eCig / Vaping: Starter Kit Guide
This topic goes to a couple of questions that I see frequently:
- What should I buy?
- How much does it cost?
Now, I have to make a couple of assumptions regarding these questions. The first is that we are talking about getting set up with something that isn’t in the cig-a-like category. While those kinds of setups are okay for people who just want to try an eCigarette, they only go a little way towards being a real replacement for tobacco products.
The second assumption that I will make: there are two types of costs involved. The first is an initial investment (ie, buying a vaping kit), and there is a set of ongoing costs for consumable supplies.
There is a third question that should be asked with these questions: where should I buy my vaping supplies? For anyone that has looked around a bit online, it can be quite confusing. There are a lot of shops with all sorts of supplies and merchandise. Some have decent reviews, some don’t. Some have starter kits, while some leave it totally up to you. And so on.
So, I am going tackle these questions one at a time, and hopefully try to cut through some of the junk out there.
What To Buy
There are lots of options in this area. Seems like a lot of sites and stores have “starter kits” that vary quite a bit in quality, components and price. For example, MadVapes has kits ranging in price from $10 – $60. The options go from small, cig-a-like batteries with cartridges, up to larger batteries with tanks. How are you supposed to figure out which option to choose?
Let’s start by eliminating a few items. As I stated at the beginning, I am assuming that most readers of this article have either already tried a cig-a-like, or disposable eCigarette and are looking for the next step. Also, the batteries on most of these kits are typically small, and won’t last a whole day for the average smoker, which means carrying two batteries, and re-charging one while using the other. Which tends to be a bit inconvenient (he said with touch of sarcasm).
Eliminating these systems brings you into what is known as the “eGo” style setup, with still lots and lots of options: a tank system or a cartridge style system. One battery, two batteries, or more?
This is where we get to talk about battery sizes. One of the things that I haven’t talked about is the sizes of batteries. Not the physical size (although it is related), but rather the amount of electricity stored in a fully charged battery. Batteries are rated by mili-amp hours (mAh), a number you might have seen listed on many of these sites. Basically, that number tells you how much of a charge the battery holds. The higher the mAh number, the more of a charge it holds. Most of the eGo batteries range from 600 mAh to around 1200 mAh. How fast the batteries discharge is a function of how much you use them, along with the resistance of the tank or cartridge you are using. (I explain the resistance issue in my Voltage vs. Wattage article.) Basically, the higher the resistance, the more the battery has to work to heat up your fluid, which causes the battery to discharge more quickly.
Personally, I found that I could get just about a day out of a 1200 mAh battery, with a tank or cartridge with about 2 ohms of resistance. But I am a heavy vaper, still vaping the equivalent of almost a pack and a half of cigarettes a day (as I documented in my How Much Should I Vape article.) So, if you currently smoke less, or know that you will vape at a lower rate, a smaller battery may suffice for you.
This would bring us to the question of cartridge(s) or tank(s)? I’m just going to be flat-out in my statement here: tank systems are better for starting vapers. Why? Cartridges tend to be smaller, and need to be refilled more frequently. This is good if you want to switch flavors a lot, but I believe most people starting in vaping don’t want to do that. Instead, I recommend a tank that is large enough to enough fluid for a whole day, or at least only need to be re-filled once during the day.
This still leaves a question as to what style of tank you want to use. There are two primary styles: the “Nova” style (with a top coil and long wicks), or eVod / ProTank style (with a bottom coil and very little wick). There are two major physical differences between the two, and one subjective difference.
First, with the top coil (Nova) style tanks, they are easier to fill. They have a cap on the top of the tank that you un-screw and removed, to allow re-filling without removing the tank from the battery. The bottom coil style tanks have to be refilled by removing the cap at the bottom of the tank, which means un-screwing the whole tank from the battery, then removing the cap. Once filled, you reassemble it, and screw it back on to the battery.
Second, the wicks. The Nova style has long wicks that pull fluid up into the head to be heated. The bottom coil tanks have very little wick, and use gravity to feed the fluid into the head. The difference here is that the Nova style tanks can take longer to pull fluid up into the head. This can result in either needing to tilt the tank to get fluid to the head, or getting occasional dry-hits (ie, taking a vape when there is no fluid in the head to be heated up, which can sometimes result in a burning flavor). With bottom coil tanks, the only time you are likely to get a dry or burning flavor hit is if you have run out of fluid.
Third, the more subjective difference: the Nova style tanks tend to taste different than the ProTank style tanks. The more wicking material involved in the tank, the more the flavor of a fluid tends to be muted / changed. Nova style tanks are known for this difference. (I have heard from a few people that some of the newer top coil style tanks are better, but I have not tried them yet.)
When you put all three of these together, I believe the small inconvenience in filling a bottom coil tank easily out-weighs the flavor and dry hit issues of the top coil tanks. So I definitely recommend a bottom coil tank.
There is one more consideration with the battery. Should you use a fixed voltage / wattage battery, or get one that is adjustable? Having an adjustable battery allows you to adjust for the intensity of the flavor, and for the resistance of the coil in your tank. While not a necessary feature, as it does tend to add a bit of expense, it is a highly useful feature to have.
So, let’s move on to what this all costs.
Pricing Your Kit
The cost for a vaping set up can range pretty wildly from store to store, and even with the options you can get from any individual store / site. And, for what it is worth, I don’t always recommend going to the cheapest place to get your vaping supplies. Why? Well, reliability and good customer service can account for a lot in this business. Having a site or store with an established positive reputation can go a long way towards making certain you get what you want, and can maintain a good relationship with them for supplies.
Another factor: brands do count in my opinion. The vaping industry is full of stores and companies supplying alternate and knock-off versions of products. Sometimes with these alternates, you get what you pay for: cheaper produced, cheaper materials, cheaper products. Overall, this can mean a less reliable product, which will have a negative affect on your enjoyment of vaping.
So, that being said, I suggest looking for three brands: SmokTech, KangerTech and Innokin. The products from these companies seem to be very high quality, and are consistent. (There is a fourth that I have used: Joyetech. They tend to be good products, but not equal to the other three I am recommending.)
Let’s start with Innokin. There are two kits from them that appear to be really nice. The first is the iTaste VV 10S Kit. This kit has an 800 mAh battery, an iClear 10S tank, with the extras that you need: a case, a USB charging cable, and extra replacement coils (5). The price for the VV 10S Kit seems to vary pretty wildly, I saw anywhere from $50-$90 for. I would think that something in the $50-$60 range would be appropriate. For a lighter smoker (ie, someone who smokes less than a pack a day), this would be an excellent option. I have not used this product, however given the next products quality and other reviews / comments I’ve heard of this product I feel safe in recommending it. If you are a heavier smoker, then I would definitely check out the iTaste MVP V2.0. This has a 2600 mAh battery, with an iClear 30 tank and cable included. It doesn’t come with any replacement coils, which is a small drawback (but I will talk about this more in a moment). I have been extremely impressed with this unit since I first talked about it a few weeks back. This is possibly the first, and only, device that I have used that was able to go over two days between charges. For a street price of around $65 USD, just the main unit alone is a good investment.
The downside: I’m not impressed with the iClear 30 included with the MVP. I tried it, and it immediately flooded (ie, the fluid that I put into the tank leaked into the center column within a few hits on it). I would be leery of similar issues with the iClear 10S, but haven’t used it so I don’t know if it is an issue. Also, I noted that the flavor of my fluid was muted as it was with the Nova style tanks. Not an issue, but a preference. So, I would suggest if you are thinking about getting one of the Innokin products, you might want to consider buying a different tank to go with it.
That brings me pretty quickly to KangerTech. Their ProTank and Mini ProTank get my highest approval, especially the 2.0 version of these products (I haven’t used the version 3 yet, but I have some reservations). A lot of people also like the SmokTech eVod tanks, which are compatible with the ProTank bottom-coil system. All of these options make for an excellent, excellent vaping experience. And, they aren’t very expensive: $10-$15 on average. If you are thinking about the Innokin products above, I would recommend considering pairing them with these KangerTech products. I can say that my iTaste MVP with my ProTank is my daily use vaping system. The Mini ProTank should work well with the VV 10S Kit (although I am not certain if the cap will still fit if you are using the Mini ProTank).
If you don’t want to go the Innokin route because of the expense (which I admit, the pricing on their products does come at a premium), I would suggest looking to SmokTech. One of the vendors that I trust working with, has a SmokTech eVod starter kit that comes with two 650mAh batteries, an eVod tank, 5 replacement coils, charger, etc. for $40. This is a win x3 kit: the price is very reasonable at $40, it is a bottom coil system, and all the components of the kit are high quality. The only thing you lose out on is having a variable voltage and / or variable wattage system. But, as a starting system it’s an excellent deal. However, if you later want to try a variable voltage battery, you can order a KangerTech eVod battery for around $23 dollars (note: these apparently need a different charger, which will cost an extra $5).
So, that pretty much covers the major options that I would consider at this point. The price range for what I would consider to be a good setup is $40 – $70 dollars. When you consider that a carton of cigarettes is around $70, it is a pretty good investment (especially for me, since I was buying a carton of cigarettes every week). But, there are some ongoing / recurring expenses with vaping that you will want to keep in mind. So, let’s talk about them.
Recurring Expenses: Vaping Consumables
If you have a vaping store in your area, you will find out quickly that this are is the core of their business model. There are some things that you will need to buy on a frequent basis, and your purchasing them allows them to stay in business. There are basically two items in this category: eJuice (fluid), and coils (or cartridges).
Now, the fortunate part of this is, these recurring / ongoing expenses tend to be much lower cost than smoking cigarettes. This is what most people refer to when they say that vaping is much less expensive than smoking. The bad side of it is that, at least in the case of eJuices, there are lots of options and you might end up wandering through a few different brands, flavors, etc. and spending a bit extra while you find several you like.
So, here’s the easy part: the replacement coils or cartridges. Cartridges (or cartomizers as many call them) are something that you will need to swap out probably every week or two. Generally you can buy them in quantity and get a decent price. Typically they are in the $1-$2 each range. Just looking at Sun Vaper’s again, they have 5 packs of cartridges for around $7. That should be enough for about 1-2 months worth of vaping.
The same holds true with coils. Sun Vapers sells KangerTech replacement coils for the ProTank, Mini ProTank and eVod for about $6 USD for a package of 5 coils. I’ve had extremely good luck with the KangerTech coils. One of them even went so far as to last a whopping six weeks for me, but on average I seem to be getting more like three to four weeks each. Back when I first bought my ProTank, I was used to having to replace Nova coils more frequently (every week or two), so I ordered 4 packs of ProTank coils ( 2×1.8ohm, and 2×2.4ohm). That was around 6 months ago. At this point I still have 2 packs that haven’t been opened, and I have 4-5 that are in use. Note, the one thing you may want to consider is having a couple of different resistances around. Depending on the fluid you are vaping, one resistance coil may work better than another. This is the reason I bought two packs of each resistance.
So, that part of the ongoing expenses doesn’t amount to a whole lot. The only other major expense that you will encounter is in the fluid that you vape. This might cost a bit more up front, since you may want to try out several different brands, and flavors of fluid, but in the long term, your expense will level off.
The prices of the fluids tend to vary by vendor, but not necessarily as much as might be expected.
In general, the going price for a 30ml bottle of fluid is about $20 +/- $5. For me, a 30ml bottle lasts for about two weeks (and again, I am a heavy vaper). So, I tend to use around two 30ml bottles a month.
Personally, I like fluids from V2, Halo and MadVapes. I’m still trying out others, so I could be adding more to my list.
So, if we add this up, my ongoing monthly expense is just under $60. Compared to $240 a month for a carton of cigarettes each week, and you can see the savings is substantial. Even if you smoke less than me, you are likely to still be ahead with vaping since you won’t go through as much fluid.
There is one more thing to consider: batteries don’t last forever. however, they do last for a long time: 9 months to a year, sometimes longer. So you can expect to need a new battery occasionally.
Summarizing The Expenses
So, if you break the investments into two categories, initial and ongoing, we have the following:
- Kit with battery / tank (or cartridge): $40 – $60
- Fluid: $25
- Extra coils (if needed): $6-$8
That would make the total around $90.00 USD, plus shipping, tax, etc. But that is only a one-time investment.
- Fluid: $25-$50
- Replacement Coils / Cartridges: $5-$8
Which, at the top end, is about $58/month. (Which is what I said was my number). But, for many people, it’s likely to be around $30-$40 USD/month.
A new battery: eGo style batteries tend to be around $20-$25 each. So, if you have two, you might have to spend another $50/yr or so (but, as I’ll explain in another article, you aren’t likely to replace a dead one). If you invest in an Innokin device, you will have to replace it, so expect the same cost as your initial investment.
Where to Buy
This is kind of the elephant in the room for this whole discussion. There are a lot of really good brands and vendors around. I’ve mentioned a few I like throughout this article: V2, Halo, MadVapes, Sun Vapers, etc. But, certainly they are not the only good vendors out there. I recommend looking at some other resources, like GrimmGreen’s website, and Pete Busardo’s website. They liste vendors that they have worked with and trust. Also, Reddit has a list of vendors, with reputation scores. So, that’s how I would find a good vendor to work with.
The other option is to see if there are any local Vape stores in your area. But, if you do find some, check the Reddit list to see if they are on there, and what kind of reputation they have. And, I would suggest that you go in to them with the idea of testing them, and not letting them push a product on you (unless it happens to be something that fits into what you have decided from reading this article, and/or doing other research).
Finally, I would like to add, that this guide that I have written shouldn’t be the only one you read. I’ve mentioned GrimmGreen and Pete Busardo. I have a very high respect for these individuals and watch their videos all the time. They have their own guides on their websites. And, the Reddit Electronic Cigarette reddit has tons and tons of information. There are also lots of guides and information on eCigarette Forum.
Hopefully with the information that I have provided here, and with some research at some of the recommended sites, you will be able to find a good solution for you that fits within the price range you are able to afford. Thanks for reading this exceptionally long article.