Updated Aug 2020 by Lee Johnson
I didn’t used to care about vapour clouds and sub-ohming at all.
For me, vaping was all about getting nicotine and feeling that comforting punch at the back of my throat that reminded me of smoking.
But somewhere down the line, things changed.
As I moved further away from smoking and got accustomed to vaping, producing sizable clouds of vapour started to seem more and more appealing. I’ve never been a full-fledged cloud-chaser, but the wispy vapour from pen-sized and cigalike devices started to feel like it just wasn’t enough.
So I took some tentative steps towards increasing the vapour production from my device. Over time, as I tweaked my setup and learned more about vaping, I started to put out some serious clouds.
I won’t be winning a cloud competition any time soon, but the key lessons vapers have learned over the years are enough to make your clouds as big as you like.
However, many posts on improving vapour production focus on rebuilding, and not all vapers are interested in wrapping their own Clapton coils or fretting about the surface area of their builds. Modern sub ohm tanks are about as far as more casual vapers are interested in going.
So, if you want to produce massive clouds of vapour, but are not particularly interested in rebuildable mods, this blog post is for you.
Together we’ll explore the devices, techniques and the juice that you need to maximise the vapour from your electronic cigarette.
What’s the best type of vape tank for cloud vaping?
While smaller vape tanks like the Innokin Zenith D22 are great for everyday, and more discreet use, to get really big clouds, you’re going to need a low sub ohm tank with a low resistance coil.
One of my favourite tanks for clouds is the Falcon II from HorizonTech. It features mesh coils, but specifically “fan” mesh coils, and this drastically improves the vapour production from the tank. Mesh coils are basically strips of metal with holes punched throughout them, a bit more like a cheese grater than what you might picture when you think of mesh. This gives a lot of surface area to vaporize your juice, while the thinness of the material means the resistance is still very low and it heats up quickly.
That’s why mesh coils are so popular among cloud-chasers right now. The “fan” mesh coils in the Falcon take the basic formula but improve it by adding a conical shape, which concentrates the vapour before it reaches the mouthpiece. This boosts the flavour you get as well as the improvements to the vapour production that come with any mesh design.
Other good alternatives include the Innokin Plex tank (another mesh device) and the Smok TFV12 Prince (which has tons of multi-coil atomizer heads to choose from).
To use sub-ohm tanks like these, you need a battery powerful enough for sub ohm resistances, which we cover further down in this post.
How to set airflow settings for maximum vapour clouds
More airflow means more cooling capacity and more vapour. The more air you can get over your coil, the lower you can keep the temperature. The temperature should be low enough so that you do not burn your wick due to excessive power, or insufficient airflow.
Keeping the temperature low minimises the risk of burning your wick because it keeps everything cooler, but also brings a fresh flow of air into the mix and encourages condensation of the vapour into a cloud.
By increasing the air going over your coil, you’re giving your device the chance to make more vapour.
As e-liquid is vaporized, the space above the coil becomes “saturated” with vapour, and the only way more can be created is if some condenses back into e-liquid. This effectively prevents new vapour from being created if your airflow is completely closed off (or close to it).
Having air flowing rapidly across the coil removes this “old” vapour and allows it to be replaced by “new vapour.” This means you get more vapour than you would with less airflow, because you’re providing a constant supply of fresh air to be filled with vapour.
This is really only one of the reasons vapour production increases with more airflow, though.
Another, more important factor – explained excellently in an old ECF post – is that when you vape, it’s not really “vapour” you’re visibly exhaling. It’s actually an “aerosol,” which means a mist of liquid droplets. In other words, condensation is actually what you need for big clouds, as long as you have enough air to pull the condensed aerosol out of the chamber.
The airflow over your coil cools down the vapour, and this makes it condense into liquid droplets. So the more airflow you have, the more condensation there is and the more visible “vapour” (i.e. aerosol) you produce.
The extra airflow also “dilutes” the vapour with more air, which has the effect of puffing it out. It’s been compared to cotton candy – the more air that’s in the mix, the bigger and fluffier it seems. You can go too far and get wispy vapour, but in most cases, more air is a good thing for cloud-chasing.
The adjustable airflow on the Cleito 120 Pro, the TFV12 Prince and other devices allow you to match the cooling air over the coil to the heat generated by the power from the battery (particularly important for regulated mods).
But before you run off and start drilling the air holes in your CE5 (which we don’t recommend you do, ever), there’s another important ingredient.
Adjusting your power settings for maximum clouds
The simple lesson here is that more power generates bigger clouds.
If you vape at 60 W you’ll get much bigger clouds than when you’re vaping at 30 W, as long as it’s with the same tank and e-juice. It seems easy (and it is), but there are a couple of other things to bear in mind before you go cranking it up to 100 W.
When you increase the power flowing through the coil (in your tank), you increase the amount of heat generated, which is one of the reasons you need that extra airflow.
Some people do like hotter vapour than others, but most will want to counterbalance that heat with some extra air. There is no right or wrong way to vape, though, so just experiment and see what you like best.
But the decision to increase airflow has other consequences too. The airflow plays an important role in the tightness of the draw. Less air will give more resistance (and feel more like puffing a cigarette), more air will give an airier vape.
Again, vapers’ preferences for airflow vary, so you should experiment a little to find what you like.
To choose a specific power setting, you need to consider your choice of tank too.
Although you should use a sub-ohm tank (which can all cope with higher power) for cloud-chasing, not all of the coils in your tank are rated for the same power settings. The suggested settings are usually printed on the coil itself, and these are a good guide to the power you can put through them.
The guidelines are there for a reason. It usually struggles with wicking or the vapour gets uncomfortably hot towards the upper end.
However, they aren’t set in stone, so if you find yourself wanting more vapour, you can always try out some higher settings. We don’t recommend going too far above the recommendation (you’ll probably get some dry hits), but really it’s all about your preferences.
The bottom line is; for big clouds, you want maximum airflow and plenty of power. This is where regulated mods and big batteries come in.
Which battery should I use for cloud chasing?
Your choice of battery is important. A regulated mod can provide variable voltage and variable wattage, giving you a wide range of settings to explore.
On the other hand, simpler devices often use a fixed voltage. Both types of device can work for cloud-chasers, but mods with variable wattage are usually preferred.
The more you are able to adjust the power range on your battery, the more you can fine-tune the battery to your tank and air resistance to hit your vaping sweet spot.
This is because the more you are able to adjust the power range on your battery, the more you can fine-tune the battery to your tank and air resistance to hit your vaping sweet spot.
The MVP 5 Mod by Innokin is an excellent choice for cloud-chasing vapers, with 120 watts of power to play with. It includes temperature control with nickel, titanium and stainless steel coils, which is great feature in its own right (although not too important for increasing vapour production).
The mod also incorporates an impressive 5000 mAh battery, which will keep you vaping for well over a day.
If you want even more power, the Smok G-Priv 3 is one of several mods which can fire up to 220 watts and is compatible with two replaceable 18650 batteries.
Variable wattage or variable voltage?
When using a regulated mod, we would recommend variable wattage over variable voltage, as it adjusts the voltage input automatically to account for the resistance of the coil. Think of the voltage as like the initial push your battery gives, and the wattage as the power that makes it through your coil: adjusting the voltage works, but it’s much easier to just say the wattage you want at the end and let the mod figure out all the details.
In other words, if you vape at 4 V with a 0.5 ohm coil and with a 1 ohm coil, the vapour production and performance will be different with each coil. But it you vape at 50 W on both coils, the performance will be consistent.
For more about the differences, see:
To find the sweet spot for clouds with a regulated mod in variable wattage mode, follow these steps:
- Start on the maximum airflow setting and a low wattage, towards the bottom end of the range suggested on your coil.
- Take a few drags on the device.
- If the vape is not too hot and you don’t get dry puffs, increase the wattage (by 3 to 5 W) and repeat steps 2 and 3
- When the vapour starts getting too hot or you experience dry puffs, dial back the wattage to the last good setting
You should increase the wattage slowly and always start low. If you start at too high a wattage, you can burn the wick giving a horrible burnt taste. Once the wick is burnt, you cannot get rid of the taste and will have to replace the coil.
We mentioned above that everyone’s perfect vape is different, and you might prefer a cooler or a warmer vape. It is worth spending some time adjusting these settings to your liking.
Higher wattages are better for vapour production, but you can still account for your preferences and get tons of vapour.
How does coil resistance affect vapour production?
The resistance of the coil plays an important role in the amount of vapour that can be produced by your e-cig.
The lower the resistance, the easier it is to achieve high temperatures. Furthermore, a lower resistance coil will reach the higher temperatures required to produce more vapour more quickly.
Although low resistance has a big part to play in this, some wire types also heat faster than others. In general, the bigger 120 Pro (or more structurally complicated) the wire, the longer it takes to heat up. The same is true for complicated arrangements like twisted coils or alien coils: they tend to have more wire in their structures and so they take longer to heat up too.
So for something like the Aspire Cleito, which uses Clapton coils, the “ramp up time” will be longer than with a basic coil type. Even if the resistance and wattage are equal, thicker wire takes longer to heat up.
Low resistance coils can generally cope with high wattages better than higher-resistance ones, but with a high-power e-cig, you don’t necessarily need the resistance to be too low.
As long as the tank can keep up with the wicking demands of high-wattage vaping, you can get great vapour production on higher-ohm coils too.
That said, with sub-ohm clearomizers being so common, as long as you have a capable battery there’s not much reason to choose a higher-resistance one. Unless you prefer a tighter airflow (which is more common with higher-resistance coils), sub-ohm clearomizers are the way to go.
In some cases, you can upgrade the coils in your tank without changing tanks. For example, for the Smok TFV12 Prince, you get some good coils with the device when you buy it, but you can also pick up “strip” coils which are effectively like mesh. These have a 0.15 ohm resistance (which is great for vapour production for the reasons discussed above), and their design also maximises both flavour and vapour.
Sub-ohm vaping is the terms used for vaping with a coil below 1 Ω. Because the resistance of the coil is so low, it is an excellent way to produce massive clouds of vapour.
When sub-ohming, you must use a battery that has a high enough discharge rating for low resistances, such as the Innokin Kroma-A or the others referenced above. If you’re using a mod with a separate battery, you need to ensure the battery you choose has a high “continuous discharge limit.” This tells you how many amps of current the battery can safely provide.
Anything over 20 A will be more than enough for most purposes, but it’s important to use Ohm’s law calculators to check the current your setup will be pulling if you’re not sure.
You should always stay within your battery’s limit, ideally comfortably within them. There’s more info about this in a post on Vaping360, if you’re interested.
The best e-Liquid for clouds
The e-liquid you choose will make a difference in the amount of vapour produced.
More PG – More throat hit
More VG – More vapour
Whether you are using a CE5 or a sub-ohm tank, the ratio of PG to VG will make a big difference to the quantity of vapour produced.
It’s important to know that when you go beyond 50% VG, the e-liquid can become quite thick which which can cause problems in some tanks. This isn’t usually a problem with sub-ohm tanks, though.
For big clouds, choose an e-liquid with a 50/50 PG/VG ratio, or higher VG. High PG e-liquids are not good for producing lots of vapour and can be quite harsh on your throat.
E-liquid strength is also important when using lower resistances. When I use something like the Innokin Zlide tank with the 1.6 Ω coil,, I use a 1.8% e-liquid. On the Cleito 120 Pro Atlantis and other sub-ohm tanks, I use 0.6%. That’s a big difference in strength.
The bottom line is: when you produce more vapour, you get more nicotine, so you should adjust your nicotine strength to compensate. Some e-liquids come in 0.3 % nicotine for this reason.
For inspiration, take a look at our list of Best E-liquids for Clouds.
Inhaling technique – when you’re not sucking hard enough
Yes, I just used that title! To get lots of vapour, you need enough airflow to cool the coil and help your cloud condense. Even when the airflow setting on your tank is at maximum, it’s no good if you’re not inhaling enough to make use of it.
When I’ve given a low resistance device to a friend who is more used to basic tanks, 9 times out of 10 they will not inhale enough and start coughing.
They’re using the same device with the same wattage and airflow, but while I’m happily blowing clouds, they’re often left coughing. Why?
If you don’t inhale (suck) hard and fast enough, you won’t get enough air over the coil to cool it sufficiently, the coil heats up and the vapour can get uncomfortably hot.
It seems counter intuitive, but the harder you inhale, the less harsh the vape will be. Once you’ve got over this, it’s easy.
For more info, see our full guide to vape inhale techniques.
Great vape kits for clouds
With sub-ohm tanks being everywhere these days it’s quite easy to find a good vape kit for clouds, but the Geekvape Obelisk 200 kit is a great choice. Although surprisingly compact, the device is powered by two 18650 and can push up to 200 watts of power. It’s also paired with the excellent Zeus tank.
An alternative is the Innokin Proton Mini Ajax, which doesn’t put out quite as much power at 120 W, but is paired with the 2 ml Ajax tank, along with 0.16 ohm and 0.35 ohm coils. These are 3D Plexus coils, which aim to increase the surface area even further compared to standard mesh or Plexus coils. The Proton Mini also has an in-built 3,400 mAh battery, which is comfortably enough for a day of use.
Conclusion – Things are going to get cloudy
Getting massive clouds of vapour is a huge topic, but this post covers the key things you need to think about when it comes to tailoring your vape.
As we’ve stressed several times, the important thing is getting the right amount of vapour for your preferences: there is no “wrong” way to vape, and you don’t need dense, billowing clouds to enjoy vaping. So it’s important to balance your vapour production against your other preferences, especially when it comes to the tightness of the draw, throat hit and flavour.
The key piece of advice is to experiment.
Try out a higher-VG e-juice and see if that satisfies your cloud-chasing urges. Test out some higher power settings. Pick up a new sub ohm tank. Tweak your airflow. And then you can work towards finding the right balance of these and other components to suit your tastes.
Be as much of a cloud-chaser as you want to be, but always vape the way you want.
What are your pro tips? Let me know in the comments!