Build your own vape pen

Cannastick, ATMOS, TripleX Vapor, The Kind Pen: The market is stocked with quality vaporizer pens, to be sure. But there’s a barrier to entry.

Buying a new vaporizer pen off the shelf will also vape at least $60 from your wallet. And that’s entry-level. Most pens cost over $100.

Luckily, there’s a DIY alternative. If you’re willing to forgo name brand vape kits, buying your own vape components separately is a great way to save some green while combusting your other green.

Searching for Savings

In search of a such a deal, SF Evergreen walks down Haight Street and finds ourselves at Head Rush, a slender smoke shop underneath the famous fishnetted long legs of Piedmont Boutique just a hop from Masonic Avenue.

As we stride inside, Allen the shopkeeper raises his dreadlocked head to say hello. Behind the counter sit a bevy of vapes, including the high-end Storz & Bickel-made Crafty vaporizer, and various Atmos models.

When we ask him for an affordable solution to vape pens, he steers us away from the glitzy products and towards a simple glass case near the front of the store.

Inside is a bevy of components, from vape batteries to chargers, and parts that’ll hold flowers, oils, or other concentrates.

These aren’t as flashy as the $100 vape pens, but what they lack in flair they make up for with a key trait: affordability.

“They’re all just electronics, in the end,” he says. Meaning, these vape parts assembled together will work just as well as an expensive off-the-shelf model.

But we’ll see about that.

We pick out an herbal mouthpiece for our, ahem, dry plant matter. It has a narrow cylindrical rubber mouthpiece that broadens out into the chamber that houses your flower. Its threading size is 510, making it compatible with some big-name vape accessories. The chamber isn’t large, but for that and a heating element together for $11.99, we’re already off to a good start in saving some bucks.

The Kanger EVOD battery is long and cylindrical, and Allen tells me it’s the same battery used in some of the name-brand vapes. Bought on its own, it’s a cool $12.99. Lastly, a small USB charger (specially fitted for a vape pen) is $4.99.

With tax, we’re able to make it out of the smoke shop spending only $32.52, well under the price of a fancy vape pen kit. Screw the cylindrical pieces together and you’re off and vaping.
But what sacrifices do you make in quality for such a low price?

Test run

Taking a draw from the DIY vape doesn’t sound any cheapskate alarms: We may not have had as smooth a hit from an AbsoluteXtracts pen, for example (we were using flowers versus extracts), but hey, we were still stoned.

It is of course about the journey, not the destination, and it’s a noticeably smoother experience than flaming a bowl.

And after a few days of use, the battery is still going, going, going.

So what are the drawbacks?

While talking generally, George Marquez from Dabz Personal Vaporizers told us choice in materials (and therefore cost) matters much in vape pens. The build quality of heating elements, the grade of plastic used, all can increase durability of the pen.

Extended use may see our more affordable, generic vape pen bite the dust. But Allen, from Head Rush, said the end isn’t much to worry about. All pens need to be replaced at some point, he said, so the quality of pen you buy should depend on how often you intend to use it.

The lesson? If you’re vaping on a budget, trying building your own. It may not be the Mercedes of vapes, but like a Honda, it’ll get you where you’re going.

Photo by Mike Koozmin