I’d been smoking my dried cannabis flowers from a spoon pipe for decades. There are so many great portable vaporizer solutions on the market now, so I figured it was time to give my lungs and throat a break and make the switch.
My research lead me to two options: the Firefly 2 and the Pax 2. Both of these are beautiful, but neither is cheap. Whilst exploring a recent cannabis industry event, I stumbled across the Amsterdam based Vapo Shop. It just so happened they had both devices on their stand. They kindly showed me how to load each and gave me a brief rundown of these two high-tech, portable vapes. I pitched them this piece, and they kindly provided the Firefly and hooked me up with the EU distributor for Pax – Xtreme – to enable me to do an extended test. I’ve been using the Pax 2 and Firefly 2 for around six weeks now to find out which is king of portable vapes.
These vapes are new to me, as is vaping in general. It’s been a learning curve in which I’ve had to change my cannabis consuming habits.
I have to say, my stash box is much cleaner. I no longer need to venture outside or sneak around – like a stereotypical dodgy drug addict – as there is no strong odour when these devices are used. I need to pre-empt what I will be consuming, as the ground herb lasts longer in the oven of the vape. With a pipe, I tended to finish it off in one go and empty for the next hit – which is great for someone who likes to mix their sativa and indica strains. With a vape, this is much harder. My solution to this is to put indica dominant strains in the Firefly and sativa in the Pax, for reasons I’ll explain later. I can consume in places that I would never have dreamt of in the past – on trains, in shops, walking openly in the street, and even in bed before closing my eyes to sleep.
In all, I’m sold on the idea of portable vapes and would only switch back to my trusty pipe in the event of an extended power cut. So here’s my take on each vape, followed by my conclusion. I have only tested with herbal material as quality concentrates are not easy to come by here in Belgium.
At $329.95/€369, the Firefly 2 is the more expensive of the two. It is larger – and slightly less portable – when compared to the Pax 2, but hardly too big to slip in your pocket.
I have to be honest, under my current budget I would never buy this product. Not because I don’t think it is worth it, but because I simply cannot afford it. It’s the same reason I drive a Toyota and not a Porsche. That said, I’m probably not the intended target market as it is clearly for those who have the money to buy the best.
The Firefly heats your herb differently than the Pax to release the essential cannabinoids and terpenes. The Firefly 2, as with the original Firefly, heats the air before it passes through your herb – meaning that the herb is only heated as you inhale – whereas the Pax actually heats the oven containing the herb. Budding cannaisseurs will appreciate this as I found the resulting taste of the vapour to be cleaner. It makes sense that you would get more draws because of this, and I found this to be true.
Although the Firefly 2 is the larger of the two vapes, personally I prefer the aesthetics – worthy of display in a design museum. When it is dark enough you can see the bowl containing your herb lighting up as you vape, which is reminiscent of my pipe smoking days.
Using the Firefly 2
To use the Firefly 2, you grind your herb, remove the top – which is held in place by very strong magnets – put your herb in the bowl and replace the top panel. You then put your fingers over two sensor-like buttons (one on either side) and wait a few seconds for the flashing green light to turn a solid green (which happens quickly). If the light turns red, then the battery needs recharging.
To find out if the battery is low you can tap three times on the right sensor or connect to the app. Tapping on the device is handy to get quick feedback on battery level but I’m not sure how accurate it is. One time I was getting feedback of three blue blinks – indicating that the battery was 75% charged yet it was still unable to vape. I would have preferred some kind of signal earlier to let me know I was not going to get the hit I was anticipating. Maybe if the red light were to come on automatically when the battery is too low to fully heat to the set temperature. Charge time is quick, so a few minutes on the supplied dock will allow you to get that hit you wanted. The dock comes with a USB cable so there are a few options to hook it up to power.
It came with a spare battery, which would be useful for an extended trip without electricity – like camping or a road trip – but I have never had to switch batteries. The battery seems to last for ages and, as I predominantly use it at home, it is never far from the dock.
The app gives you the ability to change the temperature and fiddle with the functionality of the buttons that activate the vape. I really don’t see why anyone would do this – it could be useful to those with reduced dexterity in their hands due to injury or illness, I suppose. The ability to change the temperature is cool and connecting my iPhone to the device was easy. I tend to start on a lower temperature then give it a blast on high temperature towards the end to ensure all the cannabinoids have been used (when I can be bothered to connect the app to my phone).
Firefly 2 Summary
I love the way this thing looks, and the fact that when you use it, it is emotive of smoking a pipe. I also enjoy the quality of the vapour it produces. Seeing your herb being vaped is a nice touch too. As mentioned, I would have an issue with the price point, but that is not due to it being overpriced for what you get. As this seemed the best of the two vapes for home use, I tend to keep it loaded with a nice indica for a relaxing evening.
Please note: Since I started testing, Pax have brought out the Pax 3. The new version offers a faster heat time, quicker charge time, haptic feedback and a few more accessories in the box all at the same price point the Pax 2 used to be. The Pax 3 also offers connectivity to an app via bluetooth, the same as the Firefly 2. At the time of writing, the Pax app is not yet available. Pax 2 comes in the same form factor as the third iteration.
The Pax 2 is now available for $199.99/€189 – reduced from $274.99/€259 as the Pax 3 is now on the market for the original price. Although nearly half the price of the Firefly, it does offer a solid alternative.
I already mentioned that the way the Pax heats the herb differs from the Firefly. This is my main issue with this device. I found that the herb didn’t last as long as you are heating it for longer and releasing cannabinoids and terpenes which are not being inhaled. It also sometimes gave off popcorn-like smells from my pocket when not in use.
Aside from that, it’s a pretty nifty device. The form factor is ideal for taking it out on the go. The design is subtle and, unless you know what it is, you would never guess it was a vape. The Pax 2 does not have connectivity to an app like the Pax 3.
Using the Pax 2
To use the device, you pop open the oven – which is located on the bottom – and load up your ground herb and depress once on the top button (which also doubles as the mouthpiece). I stuck with the default flat mouthpiece, but a different shaped one came in the box as well, in case you prefer.
Once you depress the button, the lights on the front whirl around for about 90 seconds and then turn green. Green means “go” and you can take your draw. With the Pax 3, this 90 seconds is reduced to 15, which would make all the difference – 90 seconds seems like a very long time when you are ready to have a toke. Everyone around you is already getting stuck into their joints and pipes; it was like watching a kettle boil. It meant I have to pre-empt my toke and if I got distracted, I was sometimes cooking my herb a lot longer than I had hoped – wasting the good stuff.
As with the Firefly, the Pax comes with a dock and a USB cable. Curiously, the cable is less than half the length of the Firefly, which meant I had to exchange for another USB cable in order for it to sit on my bedside cabinet and plug into the wall. Not a big deal, but seems a strange place to cut a few cents in the cost. The battery is not removable, so there is no spare.
Changing the temperature of the oven is done directly on the Pax 2, so no need to connect to an app. You can also check how much battery is left on the device, which is great, and the battery seems to last a very long time.
Pax 2 Summary
I appreciate the fact that you can change the temperature and check the battery without having to connect to your phone. I love the stealthiness of this vape and the small form; this means it is the one that I always take out with me on the road. The 15 second heating time would probably mean I’d prefer the third iteration of the Pax over the Pax 2, though at the reduced price, the Pax 2 is more reasonable. As this is my going out and day-time vape, I keep it loaded with sativa dominant strains.
Both these vapes have their own strengths. In an ideal world – which somehow I seem to be residing in – you would have one of each. The Firefly 2 to use when savouring your herb and the Pax 2 (or 3) to take out to the club or work.
If I was forced to let one go, it would have to be the Pax. This is because the vapour tastes better through the Firefly and the glowing bowl is just so mesmerising. However, given the high price point of the Firefly, I can see why someone would choose the Pax over it to begin with and they would be wholly satisfied.
If you are on the go a lot and not completely loaded, then buy the Pax 2. If you are a cannabis nerd who keeps your weed in labelled glass jars and are likely to vape at home (or someone else’s home) I would recommend the Firefly 2.
If you had the opportunity to have both, you would definitely use them both.