Are you tired of paying from $3 to $15, depending on your vaping setup, whenever the flavor starts getting muted or you forget to refill your tank and get a burnt hit? To copy the famous Morpheus meme…
What if we told you… you can have one year’s coils for less than twenty bucks?
“How?” you may ask while replacing another $3 to $15 coil in your gear. By using an RTA!
RTA is short for Rebuildable Tank Atomizers. Unlike tanks that take pre-made coils, with rebuildable atomizers, you make and use your own coils.
Not only is this vastly cheaper, but the results you get are more consistent since it’s you who’s building the coils. Not someone cursing his job somewhere in Malaysia. You control the type of wire used and, with it, if you want to take advantage of the Temperature Control capabilities of your mod. You control its gauge, make, type, and with them, the amount of vapor and intensity of flavor produced.
In the ancient days of vaping, atomizers like the Orchids were a pain to rebuild. Today’s rebuildable atomizers are stupidly easy to build: drop a pre-rolled coil in two holes, and tighten two screws. Then, feeding some cotton through, placing it in/over/under some holes, and hey presto, new coil for pennies!
What follows are the best you can find today, with the emphasis on “find.” We still love Geekvape’s Boreas atomizer, but if you can’t find it anywhere (or a replacement glass for one – if anyone has one, you know where to find me), there wouldn’t be any point including it in our list.
How we rate
Like with our RDTA guide, the tanks you’ll find here differ enough not to be contenders for the same throne. Each of them is better or different enough to justify buying two or even more since each will offer you a different vaping experience.
We used our classic DIY mix of 20 drops of Atmos Lab Vanilla (plain/classic) in 10 mls of 70VG/30PG 3mg nicotine base, for the DL atomizers, and 10 drops in 10 mls of 50VG/50PG 12mg base for the MTL ones. By keeping the flavor simple, straight, and consistent, we have a steady baseline for our testing.
We tried to cover all bases with our choices, so that everyone will find one they’ll like among them, no matter how they vape. We should note that we also considered the fact this could very well be the first rebuildable tank for some. Thus, we also prioritized ease of use in how we chose the options that follow.
Top 6 Rebuildable Tank Atomizers (RTAs): Editor’s Choice
Dovpo Blotto – Best RTA of 2020
DL (direct lung inhale) RTA
Blotto RTA’s aesthetics are a matter of taste since it looks relatively plain and unremarkable. That is until you realize that its top and bottom parts are modeled to resemble beer caps.
Parthenogenesis is rare nowadays. Finding inspiration or even outright copying elements from “something” when designing “your thing” isn’t frowned upon. Usually, though, the source for the copy is something high-end. Or the top of its category. Or cream of the crop. Something, to put it bluntly, worth being copied, being used as an example and a source of inspiration. Something like an F1 car, a space shuttle, or…
Other aspects of Blotto RTA’s design also look like they were shoddily put together, not really thought out, and somewhat random. For example, the bottom ring’s airflow holes don’t feel like they are aligned, thanks to its uneven beer cap shape. The atomizer’s drip tip looks like it’s made from two parts, but it’s so short, and its top ultem part so minuscule, you have to wonder: why even bother? Plus, no, we didn’t manage to take them apart. We tried.
The same goes for the blotto RTA’s “internals” that merge ideas from different atomizers into a hybrid result. Its postless deck feels like a mix between the Tauren RDA and the Dead Rabbit v2. It offers four holes where you install the coil legs diagonally, by simply dropping them there and then tightening down the screws. It’s an easy process, and for single coil setups, you can even go larger than 4 mm. When installing two coils, side-by-side, it’s best if you don’t go over 3 mm to 3.5 mm or risk shorting.
That’s because the Blotto RTA has two protruding airflow channels, one on each side, between each set of posts. They work as an extended version of the approach we saw in atomizers like the Reload S.
As for the wicking, it’s the typical solution of modern GTA-like decks, with two large cutouts at the ends of the deck, through which you can feed ample amounts of cotton that pull the juice upwards to the coil.
And it works!
Although nothing about it is original, the result is stunning. The Blotto RTA is one of the easiest to build and wick atomizers, in either single or dual coil configuration. Thanks to its airflow design and pretty open juice channels, it achieves the holy grail of direct lung vaping: it can produce huge, thick, fluffy clouds, on top of finger-licking flavor, while keeping up with chain vaping.
Admittedly, this is strictly a DL tank, and MTL fans will find the airflow too loose for their taste, the throat hit and flavor muted. Everyone who prefers from quite restricted to relatively open DL vaping, though, look no further: you just found your next rebuildable tank atomizer.
What we like:
- Easy to use deck can accommodate single or dual coils
- Cleverly designed and implemented airflow that engulfs the coils producing massive clouds and RDA-level flavor
- It comes with two extra bubble class tanks (although one of them is made out of Ultem) and a skull-shaped coil measuring tool that also works as a bottle cap opener!
What we don’t like:
- Although it does work on its own, the Blotto RTA is a mix of elements that have been proven to work in other atomizers, wrapped in beer bottle cap aesthetics.
- The deck is easy to use but restrictive. In dual coil setup, if you go over 3.5 mm, your risk shorts. In single-coil configurations, if you go under 3.5 mm, your risk leakage. In both cases, 3 to 3.5 mm seem to be the sweet spot for Blotto.
Innokin Ares 2
MTL (Mouth-to-lung) RTA
Upgrading the recipe that made the first Ares RTA by Innokin a favorite among many MTL vapers, the Ares 2 raises the competition bar.
The changes start from the top, specifically the top filling cap, where the drip tip now works as a safety locking mechanism. By pulling out the drip tip and sliding the top, you gain access to a large kidney hole, protected by a plastic gasket to minimize leakage. Unfortunately, having to push that gasket with the tip of your juice bottle can result in some liquid mini-pools in that area. Keep a paper napkin handy.
The deck is almost identical with the previous version’s, with coil installation being just as easy. As far as you’ve got a coil with its legs going in opposite directions, you only have to drop it into the two posts, tighten down the screws, and cut anything that protrudes where it shouldn’t.
What’s different here is the part under the coil, responsible for the air that hits it. Ares 2 has there what its creators call a “cross air flow control” system. Simple in use but ingenious in design, it means that the air comes to the coil chamber through a slot underneath the coil. Over that slot, though, is a rotatable disc with an identical space. If the slots match, you get the full airflow. By rotating the disc, the wide slot turns to a tiny hole at the slots’ intersection. This allows better control of the shape and velocity of the incoming air.
It’s worth noting that adjusting the airflow with a coil already installed is somewhat fiddly in actual use.
Apart from this internal adjustment, Ares 2 also offers a more typical airflow control ring. This, too, allows for a wide variety of airflow settings, since it comes with both a wide “cyclops hole” and a much smaller circular one. Under the ring, there are five airflow holes. The smaller, with a 0.8 mm width, is optimal for true tight MTL vaping. Using the ring’s circular hole to select only one of those holes, you get a progressively looser vape, but still too restricted for lung hits. Using the cyclops hole to keep open more than one or even all airflow holes at once allows for great – but still restricted – DL vaping.
What we like:
- Easy coil installation
- Dedicated MTL tank that also allows for great restricted DL vaping
- Excellent flavor
What we don’t like:
- Fiddly internal Cross Air Flow Control
- The locking mechanism for the top feeling cap is suboptimal since it relies on if you are using one of the provided drip tips.
Geek Vape Zeus X Mesh
Mesh Coil RTA
The Zeus family of tanks had a little something for everyone. It started with a single coiler and expanded with a single/dual coil postless version and a Sub Ohm tank. The common point between them was their brilliant airflow system, which redirected incoming air from the top of the atomizer to everywhere around the coil, for great flavor and clouds while minimizing leaks. But something was missing.
The new Zeus X Mesh fills that gap, coming with an easy to use clamp deck that allows the use of mesh coils. To install one, you have to bend it into shape. Then, unscrew the two screws that keep the clamps tight, insert the mesh coil’s ends in the space between the clamps and the posts, and tighten down the clamps.
Wicking the contraption is a little fiddly, though. Underneath the mesh coil is a spring-loaded holder. For proper wicking, you have to either use round cotton or, if you using cotton pads, roll one into a tube. Then, push the holder downwards with your tweezers, feed the cotton through, let the holder go, and, finally, use your scissors and tweezers to morph the cotton into a wick. The spring will push the holder back upwards, which will ensure full contact between mesh and wick.
Theoretically, you can also install a single coil made of round wire, using the clamps to grab its legs, ignoring the holder, and wicking it like you would on any other atomizer. Practically, though, we found the flavor in the Zeus X Mesh RTA lacking when using “plain” coils instead of mesh.
What we like:
- Straightforward mesh coil installation
- The spring-loaded holder ensures proper wicking
- Can also be used with “plain” coils
What we don’t like:
- The flavor is lackluster with “plain” coils
Vandy Vape Berserker v2
MTL (Mouth-to-lung) RTA
Back when DL tanks were still all the rage, if you wanted a perfect MTL vape experience, you had to invest in a pricey and not widely available atomizer, like a Kayfun. It was during this dark era that people started talking about a shiny newcomer. An affordable, mass-produced MTL atomizer that somehow could produce a vaping experience almost equal to the mighty Kayfuns. Could it be true?
Yeap, it was, and that’s why the first BSKR tank by Vandy Vape soon turned into a whole family of products, the latest and best of which is the BSKR v2.
Unlike the 1.5 version that came before it and iterated on the original’s design, the new v2 shakes things up so much that it could very well be released under a different name. The positive and negative posts are next to each other, so both coil legs should point towards the same side. For the actual installation, you only have to feed the two coil legs through the two post holes, tighten down their screws, cut the excess wire, and that’s it.
The way it’s airflow works is a radical departure from the older members of the BSKR family. Instead of only a single circular hole, tailored to restricted MTL vaping, BSKR v2 allows you to adjust your airflow on two different levels.
On the outside, you control the amount of incoming airflow by rotating a ring with a wide “cyclops hole” over a series of smaller holes. Wide-open, the amount of airflow can be enough for restricted direct lung vaping, and feels like a somewhat more loose Taifun GT2. With three holes open, it’s a relatively loose MTL vape. Two holes open give a true MTL vape, one hole leads to a restricted one. And you can go even more hard-core, by fine-tuning the airflow ring to use even less than one hole. You don’t have to, though, thanks to BSKR v2’s air restrictors.
The tank comes with six different restrictors that you can place in the coil deck, underneath the coil, to restrict the amount of airflow directly in the coil chamber. This leads to better-targeted airflow and, as a result, even better flavor. They restrictors come in sizes ranging from 0.8 mm to 2.0 mm, plus a special “D-1” one. This hybrid restrictor offers two 1 mm holes next to each other for better coil coverage. Still, it doesn’t feel as open as the 2 mm restrictor.
Vandy Vape upgraded even the top filling method, making it child/leak proof. Not everything is rosy, though, for this new version doesn’t come with an all-metal tank to which you could turn in the previous versions if your glass tank broke. It’s also worth noting that the second cube that comes with the BSKR v2 isn’t made out of glass but PEI, which can break or melt when in contact with acidic juices.
What we like:
- One of the best affordable MTL RTAs
- Easy coil installation
- Top flavor
- Updated airflow also suitable for restricted DL hits
What we don’t like:
- Doesn’t come with a metal tank like its precursors
- We are not fond of the long drip tips
- “Backup” tank is made from PEI, not glass
Hellvape Destiny RTA
On the outside, Hellvape’s destiny RTA looks like any other generic DL atomizer. At its core, though, is an original, very easy to use deck, which makes coil installation a breeze. Two protrusions at the side of the deck reroute the incoming air directly at the coil’s sides. One of them is wider and also acts as the coil installation point, with two screw holes at its left and right.
To install a coil, with both of its legs pointing to one side, you feed them through those holes, tighten the screws down, and cut the excess wire. Kudos on the perfectly installed coil.
The proximity of the air channels to the coil, combined with how they take up most of the space in its relatively small coil chamber, undoubtedly play a significant role in Destiny’s top-tier flavor.
Wicking is similarly straightforward. Destiny RTA follows the tried and tested approach of having two relatively large holes at the bottom of the coil deck, which you are supposed to block with your wick. If you don’t, you will have gurgling and, eventually, leaking. If you overdo it, you will have a muted vape and, ultimately, dry hits. Thankfully, finding the sweet spot isn’t hard.
As a guide, after you feed your wick through the juice holes, if you can also insert your tweezers next to the cotton and freely wiggle them, you are golden.
The result of your labor will be a flavorful and relatively airy vape, that can turn your room into an extra set for John Carpenter’s The Mist.
What we like:
- Effortless coil installation
- Side airflow redirected directly on the coil
- Easy to find the perfect way to wick it
What we don’t like:
- With two extra posts in its deck, Hellvape’s Destiny RDA would allow you to use coils rolled “the other way around,” and fill up more space in its coil chamber, further improving its flavor. Maybe they’ve kept that for the next version.
QP Design Gata RTA
DL & MTL RTA
Almost everyone who’s tried it agrees that QP Design’s latest Gata atomizer has knocked it out of the park as far as ease of use, performance, and looks go. And yet I don’t like it.
It’s not that the vaping experience is bad, for it isn’t. Quite the opposite, it’s one of the best you can get, both in its MTL and its DL setup. For, you see, one of the defining characteristics of the Gata RTA is that you can swap its airflow ring to match the way you prefer to vape. It comes with two, one for DL vaping equipped with a wide “cyclops hole,” and one for MTL with three airflow holes at 0.5 mm, 1.0 mm, and 1.5 mm.
Installing coils is dead easy thanks to its postless deck, where two holes wait for your coil’s legs. Pre-cut them, drop it into place, keep it steady directly over the airflow while you tighten down the screws, and voilà: coil installed.
Wicking is similarly comfortable. You only have to feed some cotton through the coil, cut it 2 mm to 5 mm outside the deck, and then drop its fluffy ends into the wicking channels.
In action, the Gata RTA doesn’t produce the thickest of clouds, rendering it a mediocre option for cloud chasers. It’s flavor, though, is top-notch.
As for why it’s not my cup of tea? First of all, in an era of cheap glass, I don’t like PMMA tanks. Admittedly its primary 4 ml tank is made of glass, making the 2 ml one the equivalent of “a backup.” “A backup” that comes with a warning, though, not to use Menthol or other acidic juices with it, or it could get damaged. And I love my cinnamon, lemon, and menthol DIY mixes.
A similar warning comes with its Ultem airflow restrictor placed directly underneath the coil for optimal airflow. It’s suggested you don’t have it installed while placing a new coil in the deck and pulsing it to remove any hotspots. Because of their proximity, the heat from the coil can melt the restrictor. It’s clear that the fine folks at QP Design understand how it’s a pain in the rear putting the restrictor into place after installing a coil: they casually mention the alternative of “pulsing the coil, keeping an eye on it, and adding juice.”
We should stress that we’re not the only ones who consider the current restrictor a problem. QP Design themselves suggest, in the product’s official page, that you take the restrictor out because it can melt. They could go for something like Dvarw’s approach, and use a metal restrictor, but Ultem is cheaper. Thus, this is obviously one point where “they preferred cutting corners”, hence, a minus point in our score card.
Or, you know, since I am over 40, uber-grumpy, and don’t have the patience or eyesight anymore for all that, choose one of the alternatives. If those shortcomings don’t annoy you and, more importantly, you are not me, you will probably love it.
What we like:
- Top-notch flavor
- Versatile airflow design performs excellently in both MTL and DL modes
- Dead-easy coil installation
- A choice between two tanks
What we don’t like:
- Its “DL mode” is more “restricted DL” – fans of open-wide setups may find it too restricted.
- Installing the airflow restrictor after having installed a coil can be annoying. Installing it before may melt it. But, hey, you have a choice!
- Remember how in The Matrix “there is no spoon”? If you try to vape menthol with the Gata RTA, “there is no second tank.”
Rebuildable Tank Atomizers (RTAs) - Specifications
|RTA Tank||Diameter||Tank Capacity||Coil Type||Price|
|Dovpo Blotto – Best RTA of 2020||28mm||6mL||Single & Dual Coil||
|Innokin Ares 2 RTA – Runner-up||22mm||2mL||Single Coil||
|Geek Vape Zeus X Mesh RTA||25mm||4.5mL||Single MESH coil||
|Vandy Vape BERSERKER V2 MTL 22mm RDA||22mm||1.5mL||Single Coil||
|Hellvape DESTINY 24mm RTA||24mm||4mL||Single Coil||
|QP Design Gata RTA||24mm||4mL||Single Coil|
No More Pre-Made Coils
The most popular reason people get into rebuilding atomizers is to avoid having to buy pricey premade coils. Many, though, fall in love with vaping for a second time after this jump, after they realize they can now customize their vaping experience precisely to their liking.
With tanks and pod systems that rely on premade coils, you are stuck with what the manufacturer produces. Admittedly, today we have a wider choice between different premade coils for the most popular atomizers. With older or more obscure tanks, the choice between coils might be severely limited.
This matters because the coils are primarily responsible for the vaping experience’s core part, vaporizing the juice. By using larger or smaller coils, contact or spaced, made of Kanthal, Stainless Steel, Nickel, or Adamantium, you can affect your vape’s heat, density, and even flavor profile.
The primary reason for going rebuildable, though, remains the same: you can avoid the cost of premade coils by using a roll of wire and a pack of Japanese cotton pads you can buy for peanuts.
Why Use an RTA Over an RDA?
By being shorter and able to take larger coils while having more direct airflow, RDAs are the best choice for both flavor and cloud chasers. But they are, admittedly, inconvenient.
When vaping with an RDA, you are continuously dripping juice. If you don’t do it, two or three hits down the road, you will inhale a charred wick’s fumes. So, most of the time, you end up using both your hands to vape, holding your mod in one hand, the juice bottle in the other. Then, juggling them when you have to do anything else, like, say, unlocking a door.
RTAs solve this problem by having a juice reservoir in the form of a tank. With an RTA, you only have to refill it every now and then. The best part is that, if you are a light MTL vaper who doesn’t consume a load of juice, this “every now and then” may mean “two or three times per week.”
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Admittedly RDTAs have the same primary benefit of RTAs over RDAs since they also come with a tank. Plus, by being closer to RDAs, they also – usually – have an edge in both flavor and vapor production over an average RTA.
Both RDAs and RDTAs, though, are suboptimal for use when you are on the move. The problem is that they are both open systems, with both their coil chamber and, up to a point, their juice reservoir exposed. Tilt them, and you will have leakage. And don’t even think about carrying them in your pants pockets, unless you don’t mind looking like you had “an accident.”
Like with our RDTA guide, there is no clear winner among our contestants. The perfect atomizer for someone who likes big fluffy clouds and unrestricted DL airflow can be, at the same time, the worst possible option for those who prefer tight MTL vaping.
Vandy Vape’s BSKR v2 is one of the best options for pure MTL vaping available in the market but has evolved to also allow restricted DL vaping.
The same goes for Innokin’s Ares 2, which performs just as great for both types of vaping. They provide a similar vaping experience, making a choice between them a matter of personal preference between their decks and looks.
The BSKR v2 has a more classic look that follows in the footsteps of the beloved Nautilus atomizer by Aspire and a similarly more traditional (and fiddly) deck. Still, we think it’s more forgiving in its wicking. The Ares 2 by Innokin, on the other hand, is a more modern tank in every regard. It’s made for the hobbyist vaper, who likes the very idea of having to experiment with it to find the perfect way to wick it. Or fiddle with its airflow in two separate places to pinpoint the optimal setting for him.
For DL vapers, the choice is easier, since Dovpo‘s Blotto RDA leads the pack. You don’t like the idea of having to invest the time to find the optimal way to build it? Nor have to deal with a busted mod after your whole tank’s contents leaked on (and in) it? Then, maybe the Zeus X by Geekvape would be a better choice.
Hellvape’s destiny RTA is an excellent middle ground between the two. If we were talking about gaming, it would be the default character. The somewhat generic, average hero. The best choice for the vast majority of people who don’t like overthinking if they should go with the swift stealthy assassin or the two-sword-wielding barbarian.
I have to admit that QP Design’s Gata can be an equally good performer, but I don’t like the proximity of its air restrictor to the coil. That’s why I can’t suggest it over solutions like the Ares 2, where there is no chance of melting such a part and inhaling toxic fumes. If you are careful while rebuilding it, though, it’s just as good as the rest of them.
We hope we provided the best choices for everyone. Both those who treat vaping as the most efficient way to quit smoking and those who see it as a hobby. Those who want to save money on coil costs, and those who wish to adjust their vaping experience precisely to their liking. Hopefully, everyone will find a significant upgrade to their existing tank among our choices and stay off the stinkies.
Keep vaping, and do tell us in the comments section below what your next tank will be – and why.