Most new e-smokers enter the world of electronic cigarettes by purchasing an e-cigarette starter kit. Typically, these kits include batteries, atomizers or cartomizers for vaporizing e-cigarette liquid, charging accessories and enough liquid to keep you e-smoking for at least a week or two. There are many different choices to look at when you shop for an e-cigarette starter kit, ranging in price from under $15 to about $350. Within that price range, though, there is actually less variation in the products than you might think. While there are quite a few different types of e-cigarettes, the vast majority are made by a handful of manufacturers in China and shipped to various vendors around the world for resale. The differences are in the design elements, the accessories included with the e-cigarette starter kits and how much of a profit the vendors try to earn. One thing is for certain: unless you’re buying a USA-made e-cigarette, a starter kit should never cost more than about $60 unless it includes lots of accessories or some other special feature. For your money, here’s what you should expect your e-cigarette starter kit to contain — and if you’re still undecided about what to buy, get started by reading my article about the best e-cigarette for beginners.
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Essential E-Cigarette Starter Kit Items
An e-cigarette starter kit costing under $40 should include at least one rechargeable battery. If the cost costs over $40, it should include at least two batteries or a great selection of accessories. Keep in mind that the smaller a battery is, the less puffs you’ll get from it before it needs to be recharged. If you purchase an eGo e-cigarette kit with one 650 mAh battery, for example, it’s less of a big deal than if you purchase an L88B e-cigarette kit with one 90 mAh battery. An L88B e-cigarette kit should really include a portable charging case unless it costs under $20.
At minimum, an e-cigarette starter kit should include a charger that allows you to recharge your batteries from your computer’s USB port. Because USB chargers are small and most e-cigarette batteries are designed to accept USB power, many e-cigarette kits include USB chargers as their only charging accessories.
Most of the e-cigarette kits sold today include refill cartridges called cartomizers, which contain both e-cigarette liquid and the heating coil to vaporize it. When the liquid in a cartomizer is exhausted, you can simply throw the cartomizer away and use a new one, so you get the same level of vapor production whenever you use your e-cigarette. Some vendors advertise their refill cartomizers as being equivalent to up to two packs of cigarettes each. That might be true if you smoke ultra-lights, but for most people one cartomizer is comparable to a little under one pack of cigarettes. So, the more cartomizers an e-cigarette starter kit includes, the better. If you buy a kit that includes five cartomizers — as many do — you’ll probably need to order more within the first week.
Atomizer and Tanks
If you buy an eGo e-cigarette like the one pictured at the top of this article, your kit may include at least one atomizer and several empty or filled tanks instead of a box of cartomizers. In this type of e-cigarette starter kit, the atomizer is a semi-permanent item. You’ll need to buy a new one every couple of months, but until then, you’ll add liquid to the e-cigarette simply by removing and refilling the tank. Tank systems for e-cigarettes tend to hold quite a bit more liquid than cartomizer-based systems. Note: an e-cigarette starter kit that includes an atomizer and disposable cartridges — not the same as tanks — is usually one you should stay away from. Find out why in my article comparing e-cigarette cartridges and cartomizers.
A warranty may not be a tangible item, but it’s one of the most important things an e-cigarette starter kit can include and one of the areas in which starter kits sold by different vendors can vary most widely. I’ll give you an example; people shopping for the Lavatube sometimes wonder why so many people buy it from Volcano when other vendors charge a few dollars less for Lavatube clones with similar features. The difference is the warranty; Volcano guarantees its hardware for one year, while vendors selling Lavatube clones tend to offer three-month warranties — or less. I’d spend a few extra dollars and buy the product with the better warranty.
Optional E-Cigarette Starter Kit Items
Wall and Car Chargers
If you’re willing to spend a bit more on a premium e-cigarette kit, you should look for a kit with at least one alternative charging method in case you don’t always want to charge your dead batteries with your computer’s USB port. Car chargers allow you to charge your batteries on the go, and wall chargers keep your computer’s USB ports free for other peripherals.
A USB passthrough allows you to continue e-smoking even if all of your batteries are dead. Simply connect it to your computer’s USB port, connect a cartomizer to the threading at the end of the passthrough and enjoy. A second benefit of USB passthroughs is that many are five-volt devices, while standard e-cigarette batteries are 3.7 volts. The difference usually isn’t dramatic, but you may get slightly more vapor out of a USB passthrough than you would with the e-cigarette battery it replaces.
You invest good money when you buy an e-cigarette starter kit; you probably don’t want the batteries to get scratched up from rubbing against keys and other items in your pocket or purse. A carrying case provides some protection for your e-cigarette on the go.
A portable charging case provides a hard shell to protect your e-cigarette. In addition, it has its own internal battery, giving you the ability to recharge an e-cigarette battery that dies when you’re unable to get to a USB port or power outlet. A portable charging case can usually charge a dead battery three or four times before its own battery dies and must be recharged from a USB port. A portable charging case usually adds $20-30 to the cost of an e-cigarette starter kit.