Breaking Down Dab Pens vs. Dab Rigs
Concentrate equipment 101 is here.
Published on November 10, 2015

Photo: Stoner Living

Concentrates have found a place in the hearts of many cannabis users across the country. Concentrating the resins that cannabis users seek in raw flowers explains the spike in popularity, and therefore the markets that supply the methods to consume it have flourished as well. Most people are introduced to wax by hitting what many call “dab pens,” or hash oil vaporizers. Beyond that is a world of choices, warnings, suggestions, and trends surrounding glass dab rigs, or what many would call at first glance; “a bong made for dabs”. The price ranges for both pens and rigs stretch from the pockets of novices to connoisseurs depending on what quality you’re seeking.

Dab Pens

A dab pen is a vaporizer for cannabis concentrates that gets the job done, especially on the go. They have atomizers and coils that heat up the material by pressing a button or breathing in through the mouth piece. There are a bunch of different kinds that come in different colors, shapes, sizes, and prices. They’re commonly sold at head shops and online, ranging in prices from $20 to over $200.

Dab pens have their purposes in a stoner’s day to day life, especially if they find themselves on the move. Vaporizers are discreet when they look like electronic cigarettes that flood the streets to the point that people don’t even bat an eye at something that resembles them. The shell of these products can typically take a beating and will be great for road trips and medicating while moving. Paying for butane or an electric nail is not an issue since dab pens are rechargeable. Your concentrates will last longer on top of a coil since you only take from the packed oil as you need. As for price, there’s no doubt that vaporizers are the more affordable option, despite there still being some parts that will eventually need to be replaced.

Portability comes at a cost with this new trend in cannabis users. It’s hard to get a large and clean puff from a vaporizer, and as the atomizers get old, so does the taste. After wear and tear, the internal parts will start to go and you’re most likely not covered on warranty once you use concentrates inside. Having to replace coils can just be annoying, but worth it when you taste the freshness. Having to keep your battery charged can be a little bit strenuous if you’re not around power for a while, but these days that problem is getting less and less common.

Dab Rigs

A dab rig is a piece of glass that is similar to a bong in that it is a water pipe, but it is for concentrates instead. A bowl is replaced by a nail which is torched to be hot and is where the concentrates are then vaporized off of. Nails can be made of different materials like quartz, titanium, ceramic, and glass, with each one giving a different taste and experience. This method came around in the last 10 years as a result in the rising popularity of concentrates.

Using glass can result in a heavier dose of phytocannabinoids, and for medical patients, that can be everything that they’re seeking. Huge hits that leave you in a sweat and coughing fit leave behind a haze that is unrivaled in pocket pens. Quartz and ceramic nails provide a window of flavor into your cannabis that takes the term flavor zone to a higher level. The equipment will last as long as you maintain it, because glass will stand the test of time. Dabs rigs are not only fun to use, but also hold value as collectible art.

The disadvantages of sticking with borosilicate glass can put you back on the fence for what option to go with. Most set ups are not really portable, and even if they are, they’re not discreet. They require a bulky blow torch or electric nail, which will limit you to somewhere safe to use a flame or hot coil. Maintaining a rig requires having isopropyl, acetone, or another cleaner that will keep your equipment from getting disgusting. Taking globs will use up a lot more concentrates than packing a pen, but you’ll also need to take less hits. Dabs through a nail can be intense, so we suggest starting with a pen if you’re new to the game.

Tyler Terps
Tyler is a cannabis journalist and enthusiast that seeks to educate his readers to continue to reveal the true power of the cannabis. Starting as a music journalist, Tyler contributed to websites like,,, and Now he continues to contribute as a freelance writer, now covering cannabis for publications like High Times,, and MassRoots’ blog. Find him on the MassRoots app under the username @TerrapinTerps.
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