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June 27, 20240

MTL vs. DTL: Vaping Styles Explained

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Jeremy Mann

The world of vaping has grown exponentially since its humble beginnings of cigarette-like devices sold out of mall kiosks in the early 2000s. We now have tens of product categories and thousands of vaping products to choose from. But no matter what you read in promotional materials about vaping innovations and new ways to vape, there are really only two main vaping styles: MTL vs. DTL.

MTL stands for mouth-to-lung, and DTL (sometimes called “DL”) stands for direct-to-lung. The two styles of vaping are differentiated at the draw. MTL is tight inhale, and DTL is open, loose, or, as some call it, “airy.” 

These two ways of vaping provide a perfect starting point to help one find a device best suited for them. This article will outline these two types of vaping so that you can determine for yourself which is right for you. Ultimately, that will help you narrow down the field of devices to help you find the best fit.

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What is MTL vaping?

MTL (or mouth-to-lung) is a type of inhale that mimics the draw of a cigarette. The very first vapes used this style of inhale. The process is in its name, mouth-to-lung, because it’s in stages. First, the user draws the vapor into the mouth, closes the mouth, and then opens it to take in an additional breath. That additional breath takes the vapor down into the lungs before being exhaled.

Although that depends on the user, MTL is usually an advantageous method of inhalation to help end a smoking habit, since the action is similar to smoking a cigarette.

Characteristics of an MTL inhale

  • Tighter, more “restricted” inhale (smaller airflow holes used)
  • Slower and deliberate
  • Smaller clouds of vapor
  • More stealthy and discreet
  • Warmer vapor
  • Less power used by battery
  • Good for use with higher nicotine levels and nicotine salt ejuices (from 6 mg freebase up to 50 mg salt)
  • More ideal for thinner, higher PG-based e-liquids (50% to 70%)
  • Lighter flavor (though some may disagree with this sentiment)

Vapes for MTL inhale

The vapes best suited for an MTL vape are going to be beginner devices. While this isn’t a rule, it’s a fairly good starting point. As mentioned, the first vapes were MTL because it’s the way cigarettes are smoked. Because of that, MTL is considered to be the perfect transitioning inhale when trying to replace or end a habit of smoking. These are the types of devices best suited for MTL:

  • Disposable vapes: Everything you need to begin is included in the device. The liquid, the coils, the mouthpiece, and the battery are all part of the device, fully assembled. In most cases, literally, all the user has to do is remove the device from the package and begin puffing. (Best recommendation)
  • Refillable pod vapes: Still great for beginners, but the user supplies the eliquid. Also, the pods have to be discarded and replaced by the user. Pod vapes are typically going to be MTL-friendly.
  • MTL tanks: These tanks require a vape mod (battery-powered device) of some sort to supply power, and the user must supply the eliquid, and also keep up with coil replacements. MTL tanks can take pre-built coils or be rebuildable.

Recommended MTL vape

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4.9

VOOPOO ARGUS P2

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The VOOPOO ARGUS P2 is a square-shaped pod vape with a stunning see-through design. It houses a large 1100 mAh battery and is compatible with the ARGUS series of pods. It features airflow and wattage adjustability, programmable LED lights, and 2A charging. The P2 comes in seven color options.

Read the full review

Characteristics of a DTL inhale

  • A loose draw (larger airflow holes) resulting in an airy draw
  • Faster and more assertive (think of that asthma inhaler)
  • Larger plumes of vapor
  • Not very discreet (due to airflow sounds and vapor produced)
  • A cooler experience since the vapor is cooled off by more air
  • More power used by the battery
  • Best for use with lower nicotine levels (up to 6 mg freebase or 10 mg nicotine salt)
  • Ideal for high VG e-liquids (70% to 100%)
  • More flavorful (like with MTL being lighter flavor, some might dispute this point)

Vapes for DTL inhale

The best vapes for DTL are generally going to be outside the realm of beginner devices. That’s not to say that there aren’t beginner devices that can achieve a DTL, because there are. The key here is that what’s best for a DTL is going to be a device with more power, and that’s typically not the case with a beginner device, despite exceptions.

Sub-ohm tanks: The best for DTL. The user supplies the eliquid, and the coils have to be replaced. Most of the time the airflow is adjustable, but the airflow is copious. These tanks allow for enough air to practically feel completely unrestricted from your deepest inhale. (Best recommendation)

AIOs: Generally good for DTL, these devices have a lot in common with pod systems—and they are often called “pod mods.” Their differences lay in the size (AIOs are generally larger) and the fact that AIOs take replaceable coils. The user supplies the eliquid, and the coils will have to be replaced. AIOs often come with replaceable batteries as well.

Rebuildables: RTAs and RDAs are typically good for DTL. The user supplies the eliquid, wraps the coils, and even adds the wicking material for the absorption of the liquid. A high-wattage mod must be used to power these devices. Not intended for or recommended for beginners.

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Recommended DTL vape

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4.9

Geekvape Aegis Legend 3

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The third Aegis Legend keeps everything that made the line legendary and adds innovation to the mix. The Legend 3 introduces the Smart Lock tech, which automatically unlocks the device when you are holding it! The IP68-rated mod is powered by the AS Chip 4.0, takes two 18650 batteries, and comes as a kit with the Geekvape Z FLI sub ohm tank. Available in ten color options.

Read the full review

Loose MTL and a restricted DTL: middle-of-the-road

There are other methods to vape inhalation techniques that sit in the middle of MTL and DTL, but are still a part of the main two categories.

Loose MTL: Different from a tight or even “true” MTL because there’s slightly more air, and the user takes the vapor to the back of the throat, then the lungs. The key here is that there’s still an extra breath after inhaling from the device.

Restricted DTL: Sometimes called RDL, is like a DTL hit but the experience of drawing in the vapor gives a restricted sensation. With a restricted lung hit, there’s no extra breath at the end as with a loose MTL.

Still undecided?

If you're still undecided as to which method will work best for you, fret not. Vaping is a very personal experience and one that you may need to experiment with. The majority of vapes produced these days have adjustable airflow, which allows the user to set the airflow intake to their desired levels.

That said, not all vapes with adjustable airflow will allow for all types of inhales. In general, if the airflow has really small holes, like up to a millimeter in diameter, it's going to be best suited for MTL to a loose MTL. If the airflow holes are larger, each measuring two millimeters or more, it's likely best suited for a DTL or a restricted lung hit. The mouthpiece also plays a role. A thin mouthpiece that’s up to the diameter of a cigarette filter will be a better fit for MTL vaping, while wide-bore mouthpieces are better suited for DTL vaping.

Compact devices like pod vapes and disposable vapes typically range from MTL to a restricted lung hit, with the majority staying in the MTL area. Devices like sub-ohm tank kits and some larger AIOs are generally your best bet for getting a true DTL without venturing into the world of rebuildables.

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Jeremy Mann

Vaping since: 14 years

Favorite products:

Favorite flavors: Desserts, fruit mixes, sweet tobaccos

Expertise in: Vaping history, MTL vapes, DIY, cannabis/vapes

Jeremy Mann

Previously having been the chief-editor, I am now a contributor here at Vaping360 and I reside in southeast Michigan. I've been vaping since my first ecig purchase in 2010. For more reasons than I can list, vaping has been a lifesaver for me. Now, my goal is to help other smokers make the switch.

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