Last fact-checked 15 January 2021 | Report a factual error on this article
RDA vaping, also known as ‘dripping’, is the vaping method of choice for e-liquid connoisseurs and cloud chasers. It’s a great way to get an instant cloud of dense, tasty vapour … and it’s not as complicated as you might think.
We get a lot of questions about RDA vaping from our customers, so in this article, we’ll give you a beginner’s guide to Rebuildable Drip Atomisers. We’ll show you how RDAs work, explain how to use them safely and help you decide whether RDA vaping is going to be right for you.
RDA stands for ‘Rebuildable Drip Atomiser’. RDAs deliver a bigger vapour cloud, richer flavours and greater control over your vaping experience than a standard e-cigarette.
Unlike traditional e-cigarette atomisers that store e-liquid in a reservoir, an RDA has a large opening at the top that allows you to ‘drip’ e-liquid directly onto your atomiser’s heating coil. This method of vaping, often known as ‘dripping’, gives RDA vapers the ability to produce denser, richer vapour, because the volume of e-liquid on the coils is controlled by the vaper themselves, rather than the pipework and wicking material in the atomiser.
RDA vaping also gives you the freedom to change e-liquid flavours quickly. An RDA usually only holds a few drops of e-liquid, so you can evaporate all of the juice from your wick and coil in a few quick draws and try something different.
Every RDA has an extra-wide mouthpiece (known as a ‘drip tip’) at the top and a heating element (known as a ‘build stack’) at the bottom. When you drip e-liquid through the drip tip, that e-liquid lands straight on the coil in your stack, and immediately evaporates when you push the fire button on your vape device.
|Step 1: Drip||Step 2: Vape|
Safety note: This diagram has been simplified to demonstrate the basic behaviour of an RDA and is not complete. You should always have a wick running through the centre of your coil(s), and the air flow vents should remain unobstructed. For full advice on how to use an RDA safely, please refer to your RDA manufacturer’s instructions.
By dripping e-liquid directly onto the heating coil, RDA vapers can get a full mouthful of vapour in seconds. RDA users never have to wait for an atomiser wick to ‘catch up’ and absorb more fluid from a reservoir — they just drip and vape. RDAs are the perfect option for cloud chasers.
RDA vaping is best suited to experienced vapers who already use box mods as their preferred vape device, and who understand Ohm's Law. This is very important -- if you don't understand Ohm's law and if you don't use a box mod, it can be very dangerous. The reason you need a box mod for drip vaping is to do with how coils work in an RDA.
If you need to change the coil on a standard vape pen, you simply pull the old coil out of your atomizer and plug a new coil in. Both the old and new coils are usually the exact same size, and they’re made of the exact same metal. With an RDA, it’s different. You might need to snip the ends of your coil to fit your build stack, and your coil could be made of titanium, nickel, stainless steel or an iron-nickel alloy. Our buyer's guide to rebuildable coils is worth a read if you'd like to learn more.
The length of your coil, and the metal your coil is made out of, both affect the electrical resistance and current running through your vape device, which can cause dangerous power and temperature imbalances if you don’t fully understand Ohm's Law (see our guide here). To vape with an RDA safely, you need to be able to change your vape device’s power settings to suit the coil(s) you’re using. Most high-spec box mods will give you the power to throttle the voltage of your device and/or adjust the temperature of your coils, so they’re the perfect option for RDA vaping. If you can get a box mod with a built-in safety chip and TCR mode, all the better.
Connoisseur vapers love RDAs, because the vapour clouds you get with an RDA are so much larger, denser and full of flavour. That doesn’t mean that RDAs are the best choice for everyone, however.
RDAs can be messy.
You’re in full control of the amount of juice on your coil when you drip-vape, so if you overfill your RDA, it will leak. Rebuildable Drip Atomisers have a wicking material and a small juice well to hold any excess e-liquid, but it only takes a few drops to overwhelm those two ‘safety nets’. Practice is really the only way to prevent this — over time you start to learn how many drops your RDA will take before it leaks back at you.
RDAs can spit back.
E-liquid doesn’t always evaporate smoothly, like steam rising from a simmering stove pot. Sometimes it spits like a splash of water in a chip pan. Spitback isn’t a problem when you fire a perfectly-sealed vape pen or pod system — you’ll hear a crackle inside the atomiser, but you won’t get hit by any stray droplets of e-liquid. When you vape with an RDA however, the e-liquid can ‘spit back’ at you through the drip tip.
RDAs use more juice.
There’s no getting around it: big clouds of vapour require big amounts of e-liquid. Most RDA users will have a separate device for their all-day vape, just to keep their e-liquid costs down and their nicotine intake under control. Our advice is to avoid using any form of nicotine whatsoever in your RDA.
When you drip-vape any e-liquid, you get a much richer flavour, because you’re filling your mouth with a denser cloud of vapour. As a rule, we advise customers to start off with high-VG options, and go easy on the menthol flavours, just while they’re getting used to the device.
A great way to find out which flavours are best on your RDA is to buy a mystery box! You can find out all about these limited-edition e-liquid hampers on our buyer's guide to mystery boxes.
The real joy of dripping lies in how the process connects you with the physical and chemical reactions that lie at the heart of vaping. Like a stoker in a steam train, you have a direct, tangible impact on your own vaping experience. You cut, install and stuff your own coils. You hear the sizzle of the e-liquid and you feel the heat through the mouthpiece. You choose how much vapour you want. It’s incredibly satisfying.
As always, if you have any questions for us, please get in touch. We’re always happy to share our expertise with our customers and help you get more out of your vaping experience.
Stay safe and happy vaping!
- John Boughey