Vape stars Storz & Bickel bring the Crafty to market a bit early, but you can't blame them — it's an excellent entry to the portable scene. (Ben Livingston, The Cannabist)

Crafty portable vape crushes competition (review)

Among vape manufacturers, few companies command as much respect as Storz & Bickel, makers of the Volcano. When inventor Markus Storz began shipping the device in 2000, it set a completely new standard for pot paraphernalia in terms of design ingenuity, manufacturing quality, functionality and safety.

For nearly 15 years, the Volcano has been the exemplar in the world of vaporizers, the archetype against which all future vapes are measured. Only recently did the Herbalizer raise the bar, and that was a near-million dollar development process undertaken by rocket scientists.

Being the best is a double-edged sword, of course. Every song you sing will be judged against that first hit single, every follow-up album against your debut. Every season they’ll reminisce about your rookie year, and they might even turn against you a decade later when you’re traded. (Damn you for decimating my most valuable teenage card collection, Ken Griffey Jr.!)

But it’s not fair to compare any portable vaporizer to a desktop king. That’s like comparing a two-seat mini car to a luxury sedan. The two-seater will never match the comfort and convenience of the sedan, but it’s still super fun to zip around in, and sometimes you want a smaller footprint or maybe just something different. A portable vape needs to be compared against the existing market of similar products.

For dry flowers or hash oil, the Crafty is a damn good portable vaporizer. It is far better than most products on the market, and it ranks in the top tier with portables like the Pax 2, the Firefly, and others.

The Crafty stands about 4.5 inches tall, 2 inches wide and 1.25 inches thick. The outside shell is black plastic, with ridges covering most of the body to help with cooling. The top of the unit swivels to detach, revealing a cylindrical herb chamber 1/2-inch in diameter and 1/4-inch deep. Pack the chamber, re-attach the swivel top, press the Crafty’s one and only button, and the unit powers on.

LED lights near the front face of the unit clearly indicate whether it is heating up — red — or ready to go — green. But even better, the Crafty vibrates when it is ready, which is great for stoners who turn things on and promptly forget about them. Bzzz! Time to get high! More than once I set it down and immediately lost it, then bzzz! Here I am!

Perhaps most importantly, the Crafty gives super good flavor, which indicates it has effective temperature control and components that aren’t off-gassing to the point of noticeably degrading your pot puffs. It creates nice clouds of vapor, and lightly browns the cannabis without scorching.

It’s USB powered — thank goodness! Why would you ever want portable paraphernalia that didn’t connect to the myriad cellphone chargers and USB cables likely littering your life? You can even run the unit while it’s USB connected and charging. It’s like smoking a bowl with your computer, which is not as fun as smoking a bowl with another human, but maybe that will change with Oculus Rift.

The Crafty grips snug and comfortable in the palm of your hand. It quickly feels familiar, like an old friend. The heating chamber in the front transmits minimal external heat to the hand since the plastic ridges provide substantial air circulation relative to its compact size. The heating element and the battery are separated by a few millimeters of space to more effectively dissipate heat and protect battery life.

The Crafty portable vape quickly becomes as comfortable as an old friend. (Ben Livingston, The Cannabist)

On the downside, the Crafty appears to suffer from a high percentage of defective units. Hundreds of pages on the FuckCombustion Crafty forum speak to the abnormal scope of the problem. Vape Critic is on his third unit and starting to get annoyed. It seems to be the least reliable product the company manufactures.

But Storz & Bickel appears to be standing behind the perhaps-premature-to-market Crafty, shipping replacement units under a two-year warranty that apparently resets with every Crafty (or repaired heat generator) they send you. So even knowing numerous users are bummed that their Crafty broke, many consumers still take the plunge because they feel insured for two years by the Volcano kings. Come the biennial, it’s quite likely those Germans can engineer a lower failure rate and longer life.

A host of other features are worth noting. It has smartphone software to tweak temperature, time and other settings — which I intentionally avoided, fearing any connection between my phone and my vape will make me dislike the vape as much as the phone. (I’m comfortable with the push-one-button setting, thanks.) It ships with screens, stainless-steel mesh pads for hash oil vaping, several replacement O-rings, and a grinder-like filling helper. And there’s a cool hologram logo on top that multiplies your magic powers when stoned.

The Crafty retails for $339 and can be found at VapeWorld, which kindly sent this review unit. If you trust Storz & Bickel will back their warranty should your Crafty go kaput, it’s a marvelous portable vaporizer.

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