Vaping Equipment Explained – A Beginners’ Guide to Vape Hardware

If you’re considering trying vaping for the first time, or are looking to upgrade after successfully testing out a basic starter kit, this guide to vaping equipment and hardware should help to explain what’s on offer, and what might work best for you. It will hopefully also demistify some of the complex jargon that seems to accompany all things vape-related.

Are you feeling confused? If so, then little wonder such is the mind-boggling array of vaping devices available. You certainly have plenty of choice but that is of little use if you don’t understand what you are looking at!

Perhaps you think that vaping could be for you or maybe you have already dipped your toe into the water and would like to get more adventurous. Here is our guide to vaping equipment which should help you to make your choices with confidence.

beginners guide to vaping hardware


Basics of Vaping Equipment – What are Electronic Cigarettes?

E-cigarettes are hand-held devices which first became available in 2006. The majority of the early e-cigs were designed to resemble traditional cigarettes and were very simple affairs. But the potential of this equipment was obvious. Many of the early adopters began to modify their own devices and then the manufacturers started to create a more diverse offering to cater to vapers’ expectations.

These days, there is a staggering variety of different vaping devices on the market with something to suit every vaper. But the world of vaping hardware is not as complex as it might first appear, so don’t panic if you wouldn’t know a clearomizer from an atomizer. The various vape devices work in a very similar way.

There is no great mystery to electronic cigarettes in all of their forms. Vaping devices each feature a lithium battery which heats a wire coil. A wick draws eliquid to the coil which is then heated and vaporized and the resulting vapour can then be inhaled.

Each device incorporates a battery which may be replaceable or integrated. There will be a portion of the complete device which is an atomiser and this houses the heating coils, wicking material and a reservoir for the eliquid. But then things get a bit more complicated! There are several different types of vaping devices and it is important to understand how these differ in order to choose the vaping gear which best suits your needs and experience.


Most vapers start their adventure with cig-a-likes because they are easy to understand and simple to use. As the name suggests, these devices look like cigarettes and are of a similar size. There are no controls to tackle or adjustments to make. You won’t stick out like a sore thumb in a crowd of smokers with one of these and they are so small you can tuck them away easily in your pocket.

Disposable or Rechargeable?

Cig-a-likes are available in both disposable and rechargeable form. Disposable devices are ready to use straight out of the packet and you vape with them until the eliquid runs dry or the battery gives up the ghost. You then throw the e-cigarette away and start again with a new one. Disposable e-cigs are convenient but they are an expensive way to go.

With rechargeable cig-a-likes you purchase rechargeable batteries. These are small tubes with lights on the end which illuminate when you vape. You also need a charger and you will have to choose cartridges which are compatible with the batteries. The cartridges are simple atomisers containing the coils, wick and juice. They screw onto the batteries and you vape with them until the juice runs dry. When that happens, you simply replace the cartridge. A variety of flavours are available.

The rechargeable batteries can be used many times but after a few weeks or months, depending on your usage, they will need replacing. Cig-a-likes are not the cheapest way to go and they don’t offer much scope for personalising your vaping but they are simple, compact and convenient.

Moving On to Bigger Equipment

You might like to start simple but there will come a time when you will probably wish to broaden your vaping horizons. This will mean moving on to more complex devices. The principles are the same, but you have more scope to tailor your vaping experience. You will still need a battery and an atomizer to partner it with, but with more complex vaping equipment, you fill the tank or reservoir with juice yourself and you have buttons and controls to tackle!

  • Batteries and Mods

All e-cigarettes require a battery to power them and these are available in a variety of forms. When you move up from cig-a-likes or when you first start vaping, a simple pen type battery is the obvious choice. More advanced equipment is available in the shape of mods. This term is derived from modification and so, as you can imagine, mods tend to offer you the ability to customise your vaping. Whether you use a pen type battery or a mod, you can then choose an appropriate cartomizer or clearomizer to complete your device. But more of those later.

Pen Type Batteries Pen type batteries are complete systems which are a little larger than a cig-a-like battery unit and which will feature either a replaceable or an integrated rechargeable battery. Replaceable batteries are often an additional purchase These devices can be teamed up with a clearomizer or cartomizer of your choice. For simplicity, you can opt for a starter kit which will feature both the battery and a compatible clearomizer. Some pen type batteries feature variable (adjustable) voltage. The higher the voltage you use, the more heat is generated and so the greater the vapour production and flavour.

  • Box Mods

Box mods are generally rectangular in shape and are bulkier than the pen shaped batteries as they must accommodate more complex features. The mods can be powered by replaceable or integrated batteries and can be partnered with a variety of cartomizers and clearomizers. Vaping technology has advanced significantly and these days most mods feature variable voltage (VV) and variable wattage (VW) operating modes. The maximum output varies between devices and the mods incorporate micro-processors to maximise functionality and safety.

  • VV/VW Mods

A VV/VW mod enables you to customize your output by setting your voltage or wattage. This gives you the flexibility to use a wide variety of clearomizers with different resistances and coils. You can control the amount of heat generated by the coils to suit your juice and vaping preference. The mods have simple controls and small LED or OLED screens which display the settings and safety warnings.

  • Temperature Control Mods

You might also wish to consider a temperature control mod. These are the newest kids on the vaping block and basically enable you to employ what amounts to cruise control. With these devices you set the maximum temperature that you wish your coil to reach and the mod does the rest.

High Power Mods Box mods vary in power. If you are considering using a rebuildable atomizer or dabbling in sub-ohm vaping (see below), then a high power mod is the most suitable choice. But these devices are more appropriate for experienced vapers and are something to work towards rather than to test the water with.

  • Mechanical Mods

Simple and somewhat rugged, mechanical mods are robust but lack the electronic circuitry required to incorporate safety features. As such, there are risks involved with using these devices. They are not a wise choice for beginners and must be operated with caution.

Cartomizers and Clearomizers

Your chosen mod will have to be teamed up with a compatible cartomizer or clearomizer. These are devices which screw onto your mod and which contain the heating coils, wicking material and a reservoir (tank) for the eliquid.


Cartomizers are atomizers which feature a polyfill wrapped around a heating coil together with a reservoir. The polyfill soaks up the eliquid. Some cartomizers are housed inside a larger cylindrical tank to increase the eliquid capacity. Cartomizers can be of the disposable or refillable variety but the reservoirs or tanks are often difficult to clean. When you change your eliquid, you can find that the polyfill retains the flavour of the previous juice. With many cartomizers, it is difficult to monitor your eliquid levels.


Most vapers now use clearomizers. These are cylindrical in shape and have clear plastic or glass tanks. The clear tank makes it easy to see the level of your eliquid which is delivered to the heating coil via a wick. Some styles have a top heating coil with a longer wick, others have a heating coil at the bottom with a short wick. The tanks vary in capacity but most will hold a generous amount of juice. Clearomizers tend to stand the test of time and can offer excellent flavour delivery. They are available with both replaceable and rebuildable coils.

Replaceable Coils v Rebuildable Coils

Regardless of what equipment you are using, your heating coils will eventually need replacing. How long they last will depend on your vaping style and the type of juice you prefer. Many clearomizers feature replaceable coil heads. These screw in and out of the device for easy replacement. This means that when your coils have given up the ghost, you won’t have to kiss goodbye to your tank.

Replaceable Coils

Replaceable coil heads may incorporate adjustable airflow. This gives you even more control over flavour and vapour production. As you can remove the coils from the clearomizer, you can easily clean out the tank before you change flavours. Clearomizers are available with coil heads that boast a variety of resistances, including those suitable for sub-ohm vaping. You should check the details of any clearomizers that you are interested in to discover the resistance range supported by the device.

Clearomizers with replaceable coil heads are extremely versatile pieces of kit and provide the majority of vapers with the options they need. But when you feel it’s time to dabble in customising your vaping equipment, rebuildable coils will be what you need.

Rebuildable Coils

Rebuildable coils offer the greatest scope for customising your vaping experience and will maximise your flavour and vapour production. But you need to learn how to build the coils and must understand the properties of the different types of wire at your disposal. Building the coils requires an investment in tools and will take time. If you are the sort of person who enjoys a little DIY then rebuildable coils could be for you. But if convenience is king then perhaps not. Rebuildable coils enable you to explore a variety of resistance wires and wicking materials to create a vaping device which is absolutely tailored to your requirements. However, there are dangers associated with this equipment and so you must ensure that you know how to use it safely.

Sub-Ohm Vaping

Sub-ohm vaping evolved as a way for vapers to increase power to their coils when using an unregulated device. This would have been a mechanical mod or a mod which did not benefit from variable voltage or variable wattage. Sub-ohm vaping improves vapour production and/or flavour. In simple terms, it is the practice of vaping using coils with a resistance of less than 1 ohm.

These days, with the advanced mods available, it is possible to achieve similar results without the need for sub-ohm coils. The latest high powered mods enable you to deliver the power you need without the risk of challenging the capacity of your equipment and coils. However, you can still indulge in sub-ohm vaping whilst using a VV/VW device.

What Vaping Device Should You Choose?

There is certainly a bewildering array of choices and every vaper has their own taste and preferences. Your decision may be dictated by budget, convenience or how much experience you have. The vaping device that is right for you now may only be a starting point and you can always get more adventurous as your vaping journey continues.


If you have little or no experience of vaping, then it can be better to start out with a simple device. This is certainly advisable if you are unfamiliar with the more scientific aspects of vaping such as ohms law and joules. Anyone can get to grips with cig-a-likes in seconds but these do lack flexibility and can be expensive. A low output, regulated mod with integrated internal batteries would be a great choice. Team this up with a clearomizer that has replaceable coils and a resistance over 1.0 ohm and you have a safe, easy to use and versatile vaporizer.

Intermediate Vapers

When you have acquired a little vaping experience together with some understanding of how the devices work, you can progress to more complex kit. You could try a mid-powered device, say up to 80W, and test the water by using replacement coils with resistances as low as 0.5ohm. These devices will produce enhanced flavour and more impressive vapour whilst still being relatively straightforward to use.

Advanced Vapers

As you learn more about vaping equipment you will gain a greater understanding of ohms and Joules. You will also appreciate the risks associated with rebuildable devices. If meddling with gadgets and getting to grips with the complexities of vaping is an appealing prospect, then you could explore the world of rebuildable atomisers or try using a mechanical mod. You can always move on, even if DIY isn’t for you, by investing in a higher powered mod and a sub-ohm clearomizer.

The Choice of Hardware is Yours

It would be possible to write a lengthy book on vaping gear but you are probably already suffering from information overload! We cover each aspect of vaping in more detail elsewhere. But hopefully you now have a better understanding of the available options and can make a more informed choice.

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