It was back in 2008 when I bought my first vaporiser, and I was very disappointed at the time. As I was when I bought my second. Neither the IOLITE nor Thermovape performed well enough to stop them immediately gathering dust. The appeal was that you could consume cannabis discretely, and in situations where smoking wasn’t possible (cinema, train) this was a big deal. Of course, when in situations where I had access to my Volcano or joints, they’d win hands-down.
But as of last year there’s been a marked improvement in the quality of portable vaporisers. Arizer, famous for their Extreme Q home model, released the Solo, which is designed for individual use on the go, or even on the couch. Indeed, my £300/$450 Volcano unit has been relegated to the cupboard, as the Solo is quite simply tastier, more efficient, and much less hassle. I’ve had a month of using it and thought I now know enough to write a full review. If you wish to purchase the Solo, I recommend VapeFiend, which has the cheapest price, warranties, and free global shipping. Plus you’ll be supporting cannabis podcasts!
If you’re not convinced by vaporising in general, some time ago I put together a guide which lists the overwhelming benefits. Please take a look here and get to understand the health, security, and financial gains that come when you shift from combustion to vaporisation. This guide doesn’t cover everything in the official booklet, so please ensure you also read the basics in the manual (along with F*ck Combustion) for further details and tips.
The flavour achieved by the Solo is something which beats every other vaporiser hands-down. The use of a glass mouthpiece and direct draw seems to be a winner. Even my Volcano can’t touch this, as it relies on a plastic pathway and a balloon in which the vapour degrades slightly. Obviously, after a few draws the freshness and vibrancy of the weed dissipates, but that’s owing largely to the small chamber size, and it’s certainly no worse than the Volcano, let alone smoking.
The Solo is by far the most efficient means of cannabis consumption I’ve ever experienced. Not only does it trump ever wasteful pure weed joints, it’s even more efficient than my Volcano. At a guess i would say the Volcano was 3x as efficient as toking (i.e. I’d need 1/3rd the weed to get the same effect), with the Solo being a good 1.5-2x as efficient again. I think a lot of this has to do with the direct-draw nature of the beast; rather than having vapour degrade in a ballon, it’s going directly into the mouth and lungs.
Plus, the tendency is to only inhale precisely what you need for a good lungful. With the Volcano or even bongs, it’s easy to draw in a lot, only to spew it out before every last bit has been absorbed. If we combine clever temperature control we can maximise it further still. Speaking of the temperature control, if you wish to disable the annoying beeping sounds, press and hold the up arrow button on the Solo until it beeps. In future your unit should be totally silent.
An eternal issue with portable vaporisers is battery life, or perhaps even butane consumption, depending on the model. The advantage of butane is the ability to be away from a power source for weeks without needing a charge, but that’s about it. Otherwise we have a variations on rechargeable batteries. Models such as the Thermovape have a very clumsy system of reloading batteries, which don’t last for more than 15 minutes per pair. The Arizer Solo has a much more modern and powerful battery, which lasts for at least 90 minute of constant use, and could be stretched to several hours, if you have lots of gaps in between use.
To recharge from empty takes a matter of hours. I’ve not yet had to leave it for more than two hours, so I think that’s a reasonable guideline. The only downside of the process is the fact that it can’t be used while it charges, and also it has to be laid flat on its side in order to access the battery hole at the bottom of the unit. That is, if you use the standard 12v charger which comes with it. A strange quirk is that if you were to purchase a 9v equivalent you can vape directly while it’s plugged into the mains. Note that this will not simultaneously charge the unit, but merely power it during use.
Portability & Stealth
While there are smaller and lighter units on the market, the Solo packs the best all-round punch, in my opinion. The need to carry the glass mouthpiece separately could be an annoyance, but I’m guessing if you’re reading this guide it’s because you want quality first and foremost. It’s not the sort of thing you could whip out in a confined public space and not expect to be noticed, but it’s perfect for cinema or train use, for instance. There are two colours, and although I far prefer the silver, the black might be a better option if you wish to be extra stealthy.
The Solo is powerful enough to create genuinely large clouds of vapour, which is great from a user’s point of view, but it may also give the game away if you’re trying to sneakily take a few hits. Unlike with the old IOLITE, there is more of a discernible odour when in use. That’s not to say that people 20 feet away could smell anything, but certainly those within several feet will notice that odd popcorn-type smell. I doubt it would be obvious that it were cannabis, but if they see the entire ‘act’ they might think it’s a little suspect.
One of the great advantages of the Solo over something like the Volcano is how little maintenance and messing around is required. Rather than wrestling with a noisy bag and having to clean both plastic and metallic parts, we simply have to soak the glass mouthpiece in rubbing alcohol. This is best done for 2-4 hours, but you can get a reasonably clean stem after just 30 minutes, if you need it done in a rush. As part of purchasing the Turbo mouthpiece (see section below) you get a very solid plastic carrying tube, which doubles as a bathing device.
If you have one of these containers then just pop the stem in and fill it to the top with alcohol. Some people add sea salt so there’s an abrasive factor, but you can just agitate it via shaking, if you’d rather not. In lieu of one of these plastic tubes we can just use a container of suitable dimensions and leave it submerged. If there are any stains or oil left after soaking, something like a cotton ear bud should do the trick.
I’d recommend casually cleaning the mouth end of the mouthpiece every few days, with a full sheep dip taking place every couple of weeks. Alter this schedule depending on frequency of use. For instance, I follow the above pattern whilst consuming roughly 0.25g per day.
To load the Solo it’s best to put your stem into the upside-down unit, and then flip it once it’s secure. The first time can be difficult as the glass appears not to fit, but warm it for a few cycles and it’ll become easier. I tend to start on setting number 2 (185c), as that’s the lowest temperature at which the cannabinoids boil. A few deep (slow, for 8-10 seconds) draws at that level and then I move up to the next. As with any type of inhalation, there’s no need to keep it in your lungs for more than 5 seconds, as it has little added effect. All in all I would say that I tend to get around 10 draws from a full chamber.
The chamber itself is relatively small, but this helps us not overload the vape and waste our product. I find that a full chamber can range from 0.05g to 0.1g, depending on a number of factors, including how damp the weed is, to how tightly it’s packed. I tend to sprinkle weed into the chamber and then tap it until it drops into any gaps. Avoid squashing it down with your fingers or you’ll experience poorer air flow. I’ve found that there are certain sweet spots when it comes to generating vapour. If you inhale whilst slowly turning the stem, you’ll notice the noise changes as air whizzes through. The more of a ‘whoosh’ sound you hear, the better the chance of getting a good draw with less resistance.
Ensure that the Solo has stopped flashing and is at the required level before you attempt to draw vapour. It’s very fast to warm-up, but it’s easy to get caught out, especially if it has just turned itself off automatically (which is does every 12 minutes), so keep your eye on the LED display. If you wish, you can remove your stem between use; many people claim this stops waste. At most this would be just a little waste, but it’s waste nonetheless.
High Efficiency Mouthpieces
Before I’d purchased the Solo I was already aware of a number of specialist mouthpieces which were aimed at improving airflow. Apparently the original stems can require quite a lot of suction to produce vapour, although I haven’t tried mine since I went straight for the Turbo, which you can buy very cheaply here. The difference is that it comes with just a gauze, rather than having several cut-out pieces from a solid piece of glass. It’s estimated to improve airflow by 30%, and I’ve found it works perfectly for me.
If you want to save the expense, I recommend getting the standard kit and purchasing the Turbo piece later, if you find you’re dissatisfied with those provided by Arizer. Whichever you choose, I would recommend that rather than grinding material so fine that particles come up the mouthpiece (a problem even on the Turbo, and worse with the original stems), you tear bits off by hand and drop them in the chamber. It’s slightly messier, but it stops pieces being so small as to get through the holes and into your mouth. However, this does diminish the hit you receive, so if the particles aren’t an issue, stick to grinding.
Hash & Concentrates
Wow, hash in the Arizer Solo is wonderful. I’m really impressed. Sandwiched between some already-been-vaped weed, pancaked flakes go down a treat. This ensures that it’s not in contact with the heating element, nor likely to be sucked through the holes in the mouthpiece chamber. If you wish to use oils or waxes, I’ve heard that putting them on pieces of cotton wool or even cigarette papers slices are sure-fire ways to get a great hit.
This is quite simply a revolution in my household. I’d feared that given previous experience with portables, I’d never find anything suitable to replace smoking, or at least my home vaporisation unit. But for the first time in years, the Volcano no longer sits permanently next to my couch, but away in a cupboard. I might consider bringing it out if there’s a gathering of friends, but the Solo is so much better in every area that it has effectively been retired. There are other good units on the market, but this does the job of a portable and a home unit. I did have my eye on The Cloud, but having waited close to a year for it to be available outside of North America, I’m now so glad I didn’t waste $450 on something which probably isn’t much better than the Solo, and doesn’t offer anything in the way of portability.
If you’d like to hear more, check out Dopefiend’s hour-long review here.