All you see in the market today are pod systems. SMOK, VooPoo, Aspire, you name it, are pumping out pod systems like they’re going out of business. The truth is, they are bringing a ton of business. If you’ve been part of the vaping community for the last few years, you have noticed plenty of changes regarding the size and portability of some devices.
Initially, electronic cigarettes were meant to resemble actual Marlboro-like cigarettes in every aesthetical aspect. But as time went on, the crappy little battery power those cigalikes delivered was modded by users craving a more powerful device - and now we’re here.
We had cigalikes and classic pens evolve into stick mods, box mods, and advanced mechanical mods. The best thing about powerful mods is the battery life. With a pair of 18650 or 21700 batteries placed into the device, you could take more advantage of the wattage and voltage making the mod spill a hell-of-a-lot more vapor than you ever could from a pod system.
Here’s the catch, though: not all vapers want that.
All vapers aren’t created equal. Also, like myself, you could own a powerful kit, and also, a pod system (like the Caliburn, which I love). Different times call for different experiences. A pesky little thing called craving keeps me coming back to pod systems because of slight nuances in flavor I tend to prefer at times. Nuances I don’t receive from my “stronger” kit.
Don’t get me wrong, nothing beats summoning a cascade of billows with a ballsy mod and sub-ohm tank (like the Falcon - yum). But! It’s not something I seek to achieve all the time. You know what I mean: spilling so much vapor it looks like it’s gonna rain in your living room. Thunderclaps, and angels flap their wings as they fly by, and… okay. Too far? Yes, I took it too far.
One annoyance I have with mods and sub-ohm tanks is that they can get pricey. Whether it’s maintenance, batteries, replacing coils, this, this and that, or X, Y, Z. There’s always something to replace or upgrade. That’s all fun and games until you’re on-the-go, going for a drive, or trying to stealth vape (we’ll get into that in a moment!), and you’re stuck with an ostentatious, loud, device that delivers avalanches of cloud at the slight button fire.
Sometimes it’s better to carry a small, portable device boasting enough battery for an entire day. That is why pod systems can be a fantastic option. Most vape wizards and experts I know own advanced kits they treat better than their own children, but also carry a slightly more disposable pod system they can whip around more conveniently.
And that’s the key to it all: convenience, portability, nuanced flavor, cheaper price, only way to stealth vape, etc.
What is a Pod System?
The anatomy of a pod system is comprised of two parts: the pod and the battery.
The pod holds 2mL on average, but most companies are now increasing the e-liquid reservoir to carry more than that. For example, the super popular SMOK Nord boasts a 3mL pod.
The pods come in two forms — refillable and pre-filled. Refillable are the most convenient because you can simply refill at your leisure using only the flavors you prefer. Pre-filled pods are significantly pricier but more convenient if you’re in a fast-paced environment that doesn’t allow to break your pod apart and refill. These are simple snap-and-go cartridges.
It’s really up to personal preference. Mix and match, choose one, do both at the same time, or whatever you want. There are no rules against pod preference, only judgment from the snobs, but we don’t like the snobs. We want to round-house kick the snobs in the neck.
Pod kits, pod systems, and AIO vape kits (all-in-one) fall into the same category. Battery life ranges from 180mAh to 2000mAh. It’s hard to say exactly since it varies so much from brand to brand, but anything higher than that would require a more regulated device. For what the pods can do, anything higher than that is pointless, in my opinion.
As for the looks, they truly come in all shapes and sizes. Some look like cigarettes, and others look like a box with a spout sticking out. Some are designed to resemble a cigar, and others like a pipe. The market truly offers plenty of options, which is a good thing. I hear people complain about having too many pod systems. They are misunderstood creatures. People think they’re so similar from one another that they are pointless. But, if you’ve been playing with different pod systems, you know each brand and system feels like its own thing.
Some boast the right amount of flavor and others lack it. Some deliver crazy battery life, and then others die after 10 puffs (like the popular INFINIX, I don’t understand the craze over a pod that will die after 10 puffs - but that’s just me). Guess what? I have hardcore vapers who swear by the INFINIX because of its flavor and form-fitting mouthpiece.
See what I mean? It’s just a matter of nuance.
Pod Systems Price
My favorite part about pod systems is the price. For less than $20 you can get the high-end stuff. If it fails, or if you lose it, or if it gets stolen - buying another won’t break the bank (I’d hope).
A quick word on priming: similar to other devices with coils, you must also prime the coils in pod cartridges. You can also ruin a pod by taking a dry hit. Keep that pod nice and wet - that’s what she said.
Most pod systems feature a draw-activated firing mechanism, which means you simply pull and delicious vapor will roll into your mouth. There are other systems that require the press of a button.
After refilling your pod cartridge a few times, you may need to get a new one. The coils get gunky after several refills. You want to keep your vapor fresh and delicious, and the goo permeating your coils will definitely get in the way of that.
My only huge con against vape systems is the e-liquid reservoir. Even if the battery lasts all day, the e-juice won’t. And let’s face it, 2mL is a drop in the ocean for those like me who vape 0mg (or low nicotine levels). Coming from sub-ohm vaping and 6mL and up tanks, 2mL feels a lot less than it is. I am biased, though.
Then there’s the battery life, some pod systems nowadays can last a while, but if you’re coming from sub-ohm vaping - even 2000mAh is nothing. Let’s manage our expectations here and go back to the idea that pod systems are ideal for an experience that you can’t compare with sub-ohm vaping. It’s its own thing!
A huge benefit that pod systems consistently deliver around the world, is the ability to recreate the experience of smoking a cigarette. Cigarette addiction is not to be taken lightly, an the addiction itself can be broken down into many components, but the ritualistic aspect of lighting up a cigarette, reaching for it in your mouth, and puffing it, is a huge part. That is why plenty of smokers feel the need to hold something between their teeth (like a toothpick).
But with a pod system, you create a simulation of rituals. You get to choose the nicotine levels, flavors, and more. With the low price point and user-friendly design, a pod system is becoming one of the most effective NRTs (Nicotine Replacement Therapies). Although the vaping industry’s bestie: The FDA, doesn’t want to recognize it. *sad trombone*
Nicotine Salts in a Pod System
This is a tricky one. Vaping nicotine salts is made for pod systems, because if you use a sub-ohm tank for something as dense in nicotine as salt nic e-liquid, you can give yourself nicotine poisoning / overdose. In other words: do not smoke salt nics with sub-ohm devices!
Now that we know a pod system won’t allow you to cloud-chase, there’s a silver lining: great flavor, robust throat hits, and discreet clouds.
If you’re wondering what the hell salt nic means, it’s basically the nicotine’s natural state as it is in a tobacco leaf. Avoiding the chemistry class and the Wikipedia, it basically allows for high concentration e-liquids to become tolerable and tasty. Vaping a 50mg freebase e-liquid will give you a rough, if not disgusting, throat hit. But, if you vape 50mg salt nic e-liquid, you’ll experience something far more pleasant.
When I was curbing my cigarette addiction, I started heavy on salt nic juices. Some are fantastic, and some are blah. That being said, once you find your groove, you’ll be just fine.
Stealth Vaping with Pod Systems
Hmm, perhaps you’re at the movie theater and you’re craving a little hit of that delicious salt nic Churrios by Milkman. If you have a pod system handy, you can possibly sneak a tiny hit. Just kidding. . . Or am I?
Generally speaking, stealth vaping simply means vaping discreetly. It’s not sneaky vaping (for the most part). The goal of stealth vaping is to puff a cloud so imperceptible that nobody could give you crap for it. That being said, it is not recommended to vape where vaping is banned. Don’t get yourself in trouble!
Vaping is banned in places where smoking is banned, like hospitals, schools, airplanes, etc. Just an FYI to you, my friend. As we all know, the amazing folks at the FDA think of vaping as tobacco (and they make the rules, unfortunately).
Pod systems are ideal for discreet clouds because they have mouth-to-lung capacity, and the battery is not as strong compared to a proper mod. The vaping part is exactly as non-stealth, except it’s a lighter pull. This way you avoid bringing attention to yourself.
The cool thing about small puffs is that they have imperceptible aroma at times. This allows you to kick back, take a slight puff, taste the flavor, and nobody around you will notice. You avoid attention brought upon yourself and you can remain hidden in the shadows like a ninja.
Guide to Activating Stealth Mode
The art and science of stealth vaping: a guide to activating stealth mode.
- Get a pod system. The smaller the better.
- Draw in short bursts. Keep the vapor small enough to remain imperceptible.
- If your device has an LED light that lights up when you vape, cover it.
- Exhale downward.
That’s the science. That’s all you need to know. You’re a ninja now, Frodo.
Hold your horses, it ain’t over. You want to take it a step further? There’s something called ZERO VAPING.
Zero vaping means you inhale vapor but exhale ZERO vapor. Same as before, you want an easily concealable device. Don’t you even try to zero vape on a powerful kit. That ain’t gonna work. Try it, you’ll see what I mean.
Some pod systems make a loud gurgling noise, so make sure your device doesn’t - or at least keeps noise to a minimum. Expert zero vapers can sit next to you, vape, and you won’t have a clue. That’s how fun it can be for some people - frankly, it’s not my thing. I like a bit of cloud spillage.
Many people zero vape because of the stigma around smoking and vaping, regardless of the science on vaping as a legitimate smoking cessation tool.
Using a Pod System to Quit Smoking
Studies show the benefits of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool. Hundreds of case studies exist from websites like CASAA.org, demonstrating how former smokers utilized an e-cigarette, or vaping device, to quit smoking. Usually, in the form of a pod system or cigalike.
If you vape, you’re probably well informed with the facts. You understand nicotine harms and affects your health in many ways. Vaping isn’t 100% healthy. What we’re saying here is that it is a highly effective way to curb your addiction to cigarettes.
It appears that the more the device resembles a cigarette, the more likely the former smoker will attempt to quit. Nowadays, we have cigalikes, vape pens, pod systems, AIO, starter kits, etc. We have a plethora of options we shouldn’t skimp on.
If you’re seeking for a pod system to achieve this, it is recommended to use a rechargeable e-cig as opposed to a disposable one. Switching the consistent smoking with the consistent vaping is what you’re aiming for. If you’re a light smoker to begin with, then disposable devices should do the trick.
With the right pod system in your hand, you can manage your nicotine cravings all day long. The goal here is to edge out the addiction by reducing the nicotine levels until fully quitting becomes feasible without going cold turkey. Some people go cold turkey and it works, others edge it out and it works, too. Do whatever works best for you.
Going cold turkey has its dangers, though. Your nervous system develops an adaptive mechanism linked to your drug dependency. When removed, the whole system goes haywire. When quitting cold turkey, you can experience seizures and other life-threatening conditions. I’d recommend avoiding all that and start with a slow progression of edging out the dependency.
In England, there is a movement to get people to quit smoking that is being included in hospitals. So far, they don’t offer e-cigarettes as a prescription, but it appears to be moving that way. The NHS recommends e-cigarettes as a cessation tool.
The NHS (www.nhs.uk) is one of the most visited websites in the UK with over 40 million visits per month. I’d say they’re making strides in the right direction - I hope. Their OneYou website allows for people to read into addiction and provides help for quitting smoking, drinking, etc.
With forward thinking organizations like the NHS, we hope more information becomes available regarding the dangers of smoking and the benefits of vaping as a cessation tool. As of today, 2019, vaping isn’t considered a legitimate form of nicotine replacement therapy (despite all the data that supports it).
The CDC reports 390,000 annual deaths caused by smoking in the U.S. alone. Not to mention smoking related illnesses. Also, over 40,000 people die from diseases caused by secondhand smoking.
These numbers are staggering and depressing.
Quitting smoking is one of the hardest things to overcome. There are withdrawal symptoms, there are many addictive chemicals in each cigarette that play tricks with your body. Trying to quit it will give you awful withdrawal symptoms like headaches, depression, and insomnia. Another side-effect is increased hunger, which explains why so many people quitting smoking gain a lot of weight.
Quitting is seen as a feat of willpower. But it doesn’t work that way. At least not for 99% of people who try to quit. Going cold turkey is dangerous, so nicotine replacement therapies exist. Things like patches, gum, hypnosis. This is where pod system can come in.
SUMMARY: Pod Systems Pros and Cons
- Portability:Pod systems are compact and fit in your pocket - sometimes even the tiny pocket inside the pocket. What do you call that one? Apparently, they were designed for pocket watches. Now they’re used for pod systems.
- User-Friendly: The name says it all. You snap the pod into the battery and you’re ready to go - assuming the battery is charged and there’s juice in the cartridge!
- Cheap: They rarely pass the twenty-bone mark. When they do, it’s usually worth it, but I guess depends where you’re located and who you’re buying them from.
- Great Flavor: For those salt nic robust throat hits. Freebase e-liquid is good, too.
- Stealth: You can go full ninja on most pods, but you must choose wisely because some actually shoot crazy vapor.
- Short Battery Life: Sadly, most pod systems are below 800mAh and require plenty of recharges. Unless you’re a slow vaper, then this will be a problem.
- Anti-Cloud-Chasing: If you’re used to chucking clouds so big they look like pillows, and go down to a pod system seeking clouds? You’ll be left unsatisfied and not-smiling.
- Pre-Filled Cartridges are Limited: For those closed systems that only accept pre-filled cartridges, there is the limitation of flavor. If they only have six different flavors, you’re stuck with only those, forever, until the end of time.
Best Pod Systems
When it comes to pod systems, there are many different colors, types, and sizes you can choose from. I love it. There is always something that catches my eye (and lung?). But here are some of the best-selling pod kits that I’ve used.
They are selling fast for a reason - they’re great, and I own and use them all. Each entry is from a different brand for the sake of variety. I also don’t want you thinking I’m pushing a specific brand. I’m not. I’ll tell you right now, my favorite is the UWELL Caliburn. It’s included in the list, but it may not be your cup of tea.
I will also be avoiding the JUUL since it’s overly ubiquitous and you probably don’t need yet another article yapping about that damn thing.
Not necessarily the best for being stealthy, as this one has a 0.6ohm mesh coil. The flavor comes out fantastic, and the mouthpiece is comfortable and form-fitting. I have the white one and looks amazing. Also, the 1100mAh battery is a good one.
My favorite. It wouldn’t be if I didn’t always have my charger near me. The battery only offers 520mAh, which means more recharges. The aesthetic is great, the flavor is one of the greatest, and the way it snuggles between my fingers, it’s very much like smoking a proper cigarette - or even a cigar. Yum.
A powerhouse of sorts. Definitely not a stealth vape, this puppy holds up to 3mL of juice and a 1100mAh battery. The 0.6ohm coil kicks legit vapor and the flavor is off the charts. My only complaint is the look. I don’t like these square juice-box looking things. I prefer it when they keep a cigarette look. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still one of my favorites. It’s cloudy, boy!
This company makes decent pods. The battery is only 700mAh, but the coil is 1.2ohm and you can stealth vape with this one. It also betrays the e-cigarette aesthetic expectation so nobody will give you shit if they see you with this between your lips.
This one is very simple. Looks like your typical pod kit with a 500mAh battery. The flavor is good and stealth vaping is seamless. I really enjoy this one for being discreet. I moved on from it after switching from salt nic e-liquids, but it’s worth a mention. If it had a better battery, I would push this one a little harder, but 500mAh runs out quick, unfortunately.
That’s it. That’s all you need to get started. You can go down the rabbit hole from here and go nuts with other products. What will end up happening is you try one, then another, then another, then realize you prefer a certain type, and then find the right one!
Your soul mate.