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A man holding a dab pen up in a big cloud of vapor.

Dab Pen vs Cart: What’s the Difference?

Are you standing at the crossroads of dabbing and vaping, trying to decide between investing in a dab pen vs cart? It’s like choosing between a hand-rolled joint and a dry-herb vaporizer – both deliver a satisfying session but with their own unique style.

Understanding Dab Pens and Vape Carts

macro shot of distillate vape cart with amber liquid inside.
Carts come pre-filled with oil for a quick, convenient option.

A cart, more formally known as a vape pen cartridge, is the go-to for those who love simplicity and convenience. These little tanks come filled with your choice of cannabis oils, each with varying levels of THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids, ready to twist onto your vape battery and go. Most carts use the common 510-threading, which makes them virtually universal, and some carts are even refillable, a bonus for DIY enthusiasts.


electronic dab with clouds of smoke on a black background.
Pens offer more options but are a little less convenient and portable.

Dab pens are your personal, portable rig for those potent, wax-based concentrates. Unlike carts, which are set-and-forget, dab pens invite you to get hands-on with your vaping. Load your atomizer with the concentrate of your choice, heat it up, and experience the robust flavor and intense effect that dabbers love.

Dab Pen vs Cart: Spotting the Differences

Let’s examine what really sets these two apart. Dab pens are about choice and customization. You choose your concentrate, dial in temperature, and control your dosage down to the last detail. On the flip side, carts offer a quick grab-and-go option. Pre-filled and pre-measured, they’re about as user-friendly as it gets.

But what about potency? Here, dab pens usually win. They deliver potency based on whatever concentrate you choose. Carts are usually a little more mellow – but don’t get it wrong, they can still pack a powerful punch – so take it low and slow if you’re new.

The User Experience: Sessions with Style

Revolution vape battery in blue and black.
Make sure to charge your battery, or be prepared to be disappointed!

With a cart it’s pretty smooth sailing – screw the cartridge onto your battery, inhale, and enjoy. It’s perfect for a busy, on-the-go lifestyle. But, if you forgot to charge your battery or if it dies while you’re out it can be a big pain.

Rev Dab Tool on a white background.
A dab pen calls for a dab tool – or it can get messy and waste your concentrate.

Now, with a dab pen it’s more hands-on experience. You’ll need a dab tool to place just the right amount of concentrate onto the coil. Heat it up, and within seconds, you’ll be savoring full-bodied vapor. But, for the connoisseur, the ritual can be part of the allure.

What is dabbing?

The Pros and Cons Showdown

Every choice has its trade-offs. Dab pens bring power and punch but require a little practice to master. Carts, while incredibly accessible, may not hit the high notes of potency that seasoned vapers seek.


Dab Pen


Portability Less portable More portable
Convenience Requires loading Pre-filled, ready to go
Customization Highly customizable Limited options
Potency Higher potency Moderate potency
Maintenance Cleaning required Minimal cleaning
Cost Effectiveness Higher initially Generally, more cost-effective


Dab Pen vs Cart: What are my options?

The world of concentrates is HUGE. There’s budder, badder, jelly, jam, sauce, hash, wax, shatter (could go on!), and dab pens can use them all. Carts, however, are a different story, with a selection of distillates and higher-end live resin or live rosin extracts that cater to a subtler taste and preference.

A large glob of cannabis concentrate on a dab tool.
Concentrates come in many forms.

Dab Pen Options:

  • Budder

Known for malleable textures and creamy consistency, budder is similar to spreadable butter. It’s easy to work with and loved for its flavor and potency.

  • Badder

Similar to budder but with a more cakey texture, badder is whipped to perfection, offering a balance of rich flavor and robust effects.

Learn about the differences between badder vs budder.

  • Jelly

As the name suggests, it has a gel-like consistency, boasting a delicate balance between potency and flavor.

  • Jam

Studded with THCA crystals, akin to fruit chunks in a jam, providing a flavorful, full spectrum experience.

Learn more about Live resin jelly and live rosin jam.

  • Sauce

A thick, syrupy concoction packed with cannabinoids and terpenes – that’s your sauce, offering layered flavors and aromas.

  • Hashish

A classic concentrate, hashish, aka hash is pressed resin from the cannabis plant, offering a traditional and potent vaping experience.

Explore the history of hashish!

  • Wax

Has a sticky, crumble-like texture, wax is a fan-favorite for its ease of use and solid potency.

  • Shatter

Aptly named for its glass-like consistency, shatter breaks easily and offers a clear, potent experience.


RevCanna E-commerce Terp Tanks Hybrid vape cart packaging
Not all carts are equal. Revolution Cannabis makes some of the best carts on the market.

Vape Cart Options:


These are the most common vape oils, providing a high-purity product refined multiple times to achieve up to 99% cannabinoid content.

  • Cannabis-Derived Terpenes Distillate: This distillate is the connoisseur’s choice, where the terpenes are extracted from the cannabis plant itself. These terpenes are responsible for the distinctive scents and flavors that mimic the original strain from which they are derived.
  • Botanical Terpenes Distillate: On the flip side, we have distillates enhanced with botanical terpenes, which come from sources other than cannabis, like fruits and other plants. Lab technicians select terpenes to create specific flavor profiles, ranging from citrusy to floral notes.

Live Resin

Crafted from fresh-frozen flower using a pressurized hydrocarbon extraction to preserve terpenes, live resin carts deliver a very robust flavor and a well-rounded high.

Live Rosin

Lab technicians make solventless by applying heat and pressure to hash made from fresh-frozen flower. The result is a rich, flavorful oil called Liquid Live Rosin or “LLR”, that captures the essence of the living plant.

What are Terpenes?

Terpenes are the aromatic oils that give cannabis its diverse array of scents and flavors. These compounds define each strain’s unique aroma and flavor profile. In the world of vaping, particularly with dab pens and vape carts, terpenes play a pivotal role in shaping your experience. They not only influence the taste and aroma of the vapor but are also thought to interact with cannabinoids to enhance effects — this is known as the entourage effect.

When it comes to dab pens, the ability to use a variety of concentrates allows users to experience the full spectrum of terpene profiles, from the spiciness of caryophyllene to the earthy aroma of humulene.

Vape carts, with their precise formulations, offer curated experiences. High end carts will include strain-specific terpenes while mid-range and cheaper carts will use cannabis derived terpenes or botanical terpenes. Revolution Cannabis takes the experience a step further by using an extraction process that avoids heating terpenes, preserving the flavors and aromas. This approach guarantees a rich experience with the essence of the plant front and center, just as nature intended.

Learn more about cannabis terpenes.

Upkeep and Care

Maintaining a cart is as easy as keeping the mouthpiece clean. Dab pens, however, call for a bit more TLC—regular cleaning of the atomizer and mouthpiece ensures the best performance and longevity.

portrait of young woman vaping
Discreet and convenient or premium and customizable: the choice is yours!

Who Should Choose What? 

If you’re about discreet, low-maintenance sessions, carts are your backstage pass to convenience. They’re perfect for micro-dosing and discreet use. But if you’re seeking the premium experience with heavy-hitting sessions, dab pens are your VIP ticket.

Making the Right Choice

Like most things in cannabis, the “dab pen vs cart” debate is about your lifestyle, preference for potency, and willingness to engage with the process. Whichever path you choose, both lead to the satisfaction of enjoying your favorite strains and flavors in a way that resonates with you.

Shop vapes and concentrates from Revolution Cannabis, Tales and Travels, and Spring Lake.

General Cannabis FAQ

Cannabis, often referred to as marijuana, is a plant that has been used for thousands of years for various purposes, including medicine, textiles, and recreation. The plant contains compounds known as cannabinoids, with delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) being the most well-known. THC is primarily responsible for the plant’s psychoactive effects, while CBD is recognized for its potential therapeutic benefits without causing a “high.”

Many countries and U.S. states have decriminalized or legalized the use of marijuana for medical use, recreational, or both. The legal status changes frequently as legislation evolves.

In the U.S., states vote to regulate marijuana use on an individual basis. While it remains illegal at the federal level, numerous states have legalized it for medicinal and/or recreational use.

The following states have legalized medical, recreational, or both:

  • Alaska – Medical
  • Arizona – Legal
  • Arkansas – Medical
  • California – Legal
  • Colorado – Legal
  • Connecticut – Legal
  • Delaware – Legal
  • District of Columbia – Legal
  • Florida – Medical
  • Hawaii – Medical (Possession decriminalized for small amounts)
  • Illinois – Legal
  • Louisiana – Medical (Possession decriminalized for small amounts)
  • Maine – Legal
  • Maryland – Legal
  • Massachusetts – Legal
  • Michigan – Legal
  • Minnesota – Legal
  • Mississippi – Medical (Possession decriminalized for small amounts)
  • Missouri – Legal
  • Montana – Legal
  • Nevada – Legal
  • New Hampshire – Medical (Possession decriminalized for small amounts)
  • New Jersey – Legal
  • New Mexico – Legal
  • New York – Legal
  • North Dakota – Medical (Possession decriminalized for small amounts)
  • Ohio – Medical (Possession decriminalized)
  • Oklahoma – Medical
  • Oregon – Legal
  • Pennsylvania – Medical
  • Rhode Island – Legal
  • South Dakota – Medical
  • Utah – Medical
  • Vermont – Legal
  • Virginia – Legal
  • Washington – Legal
  • West Virginia – Medical


Outside of the U.S., countries like The Netherlands, Canada, and, more recently, Thailand have legalized cannabis on a national level.

Always check local laws and regulations in your specific location.

In states where marijuana has been legalized, you can purchase products at licensed dispensaries. Revolution products are available at Enlightened, Revolution, and partner dispensaries in Illinois, Arkansas, Missouri, and Maryland. Find a dispensary near you.

Keep in mind that dispensaries may cater to medical patients, recreational consumers, or both, depending on local laws.

Always ensure that you are buying from a reputable and licensed establishment to guarantee product quality and safety.

The effects of cannabis vary widely depending on the strain, dosage, method of consumption, an individual’s endocannabinoid system, and more.

Some commonly reported effects include:

Psychoactive Effects: Euphoria, mood elevation, cerebral stimulation, stress relief, calming effects, and relaxation.

Physical Effects: Pain relief, body buzz, anti-inflammation, anti-nausea, energy boost or sedation, and appetite stimulation

*Medical Benefits: Cannabis is believed to have a range of therapeutic effects and alleviation of symptoms related to conditions like epilepsy, PTSD, and more.

*Marijuana is not approved by the FDA to treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

The primary difference lies in their intended use:

Medical Cannabis: Used as a treatment and alleviation of symptoms for specific health conditions. Medical strains might be cultivated and processed to have higher CBD content or other therapeutic compounds. Medical cannabis requires a physician who usually prescribes or recommends it as a treatment option.

Recreational Cannabis: Used without a medical justification but for personal enjoyment and fulfillment.

The process varies from state to state but typically involves the following steps:

Doctor’s Recommendation: Schedule an appointment with a physician who is authorized to recommend medical marijuana. Discuss your health conditions and reasons for seeking cannabis as a treatment.

Application: Once you have a doctor’s recommendation, you’ll usually need to apply for a medical marijuana card through a designated state or country agency.

Proof & Identification: Provide necessary identification and proof of residency as required by your jurisdiction.

Fee Payment: Most jurisdictions require a fee for the application and issuance of a medical marijuana card.

Card Issuance: Once approved, you will receive your medical marijuana card, allowing you to purchase cannabis at designated medical dispensaries.

If you’d like more detailed information, please read our state-specific medical card guide here.