you can use most of it twice. Talk about going green!

PX3Finding the Right Vaporizer
Having learned the basics about vaping online, I continued to use the Internet to research what to look for in a vaporizer – and which vaporizer would be best for me. None of my friends use them, so I was in uncharted territory. I read a lot of reviews, including the more thoughtful and coherent pieces found in the mainstream media. I also watched a lot of unintentionally hilarious YouTube videos reviewing specific models.

It’s amazing the amount of information about vaporizers and vaping that’s available online. The best analogy I can think of is the consumer electronics industry, which features a variety of competing technologies, formats, and models as well as “experts” who are often necessary to guide you through them all.

But I shouldn’t have been so surprised by this. The legalization of marijuana for medical and recreational use in some states has transformed the traditional headshop industry. Companies are looking to capitalize on this huge new market, with investors backing designers, engineers, and marketing pros to produce a wide variety of paraphernalia, including vaporizers.

One thing I learned was that pen vaporizers, the small portable ones you commonly see, leave a lot to be desired. They don’t have the quality or control that more robust vaporizers offer. You really get what you pay for. And given the amount of money you invest in the stuff you smoke, it only makes sense to invest in a high-end vaporizer.

Of all the models I considered, it really came down to two. One was the Crafty, a $340 mobile unit made by the folks who build the legendary Volcano, a robust desktop vaporizer ideal for parties (or really heavy users). But the Crafty seemed a bit bulky, and expensive. Plus, I noticed there were O rings in the maintenance kit. And, as a diver, I know what a pain O rings can be to maintain and replace.

PX4Pax of Mind
So, after all my research, I decided to go with the Pax 2 by Pax Labs, Inc. (formerly known as Ploom). It’s a brand new model introduced in April of this year. And it’s still on the expensive side, at least in terms of what I had hoped to invest, but the Pax 2 checked all the boxes and was very well-reviewed.

In fairness, there were a few grumbles about the original Pax, despite its sleek, compact design. But Pax Labs addressed all of those complaints and then some when creating the Pax 2. It was everything I was looking for and more.

I could go over all the bells and whistles, including the lip-sensing, motion-sensing, and auto-cooling technologies; the thin-film Kapton heater flex element that ensures even and accurate heating for optimal vapor; and the transverse brushed anodized aluminum exterior and the medical grade materials in the interior. But the two videos below will tell you everything you need to know in a far more comprehensive and entertaining way than I ever could. However, I will tell you how I’ve been using the Pax 2 along with what I’ve learned, what I like, and what I dislike.

Periodic Paxing
I don’t smoke that much, or that often. So I usually end up filling only half the little weed well – the “oven” as it’s called in vaporizers – that functions as the “bowl” where you are supposed to pack in your finely ground herb (incidentally, the “oven” on the Pax 2 is covered by a magnetic lid, which is pretty cool).

A fully packed oven on the Pax 2 should be more than sufficient for a small group, or even a solitary professional dope fiend. But as a solo smoker, it seemed a little wasteful for someone like me.

Fortunately I found a great tip online for a light, lone smoker like me. If you are only only filling half the oven, you can use a screen – the kind of brass screen you would use in a normal pipe or bong – to hold the packed weed in place. First you bend the screen into a U shape and then place it over the weed (counterintuitive, I know), with the convex side pressing down on the weed and the concave side facing up. It works like a charm!

I typically start off with a half-filled oven on a Thursday or Friday night, using the lowest of the four temperature settings (360° F, 380° F, 400° F, & 420° F). The Pax 2 heats up in seconds, and about four or five draws usually does the trick for me. The following night I’ll click up to the next temperature setting and repeat. Sometimes I can go for a third night, at an even higher setting, without having to empty and refill it. The Pax 2 basically doubles the efficiency of my marijuana when you consider that I’m getting at least two sessions out of the same amount of weed I used to burn in one.

I’ve yet to try the fourth temperature setting, perhaps because I’m not getting high four nights in a row. I imagine I still might be able to get some yield out of it with a fourth session at the highest temp. Incidentally, I have, on occasion, left the goods in the oven until the following weekend, which seemed to work just fine.

When I think the weed in the oven has been sufficiently baked (it turns brown, somewhere between milk chocolate and burnt toast), I simply empty it out with a little light tapping. If necessary, I can use a toothpick to loosen it up and make sure I’ve emptied everything out.

PX5ABV Edibles
I’ve been collecting and saving my ABV (already been vaped weed) and finally decided to try making some edibles with it. I followed a popular online recipe for ABV pizza using the recommended half a teaspoon of vaped weed but nothing happened. I then tried it the following day with a full teaspoon of ABV. After about 2.5 hours, I felt a mild body buzz that lasted for around 30 minutes.

Needless to say, this was kind of a bummer. But I will try again, once I’ve built up sufficient ABV to try it with 1.5 teaspoons. And then I’ll update this story to let you know how it worked (in the interest of science).

Cleaning & Recharging
I have yet to properly clean the Pax 2, or even felt the need to. I did slide a tool through the draw hole, just to see if anything was building up (nothing was). But from the videos I’ve seen, it looks simple enough.

I did have to recharge the device, and that didn’t go so well. In fact, this is my only real criticism of the Pax 2.

The device has a built-in Lithium-ion battery and it comes with a magnetic charging cradle. I used the adapter from my iPhone to plug the charger’s USB cord into a wall outlet, for the prescribed 2-3 hour recharge.

Fortunately I went to check on it, eager to get my buzz on, and discovered that the plastic adapter had grown dangerously hot. And not only was the adapter extremely hot, but the metal USB prong from the charger was so hot that I waited for it to cool down before sticking it into one of the USB jacks on my computer.

The Pax 2 charged up just fine using the USB jack on my computer. No overheating or any other problems. And this is how I will recharge it from now one, especially after discovering similar stories on the Internet about iPhone adapters overheating when used to charge the Pax 2.

The Pax 2 is a surprisingly small, discreet, and frankly beautiful device. I could easily take it out on the streets of New York without anyone suspecting a thing. It might look a little odd holding it up to my mouth, but anyone who vapes from anything other than an e-cigarette looks a little odd doing it.

I can leave it sitting on my desk or coffee table and no one would question what it is. If they did take an interest, more than likely they would assume it’s some mobile storage device or other electronic accessory. In fact, I’d have no qualms about checking it with my luggage, perhaps stowed with my shaving gear or consumer electronics, when traveling.

I have to admit that I was a little worried that the Pax 2 might be overly complicated for me, especially once I’m stoned to the bejesus. And there have been times when I’m drawing a fifth or sixth toke and start to think that the indicator light has changed color, leaving me wondering if it’s too cool to get a good vape. It’s the electronic equivalent of wondering if your joint went out. Is the light green? Is the light blue? Or am I just high?

Of course, this is true of any vaporizer. And, given the analogy, this is also true of smoking weed in any form.

In reality, though, the Pax 2 only seems complicated. It’s actually quite simple: one push to turn it on and one push to turn it off (and it will automatically turn off if you don’t use it for 20 seconds). You can access the temperature settings by pressing down and holding it for two seconds, then each push will cycle you through the different temperatures, with another two-second push to return to the main menu.

At the end of the day, I absolutely love my Pax 2. I’ve become a Pax evangelical. Even their customer service is cool (I had a great experience just registering the thing to activate my warranty).

My advice for anyone looking to buy a vaporizer is to do your homework. There’s plenty of information available online. And you can easily tell what’s credible and what’s not by the production values of the sites and videos you find.

For me, the Pax 2 was an incredible find. And I think it would be for most smokers, from the casual toker to the chronic dope fiend. Give it a look. And have a happy, healthy high!