Chil vapes stand out (for a price) in the treacherous landscape of vaping
So, let's talk about vaping.
Actually, maybe we better get this review out of the way first. When it comes to vaping cartridges, Chil is definitely near the top of the list. Chil sent us a starter kit for their Guava Glue distillate to try for this review (disclaimer: While they did send us a kit for testing, no other compensation was offered or received), and it performed beyond expectations -- it was easy to use, tasted excellent, and provided a great, reliable hybrid high. We enjoyed a little spark of creative euphoria combined with a happy, relaxed body feeling. Vaping in general is on red alert for safety concerns lately, but Chil's vape fortunately came marked with a sticker that showed which batch it came from and when it was manufactured and packaged, so we never once doubted that we could use it without a problem.
The one big downside is that Chil isn't cheap -- not only are you likely buying it from a licensed dispensary (which add taxes and licensing fees to the price — that’s the cost of legal weed, so far), but Chil specifically requires you to use a proprietary battery they created just for their carts, with a variable voltage modifier and a special air flow design. The battery is reusable with all Chil carts, but for the first one you'll need to buy a starter pack, which adds about $30 to the price for a total of around $80 or more in most places (for most carts, you can buy a compatible battery for about $10-15, and a cart for $40-$50, depending on the brand and quality).
We're not big fans of the cost or waste that adds to the package -- you're essentially locked into using their battery, and it doesn't work with any other carts. But the good news is that you get what you pay for -- Chil's vape was smooth and powerful, with a strong note of guava and some excellent effects. If you're going to be locked into using their battery, at least the vapes you can use it with are well-made and reliable.
There. Now that you know how we feel about Chil's product: Vaping. Let's talk about it.
Truth be told, we here at The Elegant Stoner had pretty much backed off of distillate/oil vapes entirely, even before the vaping illness started, and the CDC told all of America to stop vaping completely (which you should, but despite that warning, vapes like the ones Chil offers are still one of the most popular products at legal cannabis dispensaries in California and elsewhere).
Vaping is probably the most quick and convenient way to consume cannabis these days -- it's much easier and "cleaner" than actually smoking herb ("cleaner" in the sense that you only expel water vapor rather than cannabis smoke, and you don't have to deal with ash or stems), and it's quicker and often more convenient than using an edible.
Dosing is also a big pro of vaping, of course -- you can take a small hit for microdosing, or vapes like the ones Chil offers can pack a high sometimes as strong as an actual dab (where you use a heat source like an electric nail to vaporize cannabis-extracted oil or distillate — which is essentially how vape carts work, though in a much more constrained form). So whether you want a little or a lot, careful use of a vape will let you get exactly the dose you're looking for.
With all of those pros, however, the cons of vaping are a little harder to see. Obviously, while it's "cleaner" to vape from a cartridge rather than dealing with grinding and smoking herb, the oil in vapes isn't always "clean," as we're learning with the tragic deaths and hospitalizations around the vaping illness. Even oil that looks clear can contain pesticides, preservatives that could damage your lungs, or other toxic additives (we know that flower can contain pesticides also, though it's a little easier to smell and taste it on the plant than through the glass of a cartridge).
If you do go against the CDC's wishes and do buy and use a vape, you should at least make sure it comes from a licensed, legal dispensary -- those products, like Chil's, are often tested in a laboratory, and there's clearer documentation about who made the cart and where it came from, if, God forbid, something does go wrong. Nearly all of the cases of the vaping illness so far came from unlicensed vendors, so there is a big difference between buying a sealed, tested product at a licensed dispensary, and buying an unlabeled, opened cart from a friend who at least claims he bought it from a gas station in an illegal state.
(That's one more reason, by the way, why catch-all vape bans are a huge mistake. Vaping itself isn't the problem -- a lack of standards in the vaping industry definitely is. The FDA and the CDC haven't yet announced what exactly is causing the vaping illness, but once they do, the odds are very good that whatever it is won't be found in the tested cannabis products currently selling in licensed dispensaries in Oregon, California, and other states. Most of the cases, already, involved unlicensed products, sometimes even spiked with other drugs, in illegal states.)
But while being unsure of what's in your vape might be a great reason to stop vaping, it wasn't why we stopped. Our problem was that vaping is almost too easy -- any good battery (like the one Chil provides) can start up in just a few seconds, and give you a strong hit (or a few of them) within a minute or two. That's eventually why we decided to back off of vaping -- if you smoke flower, there's a ritual and a routine of smoking, and you have to be more mindful about what you're putting in your body (even if you're using a flower vape). But we found that vaping oil made the process much more mindless, and almost too easy to be worth it.
Vaping too much also lowers your tolerance and loses much of the joy of cannabis for us -- it's a shortcut to the high, rather than the experience with the plant and with friends that we're actually here for. Also, when you use flower, you get to smell it -- you get to open up the canister and take a whiff, or crack open the grinder and smell freshly ground herb. With a vape, you might taste the terpenes added in, but you're tasting something that's been processed, and then only through glass. Some vapes, like Chil's, taste great, but even then, they're often no substitute for the real thing.
So The Elegant Stoner decided, probably about the beginning of this year, that we were basically done with vaping. These days, it's flower or edibles for us. Vaping is the right fit for some stoners, but generally, we’re passing on it, both because of the state of the industry, and just because it’s not how we want to consume cannabis.
That's not to say that vaping doesn't have its place -- some people who need strong medicine for pain rely on vaping, and some stoners just enjoy it more (for the reasons described above). It can also be slightly "healthier" for your lungs, because you're just inhaling vapor rather than actual plant material, but please note the quotation marks around "healthier" -- putting anything in your lungs is never healthy, vapes included, and as the families of the people who've died from using unlicensed vapes will sadly tell you, what's in your vape could be much more dangerous than anything you'd find in a regular joint or pipe.
The science isn't yet in on just how healthy cannabis is, so anyone who tells you that it's healthier than smoking other things, or that vaping is definitely healthier than smoking, is either lying to you to sell something, or just uninformed. Even outside of vaping, we won't tell you that cannabis is healthy, but we will tell you that we definitely prefer the way it makes us feel (before and after use) as compared to other legal drugs like alcohol or nicotine. Cannabis (consumed in legal states by non-pregnant people over 21) may have some beneficial effects, but if you want to be “healthy,” you should never use drugs recreationally at all, and while you're at it, make sure you eat nothing but broccoli, oats, and water every day, and maybe run a dozen miles or so whenever you wake up in the morning, too. If you can do that, we salute you — we’ll be over here enjoying a joint.
Now, when Chil offered us this product for review, we did decide to try it, and our best recommendation is probably that we used up the whole thing -- it was very tasty, and again, this licensed and tested product is about as reliable as vapes get (if we had any doubts about the product's safety, you wouldn't be reading this review). But as good as it is, it probably won't make us consistent vapers again -- for us, vaping is just a little too far outside of the cannabis tradition for our taste. People have been smoking and consuming cannabis for centuries, and from our perspective (at least recreationally -- again, medicinal use is a whole other ballgame, and sometimes vaping is the only good solution for someone in that situation), vaping needs a little more time to perfect itself.
Chil is definitely doing their part towards that end, though. You can find them in licensed dispensaries in Oregon and California (and we've heard that they're also working on a cheaper, disposable version and also some drink packet additives, so we'll look out for those soon).
If you choose to go against the CDC's wishes and get yourself a vape, Chil is a great one to get (even if you'll be paying a bit more for the privilege). The battery is well-made, and the airflow feature does provide a little smoother and cooler hit than usual, but you’ll have to decide if it’s worth the extra cost, both in the price and in the reusability.
For our part, though, while it is a nice experience, Chil hasn't quite convinced us back into the vaping fold -- we'll be sticking with other ways to consume in the future. When you're dealing with professionally manufactured and tested products, vaping can be a very handy and easy way to partake (and hey, if another great product comes along for testing, we probably won't turn it down). But for the experiences that we enjoy the most, it's going to be flower or edibles rather than reaching for a vape pen again.