By Courtney S.
Special to Cannabis Daily Record
When I started smoking weed in the midwest in the ‘90s, I mooched off friends’ stashes and filled my lungs from their metal pipes. With no car and no easy access to a head shop, my own first pipes were fashioned from sculpted aluminum foil or hollowed out apples.
Marijuana enthusiasts coming of age in Oregon, Washington and other legal weed environments have no idea how good they have it: disposable e-cigs, refillable oil cartridges, dabs, hand-blown glass made by talented artists, machine-blown glass designed by engineers, and a growing selection of load-it-yourself portable vaporizers to get you stoned without destroying your lungs – and that doesn’t even touch on the worlds of edibles, salves, ointments and new options I have probably not discovered yet. There’s no longer any need for pot enthusiasts to wrangle inferior smoking devices from household objects. Instead, the pressure is on to collect a different tool for every possible environment.
Vapium would like to add its Summit+ herbal vaporizer to the crowded shelves of today’s discerning cannabis consumer. Lightweight, USB-chargeable, with a small bowl that works best when vaporizing well-ground flower, Vapium markets the $150 Summit as the backpacker’s tool of choice. According to its marketing materials, it can withstand below-freezing weather, extreme heat, dust and occasional light water exposure.
I accepted the Summit from Cannabis Daily Record as payment for my fair and unbiased review of the device. After over a month of testing, I can say with confidence that it’s a discrete, handy tool for easy-on-the-lungs marijuana consumption. And while it may not quite live up to the full hype of its marketers, its price seems reasonable given its features. If you enjoy vaporized flower and are looking for a vape device that travels well, the Summit may well be the tool for you.
How it works
The Summit is just under 5 inches long, about 1-3/4 inches high and 1 inch wide, making it small enough to fit into a roomy pocket, a backpack or a purse.
Pry at a small rubbery flap on its bottom – you may need fingernails or a safety pin to help – to access its USB port to charge the device. At the top, pull on the textured protrusion near the mouthpiece and a metal tooth-pick sized poking device comes out, giving you a tool you can use to clean or stir your herb.
The bowl itself rests under a larger flap at the back top, away from the mouthpiece. Though a weak magnet helps this flap stay in place, it’s important to also use the thick black rubber band, included with the Summit, to keep the bowl closed during use. As I learned the hard way, gravity is a stronger force than the magnet on the lid. If you get stoned and lose track of what you are doing, it’s easy to tip the Summit sideways or upside down and to have the flap come open. Not only do you risk spilling your herb when this happens – the magnet inside the lid gets hot. I was shocked by a minor burn when I forgot to secure the lid with the thick rubber band, though there was no burn mark or permanent damage. Other online reviewers have also complained about minor injuries from an unsecured bowl.
Once the Summit is charged, operating it is easy.
Vapium recommends you pre-grind your flower before loading the bowl. I was able to get a decent enough hit without grinding first, but grinding did yield better results, and seemed to make the bowl last for longer with the same amount of weed.
After grinding, loading and securing the lid to the bowl, take note of the three buttons on top of the Summit. The largest button, which has an image of a mountain on it, is used to turn the device on and off, to check its battery charge, and to heat up a bowl for consumption. The two smaller buttons, marked with plus and minus signs, control the temperature of the flower you are about to consume.
Hold down the large button once to turn on the Summit, and the image of the mountain will illuminate in blue, while the four lights below this button will start to flash to indicate battery charge: One solid white light means the battery is almost empty and needs a charge, four solid lights indicate it is fully charged. If the battery is empty, just plug the device in and use it as it charges.
Now use the plus and minus buttons to adjust temperature to anything from 330 degrees to 440 degrees Fahrenheit. There’s no digital display showing the exact temperature, so you need to learn to interpret the four illuminating lights on top of the Summit – the same lights that flash white to indicate battery charge. When you push the up and down buttons, they stop flashing white, and from left to right, illuminate in blue, orange, orangish-red and red. Each of these color settings has a dim version and a bright version (dim blue, bright blue, dim orange, bright orange, etc.), meaning there are eight different temperature gradients you can choose between.
Like many manufacturers who ship cannabis paraphernalia to states where its use is banned by local law, Vapium is coy about how people may use the Summit. It makes no reference to pot in its instructions, only talking about “smoking herbs.” And it offers no advice about the optimal temperature for vaporizing weed. After some trial and error, I determined that the dim version of the orangeish-red setting seemed to give me the best results.
Once your Summit is charged, loaded with flower, with its temperature set, it’s time to heat and puff. To do this, hold down the large button – which should have its image of a mountain illuminated in blue – and sit back to wait for a minute or two as it heats up. You need to either keep the Summit in sight or hold it in your hand to know when it’s ready to go. When it’s hot and the flower is starting to vaporize, the device buzzes gently and the previously blue light on its large button turns green. Now you have about two minutes to inhale before the heater turns off once more.
When you’re done, cleaning is easy. Pop off the mouth piece and you’ll see the small metal tunnel that channels vapor from the bowl toward your lungs: It’s just the right size for a pipe cleaner. The base of the bowl itself contains a small metal screen that can be removed with a toothpick and cleaned or replaced.
Using the Summit
If you are used to smoking flower from a bowl, inhaling from the Summit may be confusing at first. You’ll taste weed, but you won’t get the same familiar feeling of heat, smoke and particles in your lungs and mouth. And it may take a moment for the cannabis effects to register. The first few times I tried the Summit, I did not realize I was high until I found myself staring off into space, or dropped the device from my relaxed hand onto the couch. Once I got the hang of it, it gradually became easier to gage my reaction based on experience.
Introducing the Summit to a group can be tricky, as well. There’s the issue of vaping with people who are more accustomed to passing a pipe. My guests were just as uncertain of its effects as I was, until they got the hang of things. The three-button temperature control, on-off, and heat controls take a bit of practice to get used to, as well, and when hosting others with the Summit I make a point to pay attention to whether the large button is illuminated blue (on but not hot), green (inhale now or it won’t be hot for long) or dark (it’s turned off from low battery or lack of use). Expect to coach your guests more than with a more intuitive device.
Because the Summit claims to be the ideal tool for backpackers, I also put its promises about extreme weather conditions to the test – and by and large, the device passed muster.
To test its resilience under extreme cold down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit, I left it in my freezer for over 24 hours. When I removed it and loaded its bowl, it took a moment longer than under normal conditions to turn on, but after a few second delay the blue “on” light illuminated, and the device worked as though nothing had happened.
I had no way to test its performance near the top of its 176 degree Fahrenheit range, but over the course of several abnormally hot 100-degree Portland days, I tested the Summit again, and found it to be effective.
The Summit does not claim to be waterproof, but it does say it can work in rain and withstand a little splashing. So, I bundled it inside the dry-bag-like pouch it’s packaged with, tucked it inside the pocket on my life jacket, and spent an hour paddling with the device. I also splashed it a bit when I got off the boat, for good measure. It booted up and worked just fine when I was back on dry land, and performed similarly a few weeks later when I took it to the salty, sandy Oregon coast for further testing on the beach.
One area where the Summit does not live up to its claims: It may be great for outdoor use, but I do not see how this would be an effective tool for backpacking. Its battery lasts for one or two bowls, at which point the device needs to be plugged in and recharged. That’s great if you are car-camping, but is hardly an option when you’re living out of a lightweight backpack in the woods. And backup batteries are not an option. You must charge by USB, or not at all.
One feature of the Summit that seems unnecessary: it can sync to iPhones and Android devices using Bluetooth, and Vapium offers a corresponding app. But the app seems fairly pointless. It displays the remaining battery life of the Summit – but so does the vaporizer itself. It shows the temperature you’ve set the device to, but that’s something you control on the Summit. The app basically gives a more detailed look at the features the device itself offers, while draining the battery life of your phone and your vaporizer more quickly than if it were not engaged at all. It’s a concept that needs some work before it’s worth the effort.
The bottom line
At $150, the Vapium Summit+ is reasonably priced and offers decent features. If you have the cash to spare and you’re looking for a discrete, portable vaporizing device, it may well be worth the investment. On the other hand, it is not going to stay charged for the length of a multi-day backwoods camping expedition, backpacking claims not withstanding, its app needs work, and its bowl if fairly small. If you’ll mostly be vaping at home, you may be better off choosing either a cheaper vaporizer, or spending a bit more for a larger bowl.