2021 looks to be a year full of fresh starts and new beginnings. In this spirit, there’s a word you should eliminate from your cannabis vocabulary: dabbing. Not that there’s anything wrong with consuming cannabis concentrates. Far from it. It’s just that there’s a better way, and a better word.
The way forward is with a “dab rig” that’s portable, aesthetically pleasing and easy to use. And above all, convenient and clean—in other words, not so much a “dab rig” at all!
Birth of a Term
Linguistically speaking, “dabbing” is practical shorthand for consuming cannabinoids and terpenes that have been converted into a concentrated form—the viscous, very fragrant and potent result of removing the plant material with a solvent, leaving the active ingredients to vaporize.
Dab is both noun and verb: you can “dab”; you can purchase “dabs”; you can, if you insist, “dab a dab,” but we do not recommend saying this, as you will sound strange.
Despite some early hiccups and negative associations back in the early 2010s—in large part due to law enforcement’s eagerness to associate cannabis concentrates with addiction and hash-lab explosions, but also due to unscrupulous cannabis entrepreneurs pushing unclean, poorly purged product onto the market—the practice of consuming concentrated amounts of cannabinoids and terpenes is a perfectly acceptable consumption technique. This would be so even if there weren’t legitimate medical benefits such as quick relief of pain or anxiety symptoms.
What’s changed is the method.
Too Much Stuff
Dabbing still conjures up the clumsy and messy days of butane torches and oily, stained glass. A “dab rig” is the term that best applies not just to the water-pipe, but to the entire setup: the heat source (usually a chef’s torch swiped from someone’s crème brulée kit), the glass apparatus, the heated “nail” onto which the dab is dropped, the dental pick used to collect and apply the concentrate, the dab mat to catch any sticky bits.
That’s a lot of gear—a lot of gear to keep at the house, let alone to pack for a weekend trip or a quick trip to the park. It’s also neither the safest nor the most stable way to consume cannabis concentrates. There’s fuel to load into the torch, there’s an open flame, there’s the equivalent of a hot stove. Maybe you’ve been among the unlucky ones to graze a knuckle too close to superheated quartz or steel.
Just like you’d be rightly viewed as ridiculous if you were to drag a laptop and a portable speaker system along with you everywhere you go to listen to music when you have Spotify on your phone, these days, there are simply better and easier ways to consume cannabis concentrates.
Getting Better: Smaller, Faster, Stronger
One of the first innovations in the dab rig world was replacing the butane torch with an electric heat source, aka an “e-rig.” Better, but still not ideal: You had to plug an e-rig into the wall or lug around a big ol’ battery, and you still had an active heat source in your vicinity to be mindful of. You also still needed tools like the dental pick and dab mat. Fine for some, but by no means a universal solution.
This helps explain why vaporizer pens—with small, disposable cartridges of cannabis oil—were so popular and considered a game-changer when they came on the scene. They fit in pockets and purses, they’re not messy, they don’t attract attention, they won’t burn your house down or blister your hands. To this day, vape cartridge manufacturers try to market their products as “portable dabs,” but in our view this misses the point: There simply won’t be the same flavor or punch in an oil cartridge as there will be from a dollop of more viscous, load-your-own concentrate.
Some next-generation rigs combined the e-rig with the glass apparatus in a portable, durable format. Early favorites included products sold by Dr. Dabber, which allowed some flexibility and customization. You could switch the glass apparatus to suit your needs or aesthetic tastes; all that was the same was the miniaturized battery-powered heat source. No butane torches, no enormous battery packs, but not exactly pocket-sized. That said, if you want a statement piece, “smart rigs” like the Puffco Peak can be a nice way to go.
As dry-herb vaporizers became smaller and more sophisticated—pocket- or purse-sized, able to palm in a hand as you took a discreet hit, not a conversation starter but more of a conversation enhancer—concentrate use took a backseat. Simply put, not every modern vaporizer will be able to handle concentrates without the works literally gumming up.
DaVinci’s dual-use vaporizers built for flower and concentrates, like the IQ2 and Ascent, allow for convenient, portable concentrate use while you’re on the go. Using very simple accessories like the concentrate holding pods, the shatter, budder or wax of your choosing is placed in the same oven that takes cannabis flower. For those of us who prefer a little taste of hash or shatter with our favorite flower, that’s also easily done.
For some, “dabbing” is a lifestyle; for most of us, it’s yet another option to keep open—like nibbling an edible, puffing on flower, or placing drops of tincture underneath the tongue. Some days are good for it, others aren’t. The best way to be ready for any eventuality or whim is to get a vaporizer that can do both.