Wax pen vs. dab pen vs. vape pen: What's the difference?

In recent years, electronic vapes and pens have gained popularity for the flavorful and smoke-free experiences they offer. And while all forms of vaporization come down to vaporizing, rather than combusting, the active ingredients in cannabis, there are still many different ways to vape.

Here, we'll explain why cannabis wax pens and dab pens are essentially the same, but they differ from vape pens in a few fundamental ways.

What are concentrates?

Concentrates are pretty much what you would expect: a category of products that are made by stripping away the inactive ingredients from the cannabis plant material and distilling the most desirable parts of the plant into a highly potent and concentrated final product.

"Concentrate" is an umbrella term that includes a variety of different products. Concentrates can vary widely in how they are made and how they are used. Many concentrates are used to infuse other final products like tinctures, topicals, and edibles.

Concentrates have also become a product category of their own. While cannabis concentrates like kief and hashish have been around for centuries, the introduction of butane hash oil (BHO) eventually inspired the creation of a plethora of new cannabis concentrates like budder, badder, shatter, and wax. The rise in popularity of these concentrates necessitated a dedicated consumption method for these products — dabbing.

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Wax pen vs. dab pen: What's the difference?

Dabbing is a way of vaporizing cannabis concentrates like wax using a piece of equipment called a dab rig. Similar to a bong, a dab rig is a tabletop device that filters the vapor through water at the base before it is inhaled. Concentrates are added to a heated surface (called a nail or a banger) to vaporize them, then inhaled through the pipe and water filtration chamber. Because dab rigs are stationary, portable versions of the dab rig (minus the water) have become very popular in recent years. They are commonly called dab or wax pens.

Dab pens and wax pens are two names for the same tech: a portable device for vaporizing cannabis concentrates like wax but also budder, sauce, shatter, and so on. These pens can vaporize a variety of concentrates and provide a dab-like experience that is a portable alternative to the larger and more stationary dab rig.

Both wax and dab pens use an attachable concentrate chamber and atomizer to vaporize the wax or concentrate of choice. Since concentrates require high temperatures for vaporization, wax and dab pens can reach temperatures from 315 to 700 degrees Fahrenheit (157 to 371 Celsius).

Pros of wax and dab pens

There are many advantages to these pens, making them a popular choice for consumers.

  • Almost odorless
  • Pack a potent punch
  • Discreet
  • Portable
  • Usable with a variety of concentrates
  • Temperature controls

Cons of wax and dab pens

Perhaps the biggest drawback with wax and dab pens — especially when compared to vape pens (see below) — is the convenience factor. Because of the refillable chamber, upkeep for wax and dab pens tends to be a bit more involved. Despite looking simpler than a dab rig, dab pens and wax pens often require cleaning after each use and the occasional atomizer replacement.

How do vape pens fit into the mix?

Another concentrate vaporizer that is quite popular is the vape pen. You may be thinking "Aren't dab/wax pens also vape pens?" The answer is, technically, yes. And while this might all seem a little confusing, it really comes down to the names we use to refer to different tools that can be used to vaporize.

"Vape pen" typically refers to a simple, pen-style vaporizer that uses oil cartridges. These vapes are distinctly different in their design and functionality. Compared to dab/wax pens, they are often smaller in size and use less powerful batteries since the infused oil concentrate they're compatible with requires lower temperatures (and less power) than dabs, or concentrates like wax, budder, etc.

Vape pens also offer more convenience than wax or dab pens. They are ready to use once the device is charged and a cartridge is attached. When the oil cartridge is empty, you simply toss it out and attach a new one — no cleaning necessary. Single-use vape pens are designed with cartridges permanently attached to the battery, so when you've vaped all the oil in the cartridge, you dispose of the entire device.

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Bottom line

The biggest takeaway is that there is no real difference between dab pens and wax pens aside from their names. But they should be distinguished from other pen-style vaporizers that are made specifically for use with oil concentrates (aka the vape pen).

Wax and dab pens are a fairly easy way to consume cannabis concentrates while providing a different experience than smoking or consuming edibles. Their customizable nature allows consumers to take more control of their experience, and they can be used with a variety of different concentrate products.

With all that said, cannabis concentrates are very potent preparations with THC levels far surpassing what you will find in cannabis flower. If you're new to concentrates, it's best to start low and go slow. Measure out specific weights of concentrate to ensure you know how much you are consuming and give your body ample time to feel the effects before trying more. Consume concentrates with care and moderation.

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The information contained in this site is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical or legal advice. This page was last updated on June 1, 2022.