If the prospect of getting your first vape seems completely overwhelming, we’re not surprised at all. The range of options is simply staggering.

Trying to get opinions from friends about how to start probably won’t get you far. Everyone seems to have a different brand, style or model that they prefer, and they also tend to get very defensive over what they believe is best.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be best for you.

That’s why we’ve put together this guide. Our goal is to get you caught up to speed and simplify the world of vaping as much as possible. We’ll go over the different styles, the components that make up a vape, and even discuss what e-liquid is and what it’s made of.

By the end, you’ll be much more knowledgeable and be in a position to make a good decision when it comes to buying your first vape.

Vaping 101: The Absolute Basics

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All vapes and e-cigs, regardless of the style, have the same general structure. There are three components that they all must have in order to function:

  1. A battery
  2. A tank with an atomizer/coil to heat the liquid
  3. The e-liquid or juice, which is what gets turned into vapor

The battery drives power to the atomizer or coil, which supplies heat to the liquid. As it heats, vapor is produced for you to inhale.

It’s as simple as that!

Except it’s not, and there is a ton of variation in how these basic parts are designed and put together. Let’s start digging into these options now…

Batteries and Base Styles

One of the first things you’ll realize when researching different types of vapes is that they all seem to have very different batteries or bases. On one hand you can head into your local gas station and find e-cigs that look just like regular cigarettes, and on the other you’ll find crazy contraptions with multiple moving parts, digital displays and big, boxy designs. In the vaping community these are known as `mods`.

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To keep things simple, remember that all of these different styles are essentially different ways of housing and driving power to the tanks and atomizers. What you choose will unlock wildly different experiences to be sure, but it’s still all about power at the end of the day.

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Generally speaking, as you progress from gas-station cigarette look-alikes up to the box mods that people typically think of when they hear the word vape, the overall quality is also going up. In between these two styles are pen vapes, which are still round like a cigarette but thicker as well.

We recommend that you stay away from the small, cigarette-styles. These are very cheap to get started with, but overtime their cost becomes greater than other options because you typically have to keep rebuying batteries and cartridges. They’re not designed for customization or to last a long time, so you’re basically stuck constantly pouring money into them.

Pen vapes on the other hand are a great way for beginners to start vaping. You’ll get better battery life, better tanks and atomizers (more on these below), and more options for customizing your experience.

To appreciate the differences between pen vapes and box mods, you need to know a bit more about how power is supplied to the coils.

Voltage, Wattage, Amps and Ohms…

You’ll need to know a bit about these if you plan on understanding your vape. It can help to think of the flow of electricity like its water flowing through a pipe.

Voltage is equivalent to water pressure in this scenario, while amps represent the actual amount of water (the volume). Wattage on the other hand relates to the amount of power that can be generated based on the volume and pressure.

Ohms are just a way to measure the resistance something has to the electricity flowing through it.

If you want to have control over your vaping experience, you want to find a vape that offers variable wattage. This gives you the most direct control over the power output, which allows you to adjust for your preferences (dense clouds vs smoother vapor) and also allows you to use coils with different ohm ratings.

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This is why box mods are so popular. They offer the best control in this regard. Some pen vapes feature variable wattage as well, though many do not and when they do the range is typically very limited.

What About Temperature Control?

Temperature control is a pretty new and exciting addition to the world of vaping. Instead of only having control over wattage, units with this feature also allow you to set a limit regarding the maximum temperature it will allow the coil to reach.

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The reason this matters has to do with how coils behave when they are heated. The heat can cause the resistance to change, which in turn affects how much power can get through. This means that the longer you use your vape, the higher the temperature will climb.

Units that allow you to set a max temperature constantly monitor these levels and automatically adjust settings if the temperature begins to climb to high. This allows you to enjoy a consistent experience from start to finish, which is obviously a nice thing to have in a vape!

Tanks and Atomizers

Now that you have a grasp of the different ways power is driven to the coils, we can move up and look at what you need to know about the tanks. We’ll start with a basic anatomy of a vape tank, which involves three main parts:

  1. The mouthpiece or drip tip
  2. The chamber
  3. The atomizer or coil

Drip Tips

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This is just the part that you actually put your lips on. While it’s simple, it’s still important because the parts below can get pretty hot! Most stock options are made from a heat-resistant plastic or metal, but you can get after-market options that are made from wood if that’s more your style.

Tank Chambers

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This is the part that you fill with your e-liquid. Most are made from either titanium, stainless steel or glass. There are a variety of things to consider when looking at tanks if you want to make sure to maximize your enjoyment.

The first is whether the tank is top-filled or bottom-filled. While most tanks seem to fill from the bottom, top-fill tanks have the distinct advantage of being able to be filled while still attached to the base. This is a great feature for someone who plans to use their vape while out and about a lot, as it means you won’t have to deal with taking everything apart.

The second thing to consider is overall volume. Again, if you don’t want to deal with frequently filling your tank, opt for one with a bigger capacity.

FInally, check reviews to see what other people have to say about each tank. Some are known for outstanding flavor, while others are loved for the clouds they help create. Always make sure that any tank you buy will actually work with the base you have!

Atomizers and Coils

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Inside each tank is a coil that is responsible for heating the liquid and actually delivering vapor. This coil is wrapped around a piece of cotton, and as you draw liquid is pulled through the cotton and to the coil. These coils are disposable, and most people replace them every couple weeks.

You’ll notice that coils have ohm settings, which we talked about a bit earlier in the guide. The most important thing to know about ohms is that as ohms decrease, the amount of wattage needed increases.

As the amount of wattage used increases, the amount of vapor production increases as well. This is why sub ohm (less than 1 ohm) coils are so popular right now. These allow maximum wattage settings to be used, which in turn gives of crazy amounts of vapor.

For beginners, it probably makes sense to avoid this sub-ohm phenomena and look for options rated at 1 ohm or higher. These will more than do the job, but the experience will be smoother and more enjoyable.

Note: Always prime your coils. A mistake that many beginners is make is to just fill their tank and start vaping. This won’t work and will cause what is called a ‘dry hit,’ which basically means the cotton was saturated with liquid.

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To combat this, simple add a few drops to the airflow holes and to the top of the cotton a few minutes before you actually use it for the first time. This ensures that the cotton is soaked through and will help you avoid unpleasant dry hits.

E-liquids

Now that you understand how all the hardware works, it’s time to take a look at the most exciting part of vaping: the liquid! Liquid, e-liquid, juice and e-juice are really all the same thing, so if you see one used in place of the other don’t panic.

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If you thought you had a lot of options when it came to the vapes themselves, wait til you start looking around at liquids. There are hundreds and hundreds of options, ranging from ones that replicate the taste of cigarettes to fruity mixtures that are sweet and pleasant.

One of the best ways to find things you like is to join a subscription service. These will send you an assortment of liquids each month, and you normally get a discount with them as well.

But What’s In This E-Liquid? Is it bad?

The safety of vaping and the e-liquid that is used is a topic of considerable debate. The general consensus seems to be that all of the components are perfectly fine to inhale or GRAS according to the FDA (Generally Recognized As Safe). Studies suggest that it’s also better than smoking because you are avoiding all kinds of bad chemicals.

The are three things to consider when choosing liquid:

  1. The VG/PG ratio
  2. The nicotine content
  3. What flavor you want

The VG / PG Ratio

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There are two compounds that account for the majority of the volume of any bottle of liquid. These are vegetable glycerin (VG) and propylene glycol.(PG). VG is a sugar-alcohol with a sweet flavor that is derived from vegetable oil. PG has no color or odor and is derived from petroleum.

VG is much smoother and is known to provide very dense vapor clouds, while PG is harsher and delivers thinner vapor. The main reason that PG is used is to make the vaping experience closer to smoking a cigarette, which is preferred by people who are trying to quit smoking.

You can find liquids ranging from 100% VG to a 1:1 ratio of VG and PG. Beginners should stick to a mainly VG liquid as they are smoother and more enjoyable.

The Nicotine Content

You can find liquids with varying nicotine levels. This is one of the reasons that vaping is such a good way to quit smoking. As you transition from smoking cigarettes, you can use liquid with the same nicotine strength that you are used to. Over time, you can gradually decrease this strength until you don’t feel any symptoms of addiction at all.

If you aren’t a smoker and are just starting to vape, do yourself a favor and choose liquids with little to no nicotine. While it is a stimulant, it’s better to avoid creating an unnecessary addiction!

Flavors

You can pretty much find any flavor that you could possible imagine. You’re probably thinking of cigarette flavors and fruity combos, but I actually mean anything you can imagine. You’re probably thinking, surely he doesn’t mean anything.

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You’d be surprised.

Consider all of these flavors that I turned up in under a minute:

  • Bacon (yes, bacon)
  • Coffee
  • Pumpkin spiced latte
  • Dutch apple pie
  • Egg nog
  • Root beer
  • Bubblegum

Needless to say, you’ll find something to love if you look hard enough.

Some Extra Tips For Beginners

I know all of that was a lot to take in, so here are a few things to remember while looking for your first vape:

  1. Look for starter kits to make sure you get everything you need from the get-go.
  2. Sub-ohm models are like tricked-out cars. You probably don’t need the performance they offer.
  3. Experiment with flavors and try a subscription service.
  4. Units with temperature control offer the most controlled and enjoyable experience.
  5. Many bases, tanks, and atomizers are interchangeable and can be used in different combinations.
  6. Always check reviews to make sure a vape lives up to its marketing claims!

Hopefully this guide has given you a headstart into your journey into the big, wide world of vaping! If you have any questions or extra tips to share, be sure to do so in the comments!

About The Author

Profile photo of Dan C
Senior Content Specialist
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Dan is a writer with a massive vaporizer collection who loves video games, superhero movies, finding new music, comic and regular books and critically deconstructing those things until he wonders why he liked them in the first place. He's also a pragmatic fitness enthusiast who believes that the best actions you can take in your daily life are those that help you reach your goals, and that naps are the most lofty, but also the most noble goal one can have.

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