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What Is A Dab Pen: Everything You Need To Know

Want a simple, clean, and effective way to consume your cannabis? Try a dab pen.

But before you buy the first dab pen you find online and pack it full of your favorite cannabis from your local dispensary, there are a few things you ought to know.

Most important, don’t put raw cannabis in a dab pen! In most cases, that will ruin your brand new gizmo and put a serious harsh on your evening’s buzz.

So, if a dab pen isn’t for raw cannabis, what’s it for? Well, there’s a clue in the name, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

In this article, the all-things-cannabis experts at Honest Marijuana explain everything you need to know about the dab pen so you can impress your friends and wow your enemies — not to mention discover a serious high!

What Are Dabs?

a jar of dabs

Our journey into the heart of the dab pen starts with the first term in that compound word: dab.

Dabs are “bite-sized” bits of cannabis concentrate that contain very high levels of cannabinoids such as:

  • THC
  • CBD
  • CBN
  • CBG
  • And others

Some dabs are full-spectrum concentrates, meaning they have a mix of THC and CBD along with a wide variety of terpenes and flavonoids.

Some dabs are isolate concentrates, meaning they have very high levels of either THC (for recreational purposes) or CBD (for medicinal purposes).

Dabs come in many different forms, including:

  • Crumble
  • Budder
  • Honeycomb
  • Badder
  • Batter

The most common forms, however, are wax and shatter. Either one of those is probably what you’ll use in a dab pen.

When it comes to dab pens, though, we prefer wax. It’s easier to work with. It’s easier to divide so you can find the right dose. And it’s easier to load into the dab pen itself.

We’re not trying to turn you off from the other forms of concentrate. We’re just all about easy, so anything that makes that possible is our new favorite thing.

For more information on the dabs themselves — and instructions on how to make your own — check out this article from the Honest Marijuana blog: How To Make Dabs | Medical Marijuana Wax.

How Do You Normally Smoke Dabs?

dab rig

In the days before dab pens (BDP?), we old-timers smoked dabs with a dab rig. We also walked to school uphill both ways, but that’s neither here nor there.

A dab rig is a special type of bong with a nail instead of a bowl that you use to burn dabs in all their many forms.

Here’s a quick rundown of how it works:

  1. Heat the nail (typically with a blowtorch)
  2. Place the dab on the hot nail
  3. Cover it with the dome (a spherical glass piece that fits over the nail) or carb cap

The hot nail vaporizes the dab (i.e., turns it into “smoke”) while the dome keeps all that good stuff from just floating off into the ether.

You then inhale through the mouth of the dab rig, drawing the vapor through the water chamber (if it has one) and into your lungs.

Easy peasy.

The one problem with a dab rig is that it’s a rather large piece of equipment that doesn’t travel all that well.

It’s great for a night at home on the couch by yourself or sharing with friends, but if you want to take your buzz on the run, you’re going to want something quite a bit smaller.

Enter the dab pen.

What Is A Dab Pen?

an assortment of dab pens

A dab pen — also called a vape pen — is a small, often finger-size, battery-powered unit made up of three components:

  • A heating element
  • A refillable cartridge
  • A mouthpiece

The concept is pretty simple, you place a bit of dab — be it wax, shatter, budder, or even oil — in the dab chamber, press a button to heat the element, wait a few seconds for the dab to vaporize, and then inhale the results.

When you’re finished, you can just slide the dab pen back in your pocket or in your bag and head out on your way, secure in the knowledge that a quick hit is just seconds away.

Dab Pen Vs. Vaporizer

vaporzier in a house next to a plant

If you’re new to the world of the vape pen, it’s important to understand all the lingo.

As even the newest of newbs knows (or will soon discover), the cannabis lexicon is overflowing with slang and jargon.

And to make things even more confusing, there are often multiple slang terms for the same concept. Sometimes, there are slang terms that refer to slang terms, so you may never discover what the original word was.

Dab pens are no different. You may hear them called:

  • Vape pens
  • Wax pens
  • Hookah pens
  • Dry bongs

And a long list of others too numerous (and nonsensical) to mention. Feel free to pick your favorite.

The one term you should never use when talking about your dab pen is vaporizer.

Vaporizers are large table-top units (see the image above for reference) that you use with essential oils to make your house smell good.

Though you can use a vaporizer with various cannabis oils, they’re definitely not the same thing as a dab pen.

It’s very much like pointing at a Ford Explorer and saying “horse”. They both have similar uses — to move you or your stuff around — but they’re still very different from one another.

So do your best to keep from calling a dab pen a vaporizer so you don’t look like a complete idiot to your friends in the know.

Pros And Cons Of The Dab Pen

Dab pen


1) All-In-One

The dab pen is an all-in-one unit that pretty much does everything for you — except inhale, of course.

With a dab pen, you don’t have to carry around all the paraphernalia necessary to make the dab rig work.

Everything is self-contained and ready to go at a moment’s notice.

2) Compact And Portable

Dab pens are incredibly compact and portable (and getting more so every day). There’s a reason why they’re called dab pens, after all.

Just like a pen, you can slip the unit in your pocket or purse for easy transport.

3) Potent

Because dab pens use concentrated extracts — wax, shatter, budder, etc. — the vapor they produce is extremely potent.

Even seasoned cannaenthusiasts will only need a hit or two to experience a pretty righteous high.

That makes these little devices perfect for a night on the town or a day in the park with your old friend Mary Jane.

4) Flavorful

Dab pens vaporize their contents at much lower temperatures than a naked flame (in fact, almost half).

Those lower temperatures preserve many of the cannabinoids and terpenes that would normally burn away when you use a lighter or a torch, and make for a much more flavorful experience.


small container of dab

1) Limited Battery Life

Most dab pens are battery powered, though we’re waiting for a steam-powered one for our steampunk friends.

All batteries run down eventually, so you’ll have to keep an eye on your dab pen’s power meter so you don’t run out mid-toke.

2) Some Assembly Required

Most dab pens will need to be assembled before you can use them. If you’re not the best at following instructions, this could be a problem.

Similarly, some dab pens allow you to set the temperature at which the heating element burns.

This can make the experience better, but it also adds a whole level of knowledge you’ll need to get familiar with before you can dial in your high the way you want it.

3) Will Need To Replace Parts Periodically

Over time, the heating unit in your dab pen will wear out. Similarly, the dab chamber and the mouthpiece will get gummy with residue that even the most thorough cleaning won’t remove.

When that happens, you’ll need to replace parts or buy an entirely new dab pen.

4) Can Be Expensive

Depending on which dab pen you buy, the price tag can be pretty hefty.

Of course, the simplest models aren’t any more expensive than a movie for two (without the candy and popcorn, of course).

But models with more advanced features and capabilities can hit three figures and take a significant bite out of the cash in your wallet.

Dab With The Best

small container of dab for a dab pen

When it comes right down to it, the excellence of your experience isn’t about which dab pen, rig, bong, blunt, joint, or spliff you use.

It’s about the quality of the cannabis — or the cannabis product — you put into it.

Fresh, high-quality, organic marijuana — like the ganja we grow at Honest Marijuana — is the gold standard of cannabis crops.

It doesn’t matter if you’re rolling the dried and cured variety directly into a joint or using it to make your own dabs, cannabis from Bud Cargo gives you an experience like nothing else.

If you’re looking for an upbeat, daytime high, try a sativa or sativa-dominant hybrid.

If you’re looking for a relaxing, chill-out-after-a-hard-day high, try an indica or indica-dominant hybrid.

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