Vaping when skiing (and in the cold)
It’s wintertime, and the temperature has plummeted as it has the annoying habit of doing every year. The time has come to look at the impact of cold weather on the set-up and liquid used in our cherished vaping devices, and on the few precautions not to be overlooked if you bring them skiing, for example. N.B. The cold makes liquids more viscous, lowers battery performance considerably and can cause condensation in boxes. Don’t hesitate to store your set-up in an inside jacket pockets and place your set-up in a sealed plastic bag when it is heating. And never charge a cold battery!
Boxes and atomizers
Mechanically, the set-up is not sensitive to the cold. The mechanical parts of boxes and atomizers give no cause for concern. Metal parts, whether they are made of stainless steel, aluminium or other metals, can become extremely cold on contact, but they are not at any risk. The same applies for the Pyrex in the tanks, which is actually glass with a very high resistance to both cold and heat, as well as to sudden differences in temperature. There is no chance of it cracking or breaking other than in the case of an impact. The plastic parts are also highly resistant. Theoretically, some plastics are more cold-resistant than others, which can crack or be more sensitive to shocks under extreme conditions. In practice, the wiggle room involved in the vast majority of cases is such that this parameter can be disregarded. As regards the electronics, most manufacturers do not specify the operating temperature range for boxes, but standard components are envisaged to operate from 0 to 40°C. However, this is an optimal operating range, they do not stop working once negative temperatures are reached. The electronics will work in the cold, but beware of condensation. At our latitudes, the problem is infrequent, even when skiing and at high altitudes. It is the current temperature of the electronics, not the ambient temperature, that counts. The set-up needs to be left in the cold for some time before it cools to a critical temperature. So, only the electronics are liable to have malfunctions which, in practice, will only become noticeable well below zero. In the worst case scenario, simply keep the box in your trouser or jacket pocket, the temperature will remain at a reasonable level with your body heat alone. At worst, frost can give cause for concern if you leave your box outside during your stay in the mountains. Water and electricity are not a good combination, and, in this case, you will have to wait several days for the electronics to thaw out and for all the internal moisture to escape. After a long time in the cold, condensation may also form both inside and outside the box when you get back into the warmth. Feel free to place it in a sealed plastic bag, like a freezer bag, to limit the phenomenon until the set-up has returned to room temperature. This advice is also valid for cameras, with condensation liable to form on lenses when moving from cold to warm conditions.
More viscous liquids
The good news is that e-cigarette liquids cannot freeze. Both vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol only solidify at temperatures out of range of our harshest winters. Liquids are at no risk unless you are travelling for days in a cattle truck on the Trans-Siberian railway, when tends to be an unusual holiday destination. Cold conditions do not damage liquids, but make them more viscous. While they do not freeze, liquids will, however, become more viscous as the temperature drops. The lower the temperature, the greater the loss of fluidity, with the liquids becoming thicker, to a variable degree according to their composition. The greater the vegetable glycerin content in your liquid, the more noticeable the effect, as VG is naturally viscous from the outset. The loss of fluidity of the liquid does not result in damage for all that, it returns to its usual consistency once the temperature rises, and the only concern that this can pose is a substantial reduction in cotton wick capillarity. Therefore, the liquid rises with more difficulty along the wick, and there is a risk you will get a dry hit. With bottom feeders and a liquid with a high VG content, squonking can also become difficult, as the liquid becomes overly thick. For a liquid containing 75% PG / 25% VG, for example, not much difference will be observed, as propylene glycol is the main constituent and remains fluid in any case. The temperature would need to plummet for a 50 / 50 product to thicken enough to be liable to pose a capillarity concern, but this happens relatively quickly, on the other hand, with liquids mainly or exclusively composed of VG. The most straightforward solution in this case is also to keep your set-up, and possibly your bottle, in a trouser pocket or in an inside jacket pocket when not in use; this will keep them warm. Take them out when you need to vape, and return them to the warmth next to you afterwards.
Atomizer leakage risk
When you ascend in the direction of the ski slopes, a leak may occur via the atomizer air inlets. The air contained in the tank is initially at the ambient pressure of your departure point, and when you increase in altitude, the atmospheric pressure falls and the air in the tank pushes the liquid outside. The issue does not arise for any set-up in use during your journey; vaping will balance the air pressure in the tank with the ambient pressure. However, if you are not vaping or for an extra set-up, remember to empty the tanks before your journey, or to close the liquid inlets if your atomizer has any and they are really effective, or to transport your atomizers upside down so that the air can come out of the tank without having to push the liquid. The precautions apply once you rise in altitude.
Batteries don’t like the cold
Let’s be clear, batteries don’t like the cold. In fact, they really don’t like the cold, whether they are built-in and sealed in the box, or removable like 18650 batteries. The lower the temperature drops, the greater the loss of performance. This is true for all storage batteries, including that in your phone, but more annoying in the case of vaping since much more is expected of them than in most other areas. The cold degrades battery performances Batteries have an optimal operation at 20°C. Their performances drop with the temperature and are considerably diminished at 0°C. Their capacity and therefore battery life become very poor, and you will not get much out of them. Once again, it is the battery temperature, not the ambient temperature, that counts. You won’t notice anything when you step outside at a temperature of -25°C, as the battery is still at 20°C. Therefore, remember to keep the batteries warm in an inside pocket to preserve their performances. The good news is that battery performances are fully restored once the temperature returns to normal room temperature. They will only be subject to definitive damage if their temperature falls to -20°C, so don’t worry unless you see a polar bear chasing some penguins, as chances are that you are on the ice-caps. As for boxes, feel free to place them in a sealed plastic bag during the warming phase to prevent condensation.
No charging at low temperatures
Never charge a battery when it is too cold. However, you must never charge a battery whose temperature is below 0°C. This causes lithium plating to be deposited inside the storage battery, which will never recover. Always wait for your storage batteries to return to a reasonable temperature before charging. This rule is stricter than for battery operation alone, as the battery life and safety are affected. Charging should be carried out with the battery at room temperature, not immediately after getting in from skiing.
The cold will affect your set-up in a number of ways:
- The box electronics may be sensitive to the cold, and to condensation formed when returning to normal temperature.
- Liquids become more viscous with the cold, especially if they have a high VG content.
- Battery performances plummet along with the temperature, and you must never charge batteries if they are cold.
To avoid these issues, simply:
- Keep your set-up in a trouser pocket or an inside jacket pocket, they will remain at an acceptable temperature from your body heat alone.
- Liquids containing more PG are preferable, they will remain more fluid for longer.
- When you come in from the cold, feel free to place boxes and storage batteries in a sealed pouch to prevent condensation while they are warming up.
- And always wait for storage batteries to return to ambient room temperature before charging.