Parents and educators, check out these autistic odes to noise-cancelling headphones. They imply a lot about neurology and how misguided behaviorism is. In her thesis that introduced neurodiversity, Judy Singer called computers an essential prosthetic device for autistics. That they are. A decent set of noise-cancelling headphones is another essential device. I remember my first pair of noise cancellers. They were a revelation in sensory management. I wish they existed when I was in school. Normalize them in our classrooms, and get them to our autistic and sensory overloaded students.
I’ve had AirPods Pro for a few weeks. They are pocketable and effective sensory regulation that is always with me. Noise-cancellation in such a portable package is a boon to my sensory management. Again, I wish I had them in my K-12 years. They would have changed my life and avoided some meltdowns and burnout.
Note: noise-cancelling headphones are not for everyone. They can aggravate hyperacusis and misophonia. If you can, try noise-cancellation from different manufacturers to see if one is more compatible with you. I’m fortunate to be compatible with the Sony, Sennheiser, and Apple noise-cancellation I’ve tried. They all work for me.
Needless to say, the dining hall, as well as being busy, crowded and a source of multiple odours, was also very noisy, as trays were picked up and clattered back down, cutlery jangled, and metal serving dishes clanged against metal hot plates. Meanwhile, the children, squeezed into rows of tiny seats bolted on to collapsible dining tables, grew louder and louder to make themselves heard over the racket. Indeed, the lunch queue alone can be the place where sensory problems ‘can turn into a nightmare’ (Sainsbury 2009, p.99). Perhaps unsurprisingly, therefore, all of the child contributors to this book – Grace, James, Rose and Zack – identified noise and crowds as being the most difficult aspects of school from a sensory point of view.
Indeed, the school environment can present autistic children with a multi-sensory onslaught in terms of sounds, smells, textures and visual impacts that constitutes both a distraction and a source of discomfort (Ashburner, Ziviani and Rodger 2008; Caldwell 2008). There was also clear evidence from my own study that sensory issues, and noise in particular, can be highly exclusionary factors for autistic children in schools.
A recent discussion with neurodivergent coworkers brought up how overwhelming school lunch was for many of us, and likewise the group dining at our company meetups. I like to use the Brian Wilson biopic, “Love and Mercy”, to demonstrate how overwhelming dining at a crowded table can be. It has a very relatable dinner scene where Wilson is overwhelmed by the overlapping noises of utensils and conversation.
Getting lunch is a trip through “sensory hell” for many neurodivergent students.
Sensory Hell is the opposite of something being stimmy. It is utterly and totally unbearable.
Maybe you’re thinking of the classic scenario of the autistic person melting down in a busy grocery store, and it’s true that grocery stores are often considered tools of the devil by autistic people. But anything can be a sensory hell.
This scene is quite similar to how I experience an autism sensory overload. When sounds, lights, clothing or social interaction can become painful to me. When it goes on long enough it can create what is called a meltdown or activation of the “fight-flight-freeze-tend-befriend” (formerly known as “fight or flight”) response and activation of the HPA axis; a “there is a threat in the environment” adrenaline-cortisol surge.
This makes seemingly benign noises a threat to my well-being and quite possibly real physical danger to my physiology. Benign noises become painful, and if left unchecked, enough to trigger a system reaction reserved for severe dangers. This is what days can become like on a regular basis for myself and many on the spectrum.
“Let me stick a hot poker in your hand, ok? Now I want you to remain calm.”
That is the real rub of the experience of sensory meltdowns. The misunderstanding that someone with Autism is just behaving badly, spoiled or crazy. When the sensory overwhelm is an actual and very real painful experience. It seems absurd to most people that the noise of going to a grocery store could possibly be “painful” to anyone. So most people assume the adults or children just want attention, or they can’t control their behavior. In work situations I get accused of all kinds of things. And when I leave a noisy situation like a party to step out to take a break, people will notice that I’m “upset”. They will assume or worry that I must be upset at something or someone. And that’s just if I do take a break. If I can’t take a break or get my life out of proper oscillations and can’t avoid noise or sensory/emotional overload, then I can get snappy, defensive, irritated and under very unfortunate circumstances even hostile.
What the stress of noise means, in the autism’s world of an over-sensitive physiology and ramped up stress experiences, is that that pain is warning of us of real damage being created in our bodies. So this anxiety and reactivity isn’t necessarily just perceived but is actually happening. We are not being overly dramatic or a brat (what those with Autism are often accused of). Damage to our physiology is what noise can actually do.
Mine is a tiny empire of foam, articulation, and assistive devices. Scheurmann’s kyphosis, lumbar spondylolisthesis, fibromyalgia, wildfire muscle cramps, muscle-boiling fasciculations, and peripheral neuropathy are constant companions. As are sensory overwhelm and the effects of autistic burnout.
In this guide are the things I use to conserve spoons, stay below sensory thresholds, and get through each day. These are tested in the field of my disabled and neurodivergent life. While attempting brevity, I’ll describe how each fits into my flow.
I link to Wirecutter reviews for many of these items. They show their research and list alternatives. Disclosure: Some of the links below are Wirecutter Amazon affiliate links. Wirecutter is a New York Times company.
Foam Ear Plugs
Vibes Ear Plugs
Bluetooth Sleep Masks
Sunglasses and Light-reactive Glasses
Pillows, Bedding and Bolsters
Shredded Foam Pillows
Heating Pads and Blankets
Rolling Floor Stands
Gooseneck Clip Phone Holders
Neck/Lazy Bracket Phone Holders
Portable Moon Chairs
Folding Walking Canes
The Toes Knows
Motion Control Shoes
Yankz and Lock Laces
Zipper Hoodies with Pockets
Thai Fisherman Pants
Tracking and Finding
Cutting and Opening
Utility Knives and Scissors
Music and The Golden Age of Television
The Future is Accessible, Accessibility Matters, and Ableism is Awful Apparel
I keep my sensory kit in an Arcteryx Maka 1 belly bag (a waist/fanny/lumbar pack worn front). My belly bag is always with me.
Anything I carry around this much can’t be on my back. It must be curated down to the things that are worth their mass and worn below the aching suspension of my pained back. I’m stooped enough. Waist packs worn front hit a sweet spot of retrievability, gravity budgeting, and pain management. I can bear the weight, and when I unzip the compartments, everything therein is first order retrievable.
Foam ear plugs can amplify my tinnitus. Even when they turn up the ringing, I keep them in because I sleep better through tinnitus than ambient sound.
Vibes don’t block as much sound as foam ear plugs, but their “breathability” amplifies my tinnitus less. Lately, I’ve been using the Vibes as my go to sleeping ear plug with good results. In noisier environments where I want isolation, I use the foam.
The stems serve as handles, making extraction much easier than with foam.
The snap case that comes with the Vibes is large enough to hold both the pair of Vibes and a pair of foam plugs. I like the size and affirmative closure of the snap case, though it requires two hands to open. It fits easily in the smaller compartment of my belly bag.
Nose-cancelling headphones are also part of my go-everywhere sensory kit. Since they don’t fit in the belly bag, they are usually to be found around my neck. I feel better knowing they’re there.
They’re expensive. To get their full benefits, you need an expensive iPhone. I wish this accessibility tech was more affordable, because AirPodsmakemefeel augmented, especially with the arrival of Siri Shortcuts. AirPods provide convenient sensory management and a voice interface to my cognitive net. I leave these in for hours at a time: playing music, setting timers and alarms, creating tasks in Things, and accessing the checklists that order my life. When not in my ears, they stow comfortably in the belly bag in the same pocket as the Vibes snap case (and some other stuff).
I forget I have these hanging from my ears. “Hanging” is the key to comfort. When I first got them, I was “inserting”. Ear burn came on quickly because their hard plastic was pressing against the ridge poking out along the top of my ear canal. Once I let go of the “you gotta push ‘em in there to not lose ‘em” anxiety and started hanging instead of inserting, comfort came.
Two taps to pause. Remove a bud to pause. Instant pairing. Siri Shortcuts. Disability means getting used to bad flow, flow not designed for you, flow not accessible to you. This is good flow that removes some thoughtlessness and frustration from my world.
I once heard a blind person say, “With my cane, my brain, and my trusty iPhone, I can go anywhere.” I agree with the statement completely, but it’s time to update that statement to the 2018 version:
Give me a set of AirPods to go with my iPhone, and I can go anywhere-and surreptitiously know a lot about my environment while doing so.
I’m light sensitive, so my go everywhere sensory kit also includes a sleep mask. I like ones with raised eye cups, such as the Wirecutter recommendedNidra Deep Rest. The Deep Rest rolls up compactly and fits comfortably in the large compartment of my belly bag right alongside my sunglasses.
Bluetooth Sleep Mask
Unlike the other parts of my sensory kit, I don’t carry this with me all the time. It’s usually on a bedside table, though I’ll loop it through the belt of my belly bag when I want to keep it with me, such as on a car trip.
I use the mask from Topointas recommended by Brett Terpstra. The padded nose bridge lifts the mask off the eyes. There’s not as much eyelash clearance as the Nidra Deep Rest, so your lashes might brush the mask when you blink. With eyes closed, I have the clearance I need to be comfortable.
The controls are placed on the left cheek. After laying on my left side for awhile, the pressure is noticeable, though I can still fall asleep.
The controls are certainly not the easiest to use without looking, but I got the hang of it. Since I put the mask on when I’m ready to fall asleep to a favorite playlist or to a white noise generator, I don’t interact with the controls much anyway.
These don’t provide the isolation of an over-ear or ear buds, but they do a good enough job to put me in the sensory space I want to be in.
This mask sleeps hotter than the Nidra Deep Rest.
Sunglasses and Light-reactive Glasses
My bifocals have light-reactive, photochromic lenses that protect my light-sensitive eyes without having to swap into sunglasses whenever I walk outside.
Light-reactive lenses react to UV. Car windows block UV. I always keep a pair of dedicated sunglasses in my belly bag so I can use them when in the car or indoors.
I always have a hat with me. They are an important part of my sensory management. Beanies are my go to because they’re light, packable, cover my ears, and provide gentle, even pressure to my scalp.
My lightest weight beanie is a Smartwool PhD Ultra Light. It stuffs down small enough to keep in my belly bag at all times. This hat can actually cool me down when out in the sun. It blocks some rays while wicking sweat. Sometimes, I put it on and immediately feel that evaporative cooling sensation.
It doesn’t go down over the ears as much as I’d like, though. I find myself trying to tug it down. Smartwool, a slightly longer PhD Ultra Light would suit me fine.
My go to beanie is the Smartwool PhD Light. It has the full ear coverage I like. It’s notably heavier than the Ultra Light since it is two layers instead of one, but it still packs down small enough to fit in the belly bag.
Smartwool’s The Lid comes out when I need a little more warmth. It’s too big to pack into the belly bag, so I loop it through the belt of the bag.
I like the fit and scalp pressure of Smartwool’s beanies.
Beads are stimmy goodness. I make my own stim jewelry from beads and beading wire. I keep a stim loop attached to the belly bag. I put a finger’s width of slack in the wire of the loop so that I can spin and slide the beads. It can be used one-handed while attached to the bag or can be removed for two-handed play.
I use a length of light shock cord as a zipper pull. The stretch is stimmy goodness. I ran the cord through a piece of rubbery tubing. I enjoy the texture and the tug of this simple stim.
Stimtastic is affordable stim toys, chewable jewelry and fidgets for autistic adults and teens as well as individuals with SPD, ADHD/ADD, dyspraxia . . . everyone who stims! Run by an autistic person, Stimtastic celebrates stimming as a natural part of our lives.
Any part of me that touches the world is gonna ache soon enough. Pillows improve my relationship with gravity, which pulls like a sickness.
Shredded Foam Pillows
I’ve tried various foam pillows over the years, but their heavy density and warm nature didn’t work for me. Shredded foam pillows fix these problems. Though heavier than down and poly fill, they’re not as heavy as the solid foam of old. The extra weight vs. the lighter fills gets you some moldability and conformability. I mold out space to accommodate my AirPods when side-sleeping. I can even mold out enough space for my big over-ear cans, though that’s still not quite comfortable.
This pillow is big and rather heavy. I invert mine to fluff it every few days. The size makes the process a bit of a wrestle.
This pillow doesn’t provide head support (at least not at my 5’8” height), so I supplement with the shredded foam stuffed sham mentioned earlier. I made it the thickness I need to fill the gap between my head and the wall. Pillows that are stuffed even just a little bit too thick pitch my head forward uncomfortably.
Of the travel/neck pillows I’ve tried, only the Travelrest Ultimate Memory Foam Travel Pillow suits my needs because it removes the thickness at the back of the pillow so that my head doesn’t pitch forward. Pillows that don’t reduce thickness behind the head are non-starters.
Like so many travel pillows, the Travelrest presses against my AirPods and over-ear cans. Someday, I’ll find a pillow that removes the rear thickness, contours around headphones, and still supports my head when it’s lolling to the side.
I use neck pillows in the car and also, at times, while working from bed. There are days when my neck gets tired of keeping my head on.
The Company Store Down-Free Fill Body Pillow is my cuddly alignment companion. I’m a dedicated side sleeper even though becoming a back sleeper would ease some pain. A full length body pillow reduces distracting shoulder and arm pressure and aligns my hips and knees.
Side-sleepers may find it comfortable to hug a body pillow, reducing pressure on the bottom shoulder and arm. It can also be comfortable to tuck the pillow between the knees, preventing the pelvis from tilting forward or backward: “If you sleep on your side without a pillow between your legs, the muscle fibers can get overstretched,” Ryan told us. Keeping the ankles separated and parallel during the night can also be comfortable, Ryan said, especially for people who experience swelling.
A 72”, this pillow is longer than I am tall. I like that. It’s a feature The Company Store pillow has over others, as noted in the WireCutter review. I considered going with a shredded foam body pillow since it works for me in other applications, but decided to go with a lighter fill given the long length. I don’t regret it. The TCS body pillow has the right amount of loft, poof, and rebound.
I take a seat cushion everywhere I go, especially when navigating the usually awful chairs of the medical model. These make waiting in a doctor’s office more bearable.
I used to use coccyx pillows like the ComfiLife and the Aylio. Now, I use Purple seat cushions and will never go back to a coccyx pillow. I travel with the Purple Simply. One is always in the car. I use the thicker Purple Royal at home. If I’m sitting, it’s probably on one of these cushions.
I have too much kyphosis (curvature) in my spine. The result is constantly aching back muscles stretched like cables supporting a poorly designed suspension bridge. I pretty much live on a heating pad to ease the deep, abiding ache. Check out the Wirecutter recommendations for heating pads and electric blankets. I use their top recommendation, the PureRelief XL – King Size Heating Pad, daily.
I can’t hold a phone, tablet, or e-reader for long without hand, wrist, elbow, shoulder, and neck pain. I can’t use a laptop unless it’s positioned just right. So, I articulate all the things. I spend a lot of time in the supine; articulated tablet, laptop, and e-reader holders are a must.
Rolling Floor Stands
We have three LEVO Deluxe iPad Floor Stands that have survived years of continuous abuse. They are tough and stable. The kids use the arms as stim toys for fidgeting feet and even ride them around the house like scooters. These stands have held up through all of our indelicate attentions.
I glued large rare earth magnets (salvaged from some aquarium equipment) to their faces. I like magnetic phone attachment.
I roll these up next to the bed or couch whenever I’m spending time on my phone or e-reader. Not using them is to invite pain.
I clamp an Ergotron LX Tall Pole LCD Arm to my bed frame. It is fitted with an extension arm and a laptop tray. This provides the articulation I need to find a comfortable repose whether watching TV or sitting up against my reading pillow and typing. The tall pole provides mattress clearance, but if you have a super-thick mattress you might have to get creative with clamping.
I love this arm. It hovers my laptop over me in bed, making work possible. I’m glad I got the extra extension arm. It adds needed height to clear me in bed and extends its range to the width of the bed. I strap a UE ROLL 2 to the extension arm. This puts it at the prefect height and orientation to send sound up along my reclined body.
Gooseneck phone holders aren’t so great for actually using your phone while mounted. They jiggle too much. However, when watching a movie in a hotel room where I don’t have my floor stand, they save a lot of pain. I clip one to my bedside table and throw it in a tote bag when I travel.
As with the floor stands, I glued a magnet to my holder. I got a clamp style holder, but the jaws are quite deep enough for my iPhone 7+ in a wallet case stuffed with cards. Actually, I glued a magnet to a small metal rolling tray that happens to fit the jaws of my holder. Holder clamps tray, magnet on tray hold phone. Magnetic versions aren’t as common, but I should try one.
Neck/Lazy Bracket Phone Holders
I’m always looking for ways to save pain while using my phone. Often, neither focal range on my bifocals is comfortable for reading because neck and shoulder pain limit the positions in which I can hold a phone. In such moments, I take off my glasses and put my phone on a GoWith [Magnetic Tablet & Cell Phone Holder worn around my neck. This way, I can position my phone exactly where I need it to accommodate both my eyes and my neck.
I usually use this when sitting outside reading. I’ll sometimes walk around with it on while running through household checklists.
If you love your spoonie to the tune of 800 – 2000 bucks, I can recommend the Steelcase Leap, the Steelcase Think, and Soma Ergonomics chairs. We’ve had all three around the house for several years, and they are well-built survivors. The Leap is approaching twenty years old and still holding up comfortably.
Moon/saucer chairs certainly aren’t for everyone, but I take a big CORE padded moon chair or KingCamp Sofa moon chair with me to outdoor events. I use them at home too for lounging outside. I like the room big saucers provide, and they support my curved back more comfortably than upright chairs.
I couldn’t cook or wash dishes without standing mats in the kitchen. These extend my functional time and reduce painful bouts of sciatica, paresthesia, and fasciculations. I use the Imprint flat matsuggested here.
I use a few mobility devices to extend my range and stay below thresholds.
Folding Walking Canes
My Switch Sticks folding walking cane has been a reliable companion. Adjustable and durable, this fits and hasn’t let me down. They come in many colors and patterns and are tote bag stuffable.
With a Flipstick, I always have a seat with me. I put a padded bicycle seat on mine and cut a hole through it to provide access to the button that locks and unlocks the seat.
When I’m waiting in a chair in a doctor’s office, I lean forward and support my head on the Flipstick’s seat. My kyphosis pitches me forward. With the Flipstick, I can go with my tendency to lean and be supported. I use it in this mode more often than I use it as a seat.
This seat has saved me when caught in unexpectedly long queues without a rollator or wheelchair. It’s not exactly comfortable, but when my legs are ready to buckle, I’m glad I have it. When sitting on this, form a tripod with your legs and the stick.
There is a little slop in the seat mechanism and the collapsible sections. The Switch Stick has a tighter fit and doesn’t have a rattly flip seat. If you can’t stand any rattle or slop in your collapsible canes, the Flipstick might be a bad fit.
My Drive Medical rollator has also been reliable. It assists me on longer bouts of walking and avoids the often fruitless search for seating. I sometimes wish I had a side-folding rollator for navigating narrow doorways, but those are more expensive, and the seat hinges down the middle, which bothers some.
I like to sit outside, even as the temperature drops. Baffin Base Camp booties are sleeping bags for my feet that keep my feet warm through a full winter season of porch sitting. They’re great in the house too.
Custom orthotics are one of the best investments I ever made. I’m a flat-footed over pronator who’s had a lifetime of grief with my feet, including having my feet forcibly shaped by hard plastic orthotics as a kid.
The orthotics of today aren’t those wretched things I had as a kid. For too long, that childhood experience prevented me from giving orthotics another go. I don’t walk more than 20 steps without the 3/4 length orthotics I have now. Without them, even a brief walk of just one minute induces foot pain.
My podiatrist used a plaster cast method, and I’ve been very happy with the results. A portable cast of your foot transforms every shoe.
If you want to change the life of someone with foot issues, spring $500 for custom orthotics.
Motion Control Shoes
My go to motion control shoe is the Brooks Beast. These are expensive shoes, so expensive that I wear them years longer than I should. Funding fresh motion control kicks for the over pronator in your life is a nice move.
Yankz and Lock Laces
Our dyspraxic family uses Lock Laces to avoid knot tying. Yankz is a similar brand. I’ve never owned Yankz, but I see both them and Lock Laces recommended in the #ActuallyAutistic community. The main difference seems to be the tensioning clip in the Yankz. I don’t need that part.
There isn’t much selection in accessible shoes, making Nike’s Flyease all the more appreciated. Every shoe company should have an accessibility line. We buy Flyease.
Clothing and texture preferences are very personal. Here’s what’s compatible with me and my sensory needs.
Zipper Hoodies with Pockets
I like soft cotton and micro fleece hoodies with zipper fronts, ample hoods, and plenty of pockets. I live in hoodies. I recede into their comforts. They provide sensory insulation.
I have limited shoulder flexibility and cramp readily when trying to shimmy out of long sleeve pullovers. All of my outerwear has a means of escape, preferably a YKK zipper.
Thai Fisherman Pants
Inexpensive, comfortable, and capable of being both your fat pants and your skinny pants, Thai Fisherman Pants are what I wear pretty much all the time. I get mine from Amonchai.
Thai fisherman pants are secured with a knot. Knot tying isn’t accessible to everyone. I still have enough hand dexterity to tie bow knots, so I haven’t had to work around the knot requirements of fisherman pants.
BTW, if you tie shoelaces using the bunny ear method, you might be tying Granny Knots instead of more secure Reef Knots. I did this for a long time before habituating myself to switch my starting knot from left over right to right over left.
Of the three common knotting techniques, the Two Loop Shoelace Knot (or “Bunny Ears” method) is probably the one that is most often tied incorrectly. The technique consists of one knot tied with loose ends followed by a second knot tied with loops. People naturally tie both stages exactly the same way, resulting in a “Granny Knot”. This has given it a bad reputation as an inferior knot – whereas it’s actually quite secure if tied correctly.
…if you currently tie your starting knot: “Left end over Right end & through”, simply change it to: “Right end over Left end & through” – or vice versa.
Medications and chronic pain can increase distractibility and impact cognition. I attach Tile trackers to keys, canes, headphones, purses, and bags. I attach one to the key leash of the belly bag. Searching for necessary coping tools while grimacing with pain is frustrating and dispiriting. Tile trackers provide a comforting cognitive net.
Double pressing the button on the Tiles rings your phone. With a Tile on my belly bag (as well as on my headphones and canes), I’m always able to summon my phone from its hiding places in the depths of couches and bedding.
They have to be replaced each year, which gets expensive. Tile recently released a Pro Tile with a replaceable battery. Next time I have to replace one, I’ll try a Pro.
Tiles are too big to put on eyeglasses. Luckily, there’s a superior eyeglass locating technology: eyeglass chains. Put chains on your glasses and never wonder where they’re at again.
As I became more presbyopic, I found myself losing track of my glasses because I’d take them off to read and see up close. Putting my eyeglasses on a chain has saved me a lot of frustrated searching.
A good utility knife and a good pair of scissors assist package opening chores and household cutting. In our dyspraxic, repetitive-strain-wracked household, we cut instead of pull, rip, and tear. The Wirecutter recommendations for utility knife and kitchen scissors have served us well.
I picked the Wellmax WM99024S Grocery Utility Shopping Cart from the competition based on Amazon reviews. I haven’t had cause to regret the choice. When driving to out of town hospitals and staying in hotels, the cart handles schlepping our coping array to and from the car. At home, we use it for bringing in groceries from the car.
Music helps manage sensory overwhelm and is an unguent for souls. Spotify and Apple Music subscriptions cover every mood.
Here, enjoy a minimalist chill. The repetitive structures of minimalist compositions are part of my sensory management.
The Future is Accessible, Accessibility Matters, and Ableism is Awful Apparel
Support disabled people, and spread the message of accessibility. Accessibility Matters and The Future is Accessible apparel are not always available (the campaigns run for limited time windows), but grab something for the spoonie in your life when they are. If the campaigns currently aren’t open, hit the “I Would Buy This!” button to signal interest in the next campaign.
Masturbation reminds you that your body is about more than pain. Get some toys. The Magic Wand is a good general purpose massager and sensory stimulator. Again, I’ll rely on Wirecutter recommendations since they show their work and offer alternatives.
A #ChronicHolidays guide doesn’t feel complete without some chronic. Medical marijuana is a life saver for many. It’s an ally to disability and neurodivergence. It eases chronic pain, aids sleep, reduces sensory overwhelm, and heads off overwhelm and PTSD-induced meltdown. I prefer vaporizing hash oil concentrates, especially at bed time, but combusting a joint while amidst nature appeals to a Promethean and free wildling part of my nature. Here are suggestions for grinders, rolling supplies, dry herb vaporizers, and concentrate vaporizers.
Dry Herb Grinder
I currently use a large Space Case Grinder Sifter. Larger diameter cases are easier on my hands and wrists. The threads on this case are fine and need to be kept clean. 99% isopropyl helps with that and all medical marijuana related cleaning needs. I’d prefer something with coarser, less-cloggable threads, but as long as I keep the threads clean I can get by. The Wirecutter has grinder recommendations, but I haven’t tried any of them.
Dry Herb Vaporizers
I’ve tried several dry herb vaporizers over the years. Most did not stay in my rotation long. The AirVape X bucks that trend. It has a minimal air path, which means less cleaning. The large rim funnels down into the oven, which means less spilling of precious medicine.
I use RAW organic hemp rolling papers and tips. I always roll with rolling tips (also called crutches or roaches). They make hand rolling easier and provide a more comfortable burn as you get to the end of your number. You won’t have incendiary hippie grenades hitting the back of your throat if you z-fold your rolling tip. If you don’t have any rolling supplies, kits that include a rolling tray, rolling machine, rolling paper, rolling tips, and a doob tube are convenient.
Cannabis is a botanical. That’s means the possibility of allergies, especially when combusting dried flower. If you’re sensitive to botanicals, concentrates like butane hash oil (BHO) will better suit you. BHO uses butane as a solvent. Most of it is purged off, but if you’re sensitive to butane try a solvent-less concentrate like rosin.
I prefer inhaling my meds. Vapor is the most bio-available delivery method. Inhaled vapor gives instant relief and dosing feedback since it goes straight to the brain.
For concentrate vapes, I’ve had good luck with Linx products. I’m currently using the Linx Ares Honey Straw. It’s straw design means there are more surfaces in the air path, which means more cleaning. I clean it with an alcohol wipe every time I recharge and haven’t had any problems with it so far. When kept clean, straw and nectar collector designs provide the best flavor and cleanest hits. If you enjoy terpenes and revel in the taste of living green, try a straw design. With straws, you can dab straight from wax paper and silicone or glass containers. They’re not as discrete or handy for vaping on-the-go as pens though. The setup I like is a pen for continuous micro-dosing during the day and a straw or e-rig for heavier dosing at night.
I’ve used and enjoyed the Dr. Dabber Aurora. The magnetic sections are wrist friendly, but I found that the mouthpiece would come loose in my pocket. I fixed that with a piece of gaffer tape. Dr. Dabber has responsive customer service and stood by their product when I broke the ceramic pin on my Boost e-Rig.
Something to keep in mind with concentrate vaporizers is that you will have to regularly replace the atomizers (or heating tips for straw style devices). They get gunked up with resin over time and must be replaced. Factor the price of atomizers/tips and 99% isopropyl alcohol into the total ownership cost.
Here’s a survey of popular vape pens.
With all of these devices, you have to keep them clean, clean, clean. Always have 99% isopropyl handy. Amazon offers bottles by the case.
Turn that silicone water pipe into a dab rig with a quartz banger. I’ve used domed and domeless nails of all sorts. My preference is the quartz banger. They’re easy to use and provide a clean hit.
A water pipe with a quartz banger is an enjoyable way to apply a bed time dose.
A Good Torch
I’ve gone through a lot of torches. The only one to last more than 6 months is the Blazer Big Shot. Mine still strikes after almost 6 years of regular use.
There are a lot of hemp-derived CBD (cannabidiol) products on the market right now. They are currently legal in all 50 states in the US. There are a lot of rip offs out there, so watch out.
CBD is a cozy blanket of calm. I don’t find the hemp-derived CBD concentrates to be as effective as marijuana derived concentrates, but they still help.
In my experience, CBD works better in concert with THC. 1:1 CBD:THC products suit me nicely. If you don’t have access to medical marijuana derived CBD, the hemp stuff will certainly suffice. CBD can help reduce dependence on opioids. If you experience opioid constipation, CBD could be a life changer.
CBD concentrates comes in many forms. Crystals are flexible and multi-use. You can sprinkle them on food, swirl them in drinks, cook with them, and even dab them with dab rigs, vapes, and straws.
Vape cartridge’s screw onto any vape pen with 510 threads. Cartridges are great for micro-dosing throughout the day.
I’m still auditioning hemp-derived CBD makers. Here in the Austin Texas area we have Ziggy’s Naturals.
Medical Marijuana Accessibility
It’s rare that I see reviews address the accessibility of devices. Every vaporizer I’ve used requires 5 quick button clicks to turn them on and off. This interaction is not so accessible. Grinders often have fine threads that are difficult to line up and clog quickly. Companies need to be more attentive to disability. I long for someone to take disability and accessibility seriously in their design, marketing, packaging, and customer support. Cannabis is medicine, after all.