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Beginner Guide: What is Sub-Ohm Vaping?

Maybe you’ve seen the impossibly large clouds of vapor, or you’ve heard fellow vapers raving about the fantastic flavor – regardless of what sparked your interest in sub-ohm vaping, you might be wondering if all the hype is really worth it. 

Simply put, if you like massive clouds, hard-hitting flavor, and a more enjoyable vape experience, then the answer is a definitive yes: sub-ohm vaping can be an excellent way to elevate your vape to an entirely new level. Sub-ohm vaping has taken the vaping community by storm, offering a next-level experience for cloud chasers looking to make the most of their vaping experience. But for many vapers, both new and experienced, sub-ohm vaping remains somewhat of a mystery despite its growing popularity.

But before you dive headfirst into those oh-so-fluffy clouds, it’s important to learn the basics:

  • What is sub-ohm vaping?
  • How does sub-ohm vaping work?
  • What are the benefits of sub-ohm vaping? The drawbacks?
  • Is sub-ohm vaping safe?

We’re going to break down the science of sub-ohm vaping, making it easy to understand if this approach is the right fit for you. Here’s everything you need to know about sub-ohm vaping, including what it is, how to enjoy it safely, and recommendations for getting off to an excellent start.

what is sub-ohm vaping guide

What is Sub-Ohm Vaping?

Sub-ohm vaping is a specific style of vaping that’s rooted in a physics concept called Ohm’s Law. Sub-ohm vaping makes use of this law of physics to boost the amount of power available to the vaper. Utilizing specially-designed vape devices and accessories, you can vape at a lower resistance to maximize the current flow. Whether you call it sub-ohm vaping, sub-ohming, or by another name, it is essentially a vape experience that uses a device with atomizer coils at a resistance level of less than 1.0 ohm. 

Still confused? We don’t blame you, because sub-ohm vaping requires a little bit of context (and technical science talk) to explain.

First, let’s start with what resistance is and how it factors into vaping. 

  • Resistance is measured in Ohms (Ω) and is a measurement of how easy or difficult it is for an electrical current to flow through a circuit. 
  • In the context of vaping, resistance almost always relates to the vape coil inside of the atomizer:
    • Coils with a high resistance level (so, more “resistance” to the flow of electricity) will heat up more slowly. These coils are intended for lower power output.
    • Coils with a low resistance level (less “resistance”) can heat up more quickly and are ideal for higher power output.
  • So, vapers that want a vape with a lower power output tend to choose higher-resistance coils, while those that prefer a higher power output are better suited to lower-resistance coils.

Any vape coil that has a resistance level of less than 1.0Ω (Ohms) is labeled as sub-ohm. The reduced resistance allows the atomizer coil to heat up faster, therefore vaporizing more e-liquid to produce more flavorful, voluminous clouds – all because an increased current can pass through the coil more easily.

Many standard vape devices use coils with resistance levels between 1.5 and 3 Ohms, making sub-ohm vapes a category of their own.

Pros and Cons of Sub-Ohm Vaping

Sub-ohm coils can create a vape experience that’s completely different from what you’re used to, particularly if you’ve been using higher-resistance coils up to this point. It’s not unusual for vapers to make the switch to sub-ohming and never look back because the perks are just that good. Of course, like anything in the world of vaping, there are a few drawbacks that some vapers might decide are deal breakers – it’s totally up to you.

Some advantages of sub-ohm vaping include:

  • Increased vapor production: Do you consider yourself a “cloud chaser”? If you appreciate large clouds of vapor, then you’ll love the generous vapor production offered by sub-ohming.
  • Powerful flavor: For many vapers, the various flavors of e-liquid are a highlight of vaping. With sub-ohm vaping, the hotter coils can serve to enhance flavors – especially those with more complex flavor profiles.
  • A smoother vape: If you’re struggling with the harshness of high-nicotine e-juices, or even if you’re trying to switch from smoking to vaping, a sub-ohm coil could do the trick. Generally, the throat hit is less intense with a sub-ohm device, so it’s an overall smoother experience.

We’re all about transparency, so let’s talk about some disadvantages of sub-ohm vaping:

  • Shorter battery life: Since sub-ohm coils use more power, they’ll generally drain your battery faster. 
  • Increased e-juice consumption: If you’re making bigger clouds, it stands to reason that you’re using more e-liquid. 
  • High-nicotine e-liquids aren’t an ideal match: For this style of vaping, nicotine delivery isn’t really the main goal. In fact, if you want a powerful nicotine-driven experience, you’re probably better off with a lower-powered device with higher-resistance coils.

How Did Sub-Ohm Vaping Start?

Before variable power vape systems were easily accessible, like they are today, advanced vapers didn’t have many options for customization. At that time, the only way to tailor the power output of a vape device was to change the coil itself. 

Once vape enthusiasts realized that they could alter a coil’s resistance level by playing around with factors such as the gauge (thickness) of the coil wire, the number of wraps, and the diameter of the coil, they started experimenting with building low-resistance coils. As you would imagine, it didn’t take long for sub-ohm vaping to gain ground as a great option for vapers that wanted to achieve bigger clouds and better flavor.

How Has Sub-Ohm Vaping Changed?

Today, sub-ohm vaping isn’t quite as relevant as it used to be, but for good reason. Advancements in vape coil technology have made it possible for vapers to choose coils specifically designed for certain uses. Now, you might see the term “sub-ohm” used, but you’ll also see coils categorized according to their recommended use. 

For example:

  • Mouth-to-lung (MTL) coils are ideal for vapers that want to recreate the experience of traditional cigarette smoking because they deliver low power, restricted airflow, and high-nicotine e-liquids. Typically, MTL coils have higher resistance levels, but this isn’t a hard and fast rule.
  • Direct-to-lung (DTL or DL) coils are most likely to earn the “sub-ohm” label, and they tend to be designed for substantial airflow and high power output. Commonly paired with low-nicotine e-liquids, DTL coils are preferred by vapers that enjoy a smooth, warm, and intensely-flavored vape. 
  • Restricted-direct-to-lung (RDL) coils are the midpoint between MTL and DTL coils. They provide moderate power output, vapor production, and airflow, and are often best enjoyed with low-nicotine strength e-juice.

Of course, this isn’t to say that sub-ohm vapes are a thing of the past. Rather, they’ve become one of many excellent options for vapers that want to upgrade their experience and customize every last puff.

What is the Best E-Liquid for Sub-Ohm Vaping?

If you’re going to use a sub-ohm vape, your best bet is an e-liquid with a low nicotine strength and high VG content. Most sub-ohm vapers aim for a low-nicotine, or even zero-nicotine, e-juice.

A high-VG juice will produce those thick vapor clouds associated with sub-ohming.

Keep in mind that high-nicotine e-liquids, high-PG juices, and nicotine salts are better suited to lower-powered devices with high-resistance coils. 

How Does Sub-Ohm Vaping Work?

Sub-ohm vaping makes use of this law of physics to boost the amount of power available to the vaper. Utilizing specially-designed vape devices and accessories, you can vape at a lower resistance to maximize the current flow. As a result, thicker and more generous vapor clouds that are incredibly flavorful will be produced for your vaping enjoyment.

A typical atomizer coil has a resistance level of anywhere between 1.5 and 3 ohms, but a coil that has a resistance of less than 1 ohm is the ticket to sub-ohm vaping. The considerably lower resistance level creates the ideal conditions for you to max out on power in the best way possible, efficiently creating massive, flavor-packed clouds.

Sub-ohm vaping requires one of three vaping set-ups:

  • A rebuildable dripping atomizer that requires the manual dripping of e-liquid between every few puffs
  • A rebuildable tank atomizer that eliminates the need to manually drip e-liquid, relying on the essential components of a clearomizer and built-in coil
  • A sub-ohm tank that can typically be paired with most vape mods on the market, using disposable, built-in coils

What’s a Sub-Ohm Tank?

Until recently, options for a sub-ohm vape set-up nearly always included at least minor challenges. Choosing a rebuilding dripping atomizer (RDA) meant that you would have to manually drip your vape juice onto the wick every few puffs, which can be frustrating for vapers who want convenience and ease of use. A rebuildable tank atomizer (RTA) was the next option and remains fairly popular for the quality and flavor of the vapor they produce.

However, sub-ohm tanks have changed the game by making it incredibly easy for vapers to make the switch to sub-ohm vaping – whether they want to sub-ohm full-time, or just occasionally. Most sub-ohm tanks can be attached as an upgrade option to any mod that operates at 30 watts or higher, providing a comparable, high-quality experience to RTAs that’s user-friendly and convenient. Unlike RTAs, sub-ohm tanks utilize disposable coils.

Best Vape Juices for Sub Ohm Vaping

Sub-Ohm Vaping with VV/VW Devices

If you know vapers that practice sub-ohm vaping, you might have heard them discussing variable voltage (VV) and variable wattage (VW) devices as part of the experience. However, VV/VW devices aren’t actually necessary for sub-ohm vaping, thanks to the variety of high-power regulated devices that you can find on the market today. Years ago, sub-ohm vaping was a method that required vapers to bump up the power beyond the safe capacity of regulated devices, but that’s no longer the case.

Instead, you can find a number of devices that allow you to choose your preferred resistance level and calibrate it as needed, often while performing better than the old-school sub-ohm builds on mechanical vape mods.

Is Sub-Ohm Vaping Dangerous?

Look at it this way: any time you power up an electrical device, including a vape, using it properly is key. No matter what kind of device it is, messing around and making unsafe choices puts you at risk.

This same basic, common-sense rule applies to sub-ohm vape devices. Sub-ohm vaping should be done correctly, and doing your research is key. Instead of trying to cobble together a DIY sub-ohm vape, it’s usually safest to pick a mod or vape device that’s already equipped with sub-ohm safety features.

Sub-Ohm Vaping Safety


Battery safety is a major part of all vaping styles, but especially so with sub-ohm vaping. It’s important to choose the correct battery for your device, with unprotected IMR and hybrid lithium batteries being the most popular and often safest options due to their specialized chemistry and construction. You should only ever use batteries from a reputable source and trusted brand, and immediately discard dented or damaged batteries.

For sub-ohm vaping, most vapers choose batteries with high continuous amperage limits. Stick to your specific batteries’ amperage limit to ensure safe vaping, and always take a few seconds to use an Ohms reader to double-check your batteries’ resistance level and any potential shorts.

Best Sub Ohm Mods

Keeping your mod clean and well-maintained is key to responsible vaping, especially if you’re going to go sub-ohm. Check all threads, contacts, vent holes, and the switch, and keep an eye on the feel of your spring-loaded switch (if applicable). Using your mod’s locking mechanism when you’re not vaping is a smart and easy way to add an extra layer of protection.

Perhaps most importantly, you should absolutely never use an unvented mod for sub-ohm vaping. Vents are the only way heat can escape the sub-ohm mod, and they also make it possible for gases to vent out in the event of battery failure. The more vents and the larger they are, the better.

You’ll also want to consider the voltage drop of your mod, aiming for one with a fairly low level. Look at mods that are built with a single-piece tube, a magnetic switch, and fixed position contacts for optimal options.

Browse Sub-Ohm Vape Options from DIRECTVAPOR

Break into sub-ohm vaping with the best vape devices, e-liquids, and more from DIRECTVAPOR, so you can make the most of your vape experience. Shop our full selection of sub-ohm vapes for sale online to upgrade your set-up today!

Browse our collection of sub-ohm vaporizers and accessories and learn more about crafting your perfect vape experience on the DIRECTVAPOR blog and vape guide library today.

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