For many years there has been one name when it comes to portable, two-way humidification for your cigars: Boveda.
There’s no product category in cigars dominated in the manner Boveda dominates cigar humidification. It’s as close to a generic trademark as there is in the cigar world and it’s what all of us at halfwheel have used for years, well before this website launched. Beyond cigars, it’s the category leader in a way that is rarely seen in any industry.
Over the years, there have been some attempts at trying to introduce a competitor, but most have failed spectacularly. However, because of the burgeoning marijuana market and the product’s valuable usefulness in that industry, Boveda has seen a recent surge in competition in the cannabis side of its business and some of those products are making their way into the cigar market.
Enter Humi-Smart, a Minnesota-based company that is making a product that sounds very similar to Boveda.
WHAT IS IT?
It’s a portable, two-way humidification product that the company says uses plant-based fibers that have been treated with a solution to work at a specific humidity level, or technically, within +/- 2 percent of a specific humidity level. The products are offered in a variety of sizes including 4 gram, 8g, 30g and 60g, each with 58, 62 and 69 percent relative humidity options. There are also 55 percent and 65 percent packs available in select sizes.
- 4 gram — $1 (Pack of 20, $19.95/Pack of 200, $200)
- 10 gram — $1.40 (Pack of 10, $14)
- 30 gram — $3.25 (Pack of 4, $13)
- 60 gram — $3.99 (Pack of 4, $15.95/Pack of 10, $39.99/Pack of 20, $79.95)
The company also sells bags designed to hold roughly five cigars that include an 8-gram pack ($1) as well as It’s a Boy/Girl cigar tubes that include a 4 gram pack ($3).
Humi-Smart includes a small testing dot that it says should be used to determine when it is time to replace the packs. According to the company, those dots operate within a +/- 5 percent range, meaning that if you had a 69 percent pack, the dot is intended to stay pink (i.e., safe) within 64-74 percent relative humidity. Once it goes outside those limits, the dot will turn blue.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Simply remove the plastic covering, place the Humi-Smart in whatever storage container you’d like, and close said container. When the humidity drops, swap in a fresh Humi-Smart. As best I can tell, it seems like you probably want one 60 gram pack for every 20-25 cigars, but more on that below.
I’ve learned that before I do any of these reviews, it’s best to initially test the product to make sure it doesn’t smell, leak or put off too much humidity, all of which have happened with other Boveda competitors. Humi-Smart avoided any of those problems and so I moved to testing it with cigars.
For the most part, Humi-Smart works. However, in the most important test—the one posted in the video above—it didn’t do great.
I placed a 60 gram, 65 percent Humi-Smart pack into a 3-quart OXO container, a type of airtight (or close to airtight) container, along with a calibrated SensorPush. It started off in the 64 percent relative humidity range, but a month later was consistently lower by about 1 percent relative humidity. A month after that, it had lost another 1 percent relative humidity. For context, over the past week—which is less than 75 days after being put in the container—it has fluctuated between 61.8-62.4 percent relative humidity.
The container has stayed in the same spot in our office and hasn’t been opened during that time. Yet, in less than 75 days, the Humi-Smart has lost more than two percent relative humidity in a sealed container.
When asked about why this could be happening, Humi-Smart said that it could be due to the SensorPush being off, which might explain the numerical values but wouldn’t explain the trend. It said the container might not be airtight, or that the air in the container initially might have been dry. None of that makes much sense to me when it comes to the trend line.
But more concerning is what the real-world implications of that would be. The 3-quart container is about 9 inches tall by 6 inches in diameter. I could reasonably store about 25 toro-sized cigars in the container without much issue. Furthermore, an OXO container is going to seal better than just about any humidor on the market. Based on this test, I suspect that Humi-Smarts are going to need to be replaced more frequently than some other products, or you are going to need more packs than you would otherwise think.
On the flip side, I performed another test which you can see above. I took two other OXO containers, two additional freshly-calibrated SensorPush hygrometers, and a 60 gram, 69 percent pack from both Humi-Smart and Boveda. I weighed 120 grams of distilled water into two identical double old fashioned glasses and then put them in the containers. I weighed each pack before placing them in the containers and then set them up in an identical manner. I will note that I changed the positioning about 30 minutes after this was first filmed; I reopened the containers and placed the humidity pack on one side of the container and the water on the other.
I then weighed each pack after they spent 30 days in the containers, each stored next to one another and not opened:
- Starting Weight: 65 grams
- Ending Weight: 85 grams
- +20 grams
- Starting Weight: 62 grams
- Ending Weight: 83 grams
- +21 grams
For the first two weeks, the Humi-Smart was doing a slightly better job of keeping the humidity down, albeit, not to a safe level.
Here were the ranges of relative humidity for the first and last weeks:
- First Week: 77.7-88.4 percent RH
- Final Week: 85.9-94 percent RH
- First Week: 80.9-91.8 percent RH
- Final Week: 86.2-92.9 percent RH
But somewhere during the third week, the two were more or less tied, and by the last week, Boveda was arguably safer, although once again not safe for cigars.
I don’t think there’s an actual victor in this test, other than to say that they both work more or less the same when it comes to absorbing an excessive amount of water in an airtight environment. Regardless, being able to hold your own against Boveda is a win for anyone.
I also used the Humi-Smart in a couple of desktop humidors, as well as using one of the travel bags for a few weeks. None of them broke or had any issues with leakage, etc. Given the lack of controls compared to the other two tests, I wasn’t really looking to see how well Humi-Smart performed at delivering humidity, though after about two months it seems like all the packs still have some life left.
WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL?
Humi-Smart will tell you that its packs use plant-derived fibers, they don’t use corrosive salts and they won’t affect the taste of your cigars.
But it’s all just an army of red herrings.
Humi-Smart doesn’t disclose what’s in the solution, but said, “We have a proprietary blend of ALL NATURAL ingredients inside – and the paper packet outside too.” I don’t know what to make of that, but more importantly, I also don’t know why it matters.
It also claims that it doesn’t use salt—something that Boveda uses—and that Humi-Smart won’t affect the taste of your cigars. But it also never claims that Boveda does affect the taste of your cigars. This is something that’s been a much more serious accusation in the marijuana space where Boveda’s competitors have argued that Boveda’s use of salt negatively affects the marijuana it’s being used to store, something Boveda disputes.
To my knowledge, none of Boveda’s competitors have come up with any evidence, either on a scientific level or when it comes to structured blind taste tests, when it comes to the product affecting the taste of cigars. And, there’s certainly nothing on this point I’ve seen from Humi-Smart.
Without evidence, all of these claims—plant-derived, no salt—as well as the packs being biodegradable—fail to matter unless the opposites provided.
If there was a non-plant-derived product, that used salt and wasn’t biodegradable, and that affected the taste of your cigars, that would be an issue. Otherwise, it’s a classic red herring.
- It Mostly Works — I’d rather have the Humi-Smart’s slow decline in relative humidity compared to something like the HF Barcelona Gelly where the humidity skyrockets well above a safe level in less than one day. I would also rather have something that provides less humidity than advertised than more because the latter will permanently damage your cigars in more ways than the former. See below for more on the topic of “it mostly works.”
- Priced Competitively — Unlike RH Stayfresh, Humi-Smart is at least priced competitively to Boveda.
- Different Size Options — I’m not sure I’d use them a ton, but having a 30 gram option is welcomed, but it needs to be priced closer to $2.75 in my opinion. The cost per gram of a 60 gram pack is 6.7 cents compared to 10.8 cents for the 30 gram. I’d be willing to pay a slight premium, but not that much of a premium. Also, the tubes seem like a great option and I’m curious to know how they are selling.
- Cheap Bags — Speaking of pricing, for whatever reason Humi-Smart sells its portable bags with an 8 gram pack for $1, whereas a 10-pack of just the 8 gram pouches, without bags, is $14, or $1.40 per pouch.
- Baby Tubes — I think for a retailer this is a great option. You might not sell many of them but it’s got to be $2 worth of profit every time you do.
- It Mostly Works — The test in the sealed container would suggest that Humi-Smart struggles to provide the humidity it says it will. Part of the issue here is Humi-Smart doesn’t provide any estimates about how long its product should last. Regardless, I definitely don’t think that one month in a sealed container before dropping below the +/- 2 percent range is good.
- The Testing Dots Aren’t Accurate — Humi-Smart is hardly the first company to use the dots and I’ve consistently found that they don’t work. I don’t have enough experience with Humi-Smart’s version, but there’s already at least one issue. The company told me that the dots “will turn when they go 5% above or below the RH they are calibrated for…” When I was doing the absorption test, I placed the 69 percent pack in the container with the glass of water and left it there for over a month. Per Humi-Smart’s instruction, that dot should have turned blue once the humidity exceeded 74 percent relative humidity. As you can see above, the humidity has never been below 75 percent and it spent four weeks never dropping below 80 percent. When I opened the container after 30 days of testing, the relative humidity was over 90 percent and the dot was still pink.
- Humi-Smart’s Recommendations for How Many Packs to Use are Confusing — These screenshots are all taken from the company’s website. I suppose there’s a scenario where it all could be true: you need one pack per 25 cigars, one pack could humidify up to 50 cigars, and in a humidor, we recommend that you use one pack per 25 plus one more. Whatever the case, it’s all confusing and arguably misleading.
- Recharging? — Above is what the company said when I asked whether it was possible to recharge the packs. Note, there was no #2.
- It’s Tougher to Tell When Your Packs are Done — It’s not impossible, but it was bad enough that we recently got a package someone sent with a hard-as-a-rock Humi-Smart inside of it. When new, the Humi-Smart is slightly malleable, and then as the moisture reserve drains, it gets harder. Humi-Smart includes the aforementioned pink/blue dot test, but it’s certainly a lot more challenging to tell when a Humi-Smart is done than it is a Boveda, which becomes hard and rigid, allowing you to feel the crystals inside.
- Humi-Smart’s Marketing — I’m not fond of many little things Humi-Smart does to promote its products, such as the aforementioned red herrings, the guidance on how many packs you will need, and some questionable Instagram practices. All of this is covered with examples in the rather long video above.
Boveda remains king.
In some ways Humi-Smart is on par or close to being on par with Boveda. It doesn’t damage your cigars because of excess humidity, it seemingly can absorb excess humidity on the same level as Boveda, and it’s mostly priced the same. But in the most important test—can it do what it says it’s going to do?— it’s got an issue, no matter how slight. During the most controlled test—putting the device in a sealed container and not opening it—Humi-Smart was slowly losing humidity in a pretty short period of time.
Unfortunately for Humi-Smart and anyone else that wants to compete with Boveda, in the words of Omar Little, “when you come at the king, you best not miss.”
You can’t just be as good as Boveda. Whatever product wants to be serious competition is going to need to have an advantage: either work better or be priced lower. On its best day, Humi-Smart is neither.
At larger volumes, Humi-Smart is actually more expensive. Humi-Smart’s pricing is nearly identical to competing Boveda sizes except if you buy 12 or more 60 gram packs. If you buy a 20-pack of 60 gram packs you will pay $79.95 for Humi-Smart compared to $69.99 for Boveda.
As for competing products not named Boveda:
- HF Barcelona Gelly — I’m stunned these things are still on the market. These things will overhumidify your cigars, which leads to burn issues, damage, mold and other problems.
- RH Stayfresh — This will likely be my next review. I had some samples from the 2019 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show that smelled sweet, so hopefully that’s not a problem for the next packs I buy. I have no testing experience with this, so I don’t want to make a judgment at this time.
- Integra Boost — It seems like this is finally on the market and maybe being offered to cigar stores. Expect a review by the end of the year. I have no testing experience with this, so I don’t want to make a judgment at this time.
Note: Boveda and Integra are both advertisers on halfwheel.
SHOULD YOU BUY IT?
The Humi-Smart neither a better version nor a cheaper version of the Boveda packs. It might be the next best thing, but it’s still not the real deal.
Products for this review were purchased by halfwheel.