Guide For New Vapers - Atomizers, Tanks, and Cartos
Cartridges and Cartos
Along with the battery, the other crucial piece of any vaping set-up is the atomizer. This is the part that holds the ‘juice’ (eliquid, ejuice, smoke juice, etc.) and turns it into vapor. It comes in various styles, such as cartomizers, cartotanks, clearomizers and glassomizers. They might have complicated names but they all work in the same way.
They screw onto a mod or battery and contain a heating element (wire, cotton, ceramic) that turns your e-juice into vapor so it can be inhaled. Choosing the right atomizer is one the most important decisions you’ll make when it comes to ‘mouthfeel’ (a real word folks!) and overall sensation of the vape. In this section of our guide for new vapers we’ll explain what each one is, how they work and which is best for you.
Many newcomers to vaping start out with pre-filled cartridges as they’re easy to use and relatively cheap. These are commonly used with simple Cig-A-Likes e-cigarettes, whereby the user replaces an empty cartridge with a new one by simply screwing it into the battery. There are some limitations with this style, but they can be a useful gateway vape for complete beginners.
Easy To Use – These are undoubtedly the easiest vaping product on the market – you merely screw the new cartridge to your battery and you’re good to go. No priming or messy refilling needed.
Widely Available – The success of Cig-A-Like companies such as Blu and Njoy means you can pick these up from most newsagents and garages, while more advanced vaping gear will involve a trip to a dedicated vape shop or placing an order online.
Cheap – Pre-filled cartridges are an affordable way to sample vaping. While they don’t offer the same quality or range as more expensive set-ups, they can be a risk-free way for people making their first steps.
Limited – The flavor range of these cartridges is fairly narrow. Beyond basic aromas such as strawberry, tobacco and menthol, there isn’t much to get excited about. If part of the appeal of vaping is to try out weird and wonderful flavors, these are not for you.
PG Heavy – The eliquid used is usually 100% PG, meaning the vape is only suitable for plus-ohm vaping and can often taste harsh and thin. We look at this in more detail in our Guide To E-Juice section.
The cartomizer (or carto) is another early form of e-juice system, first arriving on the market in 2008. They are a piece of metal tubing which contains cotton or cotton-style material and a heating coil. You soak the material with e-liquid which is then fed to the coils and vaporized when heated by the battery. You can also buy carto tanks which surround your carto with juice, keeping it constantly primed. Some vapers are loyal to this method of vaping, claiming they are more reliable and give a better taste, though most experienced vapers see them as outdated and inferior. For a more detailed look at cartomizers, check out our excellent in depth account here.
Cheap – Cartos are cheap as they are designed to be thrown away once they wear out. There’s no need to buy an expensive tank to use them.
Beginner-friendly – They produce better quality flavor than Cig-A-Likes and are simple to use. They can be more reliable and less likely to leak than some clearomizer tanks.
Outdated – While they were popular a few years ago, technological advances in vaping have led to cartomizers being left behind. They can only hold about 1-2ml of liquid at any one time, and can’t be cleaned. This means using a new carto if you’re want to use a juice flavor that doesn’t mix well with the previous liquid.
Limited – Much like pre-filled cartridges, you’re limited to plus-ohm vaping with cartos. The material surrounding the coil doesn’t absorb VG very well, so you’re largely restricted to high PG juice.
More Maintenance – Cartos need to be refilled more often than with clearomizers.
Tanks - Big and Small
Tanks have quickly become the most popular form of e-juice delivery system for the modern vaper. They can hold a large amount of ejuice, or a small amount, and use replaceable coils with cotton wicks to absorb the e-liquid. This cotton wears out over repeated use, so the coils must be replaced when it starts to lose flavor, produce less vapor, or provide a taste burnt. The two main types of tank are clearomizers and glassomizers. The only difference is that the main body of the clearomizer is made from plastic, while the glassomizer is made from a high quality glass. Most modern tanks today are glassomizers as plastic cannot cope well with certain flavor molecules, though some cheaper models still use plastic.
Variety – Vaping technology has focused heavily on the glassomizer, which has led to impressive developments in recent years. The most notable of these is the introduction of sub-ohm tanks, which helped bring sub-ohm vaping to the masses. Recent tank models also offer additional features such as two sets of adjustable airflow and top-fill (where you can refill your tank without having to unscrew it from your mod).
Better Taste – This is up for debate, but many vapers claim to get the best-tasting vape from tanks. Each design can give a different mouthfeel, so it’s often a case of trying different styles until you find the one that suits you.
Capacity – While tanks vary in how much ejuice they hold, most range from 2ml to 5ml, much more than most cartos and cartridges.
Convenient – The majority of tanks let you see how much e-juice you have remaining and, despite problems with early models, are unlikely to leak in your pocket.
Expensive – A good quality tank can be an expensive purchase, particularly when you also need to buy replaceable coils. However, over time this tends to work out cheaper than repeatedly buying disposable cartos and cartridges.
Fragile – The increased use of glass makes these tanks vulnerable to accidental knocks and drops. However, manufacturers are coming out with innovative designs to reduce this risk. And as a backup plan, you can protect your glass tank with a plastic vape ring.
Note* – There are literally hundreds of tanks (glassomizers) on the market, for all sorts of purposes, from sub-ohm vaping, plus-ohm vaping, Direct Lung Hit vaping, Mouth to Lung vaping, tanks made to enhance Flavor, and tanks made to enhance Vapor production. We urge you to explore Spinfuel and read other guides on sub-ohm vaping, and the tens of dozens reviews for individual tank brands and models.
Advanced Options - RDA, RBA's RTA's and Squonkers
Along with the above atomizers, there are more complicated set-ups that require in-depth knowledge of vaping and battery safety. While we don’t recommend these items for beginners, it’s worth being aware of what else is on offer.
RDA – Aka, the Rebuildable Dripping Atomizer. Often called a dripper, instead of removable coils this atomizer has an easily-accessible deck that holds the wire coils and wick. They can only hold a few drops of eliquid at a time so the user has to continuously drip juice onto the cotton. It requires keen attention to avoid unpleasant dry hits but many experienced vapers claim the RDA provides the most flavor and cleanest tasting vapour. The RDA also allows you to switch flavors quickly and easily, without any unpleasant aftertaste.
RTA – Also known as a Rebuildable Tank Atomizer, this is a combination of the RDA and tank atomizer. Like the dripper, it has a deck rather than replaceable coils but also incorporates a tank body so it can be used like a standard tank.
Squonker – A relatively new development, squonkers use a similar system to the RTA but incorporate a juice bottle underneath the deck, next to the battery. You squeeze the bottle so e-liquid is sucked up through the deck to soak the wick. (The term ‘squonk’ comes from the gurgling noise made by the ejuice as it slurps up.)
Things To Be Aware Of:
Suitable Mod – Make sure your mod is up for the job. Most sub-ohm tanks won’t work on older low-powered batteries and usually requires a more powerful advanced model. Some mods, such as the Sigelei 150w are geared towards sub-ohm vaping and won’t fire lower than 10w. Of course, there are many mods that can do both but make sure before you buy.
Avoid Plastic – As we said above, the plastic body of clearomizers can react badly with flavors such as aniseed or cinnamon, discoloring the tank or even cracking it. Another problem is that plastic tends to absorb flavors more readily than glass.
Correct Connector – Most modern tanks and batteries use the 510 connector, but older models may use an eGo connector. You can buy adaptors to fix this but it’s better to buy compatible items in the first place.
Drip Tip – An often overlooked part of vaping is the simple drip tip. This can have a dramatic impact on your vape, with narrower drip tips tending to work better for plus-ohm vaping and wide bore tips being more suitable for sub-ohm vaping. Don’t be afraid to try out different drip tips if your atomizer allows it.
Two-In-One – Can’t decide if you want a sub-ohm or plus-ohm tank and don’t want to splash out twice? Some tanks, such as the Aspire Triton and the Kanger Subtank, offer both plus and sub-ohm coils, meaning you can try both styles of vape without having to buy two tanks.
To Sum it All Up
There are many things to keep in mind when it comes to buying any atomizer. If you are new to vaping you may prefer to start with pre-filled cartridges rather than buy a full starter kit, but for best results we strongly recommend a good quality tank, especially as it works out cheaper in the long run. Cartomizers are often overlooked in the vaping world, with tanks taking centre stage but there are some vapers who swear by them, and a couple of brands make incredibly effective, and expensive, Carto-Tanks that produce incredible flavor and vapor. Whatever you want in your vape experience, there’s something out there for you. We’ll give our expert guide to the best beginner’s set-up for all these options and more in the final section of this guide for new vapers. In the meantime, if you would like to browse our review section to look over the types of kits, mods, tanks, and accessories that are available, please do. – Ian Jones for Spinfuel eMagazine