Posted on May 16 2017
Large, or intricately patterned, clouds of vapour are one of the most recognisable and accessible aspects of vape culture. Even if you don’t vape, or simply do it recreationally without engaging in the culture, there’s a high likelihood that you’ve seen one of the many videos on youtube of talented vapers blowing out rings and huge plumes of smoke. This type of vaping, vaping specifically to create the biggest clouds of vapour possible, is aptly named cloud chasing.
A trend that’s as tightly wound up in the DIY ethos of vape culture as a sub-Ohm coil, cloud chasing has rapidly morphed into a subculture dictated by its own system of custom and DIY builds or mods and passionate participants. Cloud chasing has spread far enough along the horizon that it has its own global competitions, where vapers with the most complex weather systems compete for the chance to win big bucks and notoriety.
Yet, cloud chasing is the subject of hot debate within the wider community. With an unfortunate, and unwarranted, stigma dragging behind it, vaping often faces an uphill battle, both culturally and legally, to become accepted into the mainstream. Cited by some vapers as one of the root causes, or justifications, of the ongoing bad press, cloud chasing has been labelled as damaging to vaping as a whole.
The Origins of Cloud Chasing
As we’ve discussed in previous blog posts, vaping culture is inherently DIY, with vapers from the UK to the USA modifying their vapes to better align with their desired vaping experiences, whether that’s a more intense flavour or a stronger hit. Obviously, the vapour that's created by e-cigarettes is equally as malleable as the other components of vaping, so naturally, the more expressive vapers would eventually seek to modify that too.
More than just its aesthetics, the lower resistance coils necessary for the sub-Ohm vaping that generates the bigger clouds, leads to huge hits of flavour from the e-liquid.
The Basics of Cloud Chasing
What is Cloud Chasing?
Simply put, cloud chasing is vaping with the goal to create the biggest cloud of vapour. Sometimes called stunt, or competitive vaping, cloud chasing is the subject of competitions, a decent amount of youtube tutorials and can be an excellent party trick with all the shapes and designs patterns experienced cloud chasers can blow.
What Vape Makes the Best Clouds?
The components that make the best cloud chasing setup vary between modders, and are entirely up to individual interpretation, however, there are some key components that make up every cloud chaser’s apparatus.
You might have seen us mention sub-Ohm vaping a few times throughout the article, as it is the method that produces bigger clouds of vapour than your average Joe. Vapers can reach sub-Ohm vaping by increasing the power outage of the vape, by lowering the resistance of the coils (until you reach below 1 Ohm, hence the name.)
In short, cloud chasing comes down to how you build your coils. The lower the resistance of your coils, the bigger your clouds will be. Whilst you can choose between single and dual coils, most vapers choose dual coils as they produce more vapour.
Also important to consider about the build of your vape, is safety. Building vapes in this way can risk overheating the battery and potentially causing a vape to explode, which is far from ideal for something so close to your money maker. Always make sure you’ve done the proper research and extensively read up about proper build technique and safety, a good place to start is our Beginner’s Guide to Vaping.
Most vaping retailers offer an incredibly wide range of flavoured e-liquid, or juices, from the classic tobacco flavours to the more exotic.
Whilst some juices come without nicotine, almost all will feature either PG or VG - propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin - a diluting agent.
- PG is an organic chemical compound that is widely used in food, tobacco, and personal care products and is known to offer a stronger throat hit than VG, which can sometimes result in irritation. On the plus side, it doesn't tend to alter the taste of the liquid as much as VG.
- VG liquids are slightly sweeter and slightly thicker than PG, as such, they take longer to soak into the vapes wick. With a smoother throat feel and a more visible cloud, e-liquids with a high VG content are the best liquids for cloud chasing, and the higher the VG content, the thicker your vapour clouds will be. a 70/30 VG to PG ratio is the perfect combo for superior flavour, throat hit and cloud production.
To generate the biggest clouds, it’s imperative to use a vape mod that can support the low resistance of your coil builds. Whilst any mod will generate vapour, for cloud production, most vapers go for mechanical mods, as they generally have excellent air holes and connectivity, which is important to avoid overheating your battery.
Be careful, mechanical mods require extensive knowledge on battery safety and ohm’s law.
Having a rebuildable drip atomiser (RDA) is an absolute must for all cloud chasers, as they produce nuclear level clouds. Requiring users to build their own coils, and to manually drip the e-liquid directly on the coils before every few puffs, atomisers are not overly suitable for everyday use, but worth the effort for the humongous clouds they generate.
Getting your wicking right is important to getting the most use out of your e-liquid. There are a number of different ways to wick your low resistance coils including tucking the wick underneath the coil, tucking it behind the coil or clipping it without tucking, but the primary purpose of the vape wick is to draw the e-liquid towards the coils.
Creating the correct airflow is tricky but necessary to creating both huge, and dense, clouds. If not enough air is escaping then the mod could potentially overheat and explode but if there is too much air then it will thin out your vapour clouds.
As e-cigarettes gained popularity and vaping culture spread with more dedicated vaping shops appearing in cities across the globe, it was only natural that those who turned their talents to cloud chasing should find each other, and eventually compete against each other to blow the biggest, baddest clouds.
Using modified devices to burn e-liquid - some competitive vapers don’t use nicotine, firmly cementing an alternative use for the vape - professional vapers will compete to create the biggest and densest clouds.
Originally beginning on the West Coast of the USA, vape competitions quickly spread across the globe, with vaping conventions hosting them from London to Texas.
The Backlash Against Cloud Chasing
Cloud chasing has become polarising both inside, and outside, of the vaping community. As with any semi-event that’s happened within the last five years, there’s at least half a dozen think pieces written by either side of the debate, though essentially it can be boiled down to a few camps of thought.
On the side of cloud chasing are those that say it’s raising awareness for the benefits of vaping over smoking, as it usually creates a conversation with people unfamiliar with vaping. Although whether that conversation begins negatively is another thing. More fairly, are those who view cloud chasing in isolation, as something that is either a creative expression or just a fun way to vape.
Conversely, those that are against cloud chasing view it as a community that breeds elitist attitudes and damages the public persona of vaping, as the large clouds of smoke may infringe on the space non-vapers. Whilst vaping in public spaces can be a problem in that regard, arguably if vaping didn’t already have such a negative public perception, despite the clear health benefits of vaping over smoking, then cloud chasing may not be nearly as frowned upon. Ultimately, to cloud chase or not to cloud chase is up to each individual vaper, although if you’d like some tips on how to be a more socially aware vaper, check out our guide to polite vaping etiquette.