Sometimes it seems like cartomizers are the forgotten step-child in the vaping world. Clearomizers abound, and people love their rebuildable atomizers, but the carto just can’t seem to get the respect it deserves. I can’t tell you why that is, but I am here to suggest you give the little fluffy fellas another shot.
Like a lot of vapers, I started with the ubiquitous clearomizer. A Vision Vivi Nova, to be exact (and boy, am I glad that piece of crap is out of my life). Later I fooled around with drippers, but wasn’t ready for a long-term commitment. Somewhere in the middle of my discovery arc, I became carto-curious. Well, seeing the damn things are only a couple bucks each, why not buy a few for science?
I was hooked immediately. I felt like I had discovered a long-lost vaping secret. They had everything going for them: dependability, consistency, generous tank capacity, good flavor and good vapor production. Why didn’t more people use these things? I can only imagine it has something to do with the priming process, which can be a little frustrating for a beginner.
So What’s the Deal with Cartos?
There are two basic types of cartos: regular and flanged. You have to know which your tank requires. Flanged have a flange (skirt) on them. Go figure. “Regular” cartos do not have flanges. The flanges keep the cartos from pulling up from a tank, which is handy, but you can’t use flanged cartos in a locking tank. A locking tank locks a non-flanged carto in place. See? Simple!
I like non-flanged cartos paired with a locking tank, because they can’t move up or down. Flanged cartos can’t be pulled up, but they can move down. However! If you get a really good tank, with great o-rings (ibtanked, phiniac, etc.), even a non-flanged carto won’t budge. My suggestion: don’t bother with flanges.
Next… there are two carto lengths: regular (35mm) and XL (45mm). You’re gonna need to know that later.
There are also different carto resistances (because they are essentially a piece of non-resistance wire surrounded by wicking material, wrapped in a burrito-like tube). You can get them anywhere from 1.2Ω to 3Ω. I like 3Ω because I can use them in a mech without burning up the wicking material, but YMMV. I’d suggest you start with somewhere in the 2.5Ω range. (Note, actual resistance varies significantly, even within the same box. A box of five 3.0Ω cartos may have five different resistances, anywhere from 2.8Ω to 3.1Ω.)
Cartos are also available in single or dual coil varieties. My advice: don’t worry about that right now. It makes a lot less difference that you would think.
And finally, cartos need a hole in them if you’re using a tank (and you should be using a tank). Why? Because after you prime that sucker, you need to keep that glorious e-liquid saturating the wicking material. Basically, you surround the thing with juice in your tank, and let it seep in through the hole.
How does the hole get there, and how big should it be? Well, your grand-dad used to punch holes in his own cartos. Probably with some sort of farming tool, or a butcher’s knife. That’s just how they did it in the olden days. Today, you can still punch your own with various devices (including a hammer and nail), but it just isn’t worth it when you can buy pre-punched cartos. Say it along with me – BUY PRE-PUNCHED CARTOS. You can get them in single, dual hole, or slotted varieties. Stick with single or dual hole. And really, it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference which. They seem to work about the same. I go with whatever I can find cheapest.
I think that’s it. It’s not as tough as it sounds once you figure out what you want. The main thing to decide is if you’re going to go with flanged or non-flanged. After that, it’s cake.
Tanks, but no Tanks
OK, I’m not going to go into the priming process. That’s a discussion in itself. Trust me and use the “condom method.” Look it up on YouTube. Just be sure you include “carto” in your search query, or God knows what you’ll end up watching.
OK, you back? Now that you’ve got a nice, juicy carto, you need something to wrap around it to keep it filled with juice. You need a tank.
There are two basic types of tanks, and they correspond with the two basic types of cartos: flanged and unflanged. If you’ve got flanged cartos, you need a flanged tank. The bottom of the tank has a recessed bit to match the flange, which keeps it from moving about too much. If you’ve got unflanged cartos, you can still use a flanged tank, but it’s not a good idea (tanks designed for flanged cartos tend not to have strong o-rings, because they’re not necessary for prevent the carto from slipping out. Your unflanged carto will most assuredly slip out).
Unflanged tanks come in two types (OK, see, I lied. There are more than two styles). You’ve got your locking tanks and you’ve got regular old tanks with very strong o-rings. Locking tanks can work a couple ways. On the AGR locking tank, you simply thread the carto into the base, then the base threads onto your mod. Great design. Bulky, but great. The X8 locking tank uses a finger screw at the base to exert pressure on the carto, keeping it from gettng all wiggly.
The other style of unflanged tank simply uses strong o-rings to keep the carto in place. Yes, it can be difficult to get the carto in or out, and because of this, you’ll generally want a carto tool that helps slide the sucker in. It’s also important to lube those o-rings first (OK, this is getting racy). Good examples of this style are ibtanked, Phiniac and the Atmizoo Bayou. ibtanked fans are the worst – like rabid college football fans. They think they’re so damned great. But after sufficient flagellation, I succumbed to the way of ibtanked, and I now highly recommend them. Great tanks. I am one of them.
Oh, and one more thing; every tank I just described? They all come in standard (35mm) and XL (45mm) lengths, too, just to make things more complicated.
Death be not Proud
One other note on cartos. When they’re done, they’re done. You just throw it away. No cleaning, no reusing. You just prime a new one and go along your merry way. This bothers some people. To me, it tastes like freedom. There’s just so much less maintenance and hassle with a carto system. The damn thing costs $2 and it’ll last a week or two with no fuss. What’s not to love?
Cartomizer and Carto Tank Recommendations
I prefer unflanged 2.0ohm Boge cartos. That’s just me. That’s a good starting place, if nothing else. If you insist on flanges, get a UDCT locking tank. It’s the best I know of. I’ve given up all my flanged tanks, but I keep a UDCT around just in case.
If you take my advice and go with Boge unflanged cartos, I recommend either the AGR locking tank (very affordable, and includes both size tanks) or an ibtanked.
Tanks for the Memories
It’s a mystery to me why cartomizers and carto tanks have been unfairly ignored as the world of vaping progresses. Until a perfectly foolproof clearo tank comes along (not holding my breath) they are still my recommendation for new vapers. Carto tank systems offer a great mix of consistency, good flavor, good vapor and large tank capacity. They deserve your love.