We’re fortunate in the DC area in that our weather is nice enough to smoke joints outside for most of the year, but as it gets colder and folks want to spend less time smoking outdoors, many of us turn to extracts in the form of vape carts and dabs. I’m mostly a flower person, but in the winter (or whenever I'm looking for a little more punch), I find myself dabbing diamonds, hash rosin and live resin. The convenience, flavor and potency of dabbing is super appealing — which is why I always have a dab rig at the ready. So let’s get into some options for dabbing, bangers, torches, enails and more!
A quick primer for newcomers to dabbing: dabs are cannabis extracts that vaporize on contact with a heated piece of silicate glass or metal. There are a variety of extracts and extraction methods, including budder, shatter, wax and oil. Most dabs have a waxy consistency and vaporize around 550℉. Cannabis concentrates have far more potency than flower! A 50-60% THC rosin is on the low end of what you’ll find, and 70-80% THC is common with solvent-based extraction techniques, some even higher. Flower maxes out around 30%.
A typical dab setup includes a few elements. First is the water pipe, or rig, which is any bong suitable for the banger. Next is the banger, or nail – a silicate, ceramic, titanium or alloy surface for dabbing. The banger connects to a stem and is held in the rig just like a bowl piece is for flower. Then there’s the carb cap, which sits flush on the banger or nail opening, directing airflow to heat the surface evenly. Last up is the heating element. It could be as simple as a crème brulé torch, or as complex as an electronic setup. You’ll also want a dab tool, a.k.a. a dabber or wand, to pick up concentrate from the container to place it on your dab nail or portable pen.
Getting Started with Your Dab Setup
If you’re a noob, you may be tempted to use the same dirty bong you use for flower with dabs — but spending a few bucks on a new rig will improve your experience dramatically. Combusted flower resins and extract vapor reclaim are different, and the flower resin build-up in your bong can hamper the flavor of your dab. A great starter kit for dabs includes a water pipe, quartz banger and bubble cap, and a basic torch.
A small displacement water pipe is key for extracts because it helps retain flavor and keep the vapor fresh. This setup can run you anywhere from $40-90. You can get the pipe from outlets like eBay, AliExpress or DHGate on the cheap (just don’t expect top-quality glass or fast shipping). Local brands like DC Glass Gallery and Funky Piece and online headshops like Smoke Cartel sell MJArsenal rigs, which are a much nicer option on the higher end of that scale.
Quartz bangers offer the best combination of durability and price for great flavor from your dabs. As for a torch, the Blazer brand is popular with big dabbers. Blink torches are also a top option. Many folks use propane torches to heat their bangers – namely the Bernzomatic blue tanks and the Weber green tanks – and while these torches do ok for even banger heating, propane isn’t filtered for human consumption like butane is, so heating with propane is way more risky than heating with butane. Don’t do it!
What’s an Enail?
If you enjoy dabbing out of a small glass rig, but you’re tired of heating it up with a torch, you could go with an electronic heat control setup, or enail. An enail is not an all-in-one smart rig like the Puffco Peak, Focus V Carta or Crossing Core. An enail is a nail heated by a metal coil connected to a PiD temperature control unit. Over the years, I’ve purchased and recommended many options from Dabbing Warehouse (an online smoke shop out of Colorado) and overall I think it’s one of the best websites to find dabbing gear.
I bought my personal setup from Dabbing Warehouse, except for a PiD box that I bought from Amazon, which consists of a Biao.t (mlglass on DHGate) recycler with a 25mm r-clip banger and a 25mm fit around-and-under coil. I’ve also been using their other bangers and nails for the last couple years and have not been disappointed. I prefer the readiness and consistency from my dabs out of this setup and it works great for my low-temperature dabbing technique, which means hitting live resins below 450℉ using constant heat and pressure changes to control vaporization.
Advanced Dab Hardware
For dabbing enthusiasts, there are two main products that give more functionality and flavor than even a rig and temperature controller coil setup can. The first is the Divine Tribe line of heated crucibles. Divine Tribe just released the Version 5 unit, which works with either ceramic or Silicon carbide (SiC). SiC is a carbon silicate alloy used in the brakes of hyper cars like the Ferrari LaFerrari and the Bugatti Chiron. SiC is known for its even heating distribution and high durability — even better than titanium — and the exquisite flavor it allows from dabs. Divine Tribe units work on any 510 threaded battery, preferably a box mod. There's even a protocol in the Arctic Fox box mod firmware that allows you to cold start! A cold start is when you heat a pre-loaded nail instead of heating the banger before you drop your dab in. Rumor has it that Divine Crossing is also working on a zirconium crucible for the v5. Dropping diamonds on a diamond? I can’t wait to try it.
Enthusiasts can also go for a Flower Pot B2, which allows the consumer to vaporize flower and dabs from the same piece at the same time, or the Flower Pot TCup which is a portable all-in-one device with a flower/extract combo vape head, temperature control unit and bubbler all built in. The caveat with products like Flower Pots is that the experience is best suited for artisanal and exceptionally high-quality (meaning expensive) glass.
Ultimately, we’ve come a long way from hot knives, nectar collectors, dabbing off keys (yikes!) and unstable amber BHO. There are tons of options to choose from: some that are accessible to beginner dabbers with a low price commitment, and specially engineered options for the glob fiends amongst us. Whether you want to spend fifty bucks or a thousand, there’s an option for every level of dabber!