The bong is the quintessential old standby for smoking weed, providing a smooth, mellow and naturally filtrated experience every time you take a drag.
Because bongs are so popular, with virtually everyone that smokes weed having used or owned one at some point, the market has responded in kind with a multitude of styles and models tailored to handle virtually any need or preference.
And while variety is certainly the spice of life, having too many options without any direction as to which is the best for your needs can result in what we call “analysis paralysis” (i.e. so many options you end up wasting time trying to figure out what’s what).
But all that is over now. This guide will help provide you with an introductory brief into the wonderful world of bongs and will get you pointed in the right direction in no time.
But First, What Is, and Is Not, a Bong?
In the simplest of terms, bongs are water-pipes. This means that smoke from your cannabis passes through water, which acts as a natural cooling and filtration method. Both the act of cooling as well as filtration makes the smoke inhaled less “harsh” and easier on the lungs while keeping all the “good stuff” like THC and CBD intact.
But not all water pipes are classified as bongs. Read on to learn more about the differences.
Hookahs Are Not Bongs
Hookahs are larger than bongs and more complex. They also aren’t generally best suited for beginners. With a few exceptions, they also aren’t set up or ideal for cannabis use, either. Most hookahs are designed for use with a tobacco preparation made with molasses. Without that molasses, dry herb packed in these pieces burns too quickly and most of the smoke is wasted.
Dab Rigs Are Not Bongs
Dab rigs are a lot like bongs, but instead of a pipe bowl, they have an attachment for vaporizing oils or concentrates. Some bongs can actually double as a dab rig, or mini dab rig, depending on which attachment you use, but not all of them can.
There are many different types of bongs, with different shapes, sizes, and materials. The key to not getting confused is to look at only one variable at a time.
What a bong is made of makes a big difference in price and a significant impact on performance and efficiency. Glass and plastic are the two most popular options, given that both are clear, making cleaning bongs easier and smoking more visually appealing.
Plastic is the least expensive, but can sometimes produce off-flavors and a less pure flavor.
Glass not only offers a pure experience with no “off flavors”, but it’s also more versatile, letting you buy a simple piece and then add attachments as you gain experience. Some models are beautifully colored and molded into various designs while others are simple and functional. The only drawbacks are that glass can be expensive and can easily break if not taken care of. If price is an issue we offer a variety of bongs on sale.
Ceramic bongs are gorgeous and affordable, but it’s hard to tell when they need cleaning. This material is also susceptible to cracking.
Metal is durable and affordable, but hard to determine if they need cleaning.
Bamboo is another natural (but less used) alternative that can provide some natural off-flavors that some find pleasant.
Bong Shape and Size
A bong has a central, water-filled chamber with a tube that holds a pipe bowl sticking out the side from below the water. The mouthpiece, called a downstem, comes out from the top or near the top of the chamber. The most basic version is basically cylindrical (like the original bamboo bongs). They fall over easily. Round-bottom bongs actually still have a flat bottom, but they spread out a little for greater stability. Beaker-shaped bongs spread out a lot, for even more stability.
Some mini-bongs are shaped more like a regular pipe, with just a swollen area between the bowl and the mouthpiece for the water. These models are convenient and often attractive, but you’re more likely to get bong water in your mouth by accident (yuck).
So-called gravity bongs have a completely different structure. They use changes in the water level to draw smoke into the pipe, but since the smoke never passes through the water you don’t get the mellower taste of a water pipe.
The bigger the bong, the more smoke can fill it. That’s great for people with really big lungs, but beginners might do better with a smaller piece.
Other Notable Features
A bong can have multiple chambers (and sometimes multiple percolators, described earlier) so the smoke gets cooled twice. Another possibility is a carburetor, which is just a hole above the water-line. By covering and uncovering the hole, you can control the flow of air and inhale more.
You’ll also hear about other types of percolators and various attachments. The important thing to remember is that a complicated bong is usually an expensive bong—and usually harder to clean, too. You might decide the finer-quality smoke is worth the greater expense and difficulty, many do, but you might prefer a simple bong to start out.
Bringing It All Together
So, what does all this mean for a beginner’s bong choice? It depends, in part, on your smoking interests.
If you don’t have much money and are either accident-prone or unsure whether bong-smoking is your thing, a durable, low-cost plastic bong might be your best bet. A simple glass bong might be better if you’re sure your bong use is going to expand.
The initial cost will still be reasonable, but you’ll be able to add attachments as you gain experience, upgrading your piece instead of having to buy a new one. If you think you might want to explore oils and extracts, get a bong that can double as a dab-rig. In any case, you’ll probably want a mid-sized bong to start with.
If you really want a big, complex, beautifully decorated piece, though, we won’t stop you.
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