What is a dab pen and how to use one

Published on July 8, 2021 · Last updated May 9, 2024
cannabis dab pen
A dab pen. (Ayehab/AdobeStock)

Dabbing can be a complicated, labor-intensive process. It can also look daunting or scary to the unfamiliar, especially if using a torch, and it’s not a very portable option—most dab rigs need their own spot in a home, although some can go in a backpack.

So for those who love dabs but don’t want to deal with the hassle of setting up a rig, there is an option: Try a dab pen. 

What is a dab pen?

A dab pen, also called a wax pen, is a device that sits between a vape pen and a dab rig. Usually resembling a thick vape pen, they allow you to easily inhale cannabis concentrates.

Wax pen pros and cons

So why not use a vape pen? The oil in a vape cartridge is usually concentrate that has been diluted with other ingredients, so they are less potent and flavorful.


Dab pens are for people who want the flavor and potency of a concentrate but don’t want to deal with the process of dabbing, or want a more portable and discreet way of dabbing.

Dab pens are self-contained—they have an oven or bowl which heats concentrates, getting rid of the need for a torch, nail, or water for a dab rig. Just load in some concentrate, screw on the mouthpiece, and puff away. Depending on the model of dab pen and the concentrate used, you might still need a dab tool to get the concentrate into the oven.

Dab pens also allow you to pick your concentrate, and choose a specific type, texture, and quality. You can also set the exact temperature and choose the amount you want to dab.

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One potential drawback to dab pens: Dabbing is all about flavor, and although dab pens have adjustable temperature settings, some dabbers feel temperature can be dialed in better with a dab rig.  

Types of dab pens

Dab pens come in various sizes, but they usually resemble a thick vape pen. They have a mouthpiece like a vape pen, but no cartridge with oil—concentrate is placed directly inside the pen.

The mouthpiece usually unscrews, revealing the oven or bowl, and they have a button to turn on and adjust temperature, which needs to be pressed when inhaling, similar to a vape pen. 

Dab pens typically utilize conduction heating—a small oven inside the dab pen heats up, and concentrate is applied directly to its surface. This differs from vape pens, which usually rely on convection heating—a coil heats air, which then vaporizes cannabis oil, with no direct contact.  

A good example of a dab pen with a bowl is the Puffco Plus

In some older dab pens, concentrate is placed directly on coils that heat up, but this can scorch dabs, ruining terpenes and flavor, and lead to a burnt taste.

Ovens, often ceramic, will evenly heat concentrates to avoid scorching. They also produce consistent draws, tastier vapor, and make the dab pen easier to clean.

How to use a dab pen

Dab pens are designed to be simple to use. Before getting started, be sure it’s charged and you have the temperature set to your desired preference. Temperature can be adjusted with the power button. 

Many dab pens require a dab tool to load concentrate into it—this can be tricky because they are small and some dabs are sticky, gooey, drippy, or messy.

You’ll need some finesse to get dabs into the oven of the pen, and be sure to only get it in the oven and not the rim. If you refrigerate dabs, leave them out for a few minutes to warm up before loading.

After the pen is loaded up with concentrate, just click the button and inhale.

Every dab pen is different, so be sure to read the instruction manual for how to change the settings or any other important information you need to know.

How to clean a dab pen

Most dab pens are easy to clean, and ovens can be wiped out with a Q-Tip soaked in rubbing alcohol. You may be able to soak the mouthpiece in a jar of alcohol, but be sure to check the instruction manual to see if you can, and for other cleaning tips. 

Some people clean their dab pen after each bowlful of concentrate has been completely vaporized, but at the least, it’s recommended to clean it out at the end of each session. It’s a good idea for the oven to be a little hot when you wipe it down, but not at a high temperature.

Dabs can be sticky so it’s important to clean your dab pen regularly to ensure it functions properly and has a long life.

Troubleshooting dab pens

Always make sure your dab pen is fully charged. The most common cause of a dab pen that doesn’t work is a dead battery. 

If the pen turns on but you can’t draw through it, it could be clogged. You may need to clean out the mouthpiece or the oven to get a clean pull.

Each dab pen model is different, so always check the instruction manual to see if the company has any other tips or tricks on troubleshooting specific problems.

Adam Pallay contributed to this article.

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