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Types of Bongs - Beginner's Guide
One of the most popular ways to consume cannabis is to smoke it in a bong. Bongs are a great way to enjoy your herb, providing an enhanced experience, pronounced and potent flavoring, and all natural water filtration.
Adding to the allure of bongs is the fact that they come in a wide array of types, styles and artistic designs. From minimalistic and functional, to decadent and creative, there is a style and design that is made to suit just about any purpose.
As you can imagine, given the broad range of options, there are also a number of other considerations that apply when figuring out the right type of bong for you.
Some of these aspects include:
· Price / affordability
· And more…
The following guide will help you find the perfect match for the next time you smoke up with your favorite strain.
What Is a Bong?
Simply put, a “bong” is just a much cooler name for a simple water pipe. That is, the smoke passes through a water-filled chamber, producing a cooler, more mellow flavor profile and is generally less harsh on the lungs. But while all bongs are water-pipes, not all water-pipes are bongs. More on that below….
Bongs vs. Hookahs
Hookahs are a popular form of water-pipe, usually designed for smoking a tobacco preparation made with molasses. They are larger, have a mouthpiece connected by a hose (some have several hoses, for group smoking), and require some know-how to use. Some users mix cannabis with the tobacco, and there are hookahs designed for cannabis use alone, but a traditional hookah is best used as designed, for molasses tobacco only.
Bongs vs. Dab Rigs
A bong has a pipe bowl for smoking herb, while a dab rig has a vaporizer attachment (a “dab nail”) for use with oils and concentrates. Dab rigs are also usually smaller than bongs, but some pipes can be used for both by switching up attachments. This is something to consider if you plan on dabbing.
Bongs vs. Bubblers
All bongs bubble, but the term “bubbler” usually refers to bongs with a percolator, an interior chamber with many small holes that the smoke passes through on its way into the water. Dividing the smoke into lots of tiny bubbles, instead of a few large ones, exposes more of the smoke to the water, cooling it further and resulting in a super smooth pull and experience.
The Special Case of Gravity Bongs
A gravity bong is basically a tube with a pipe bowl or “cap” at the top, and water in the bottom. Draining some of the water creates a partial vacuum that pulls air through the smoldering herb and fills the pipe with smoke. The user then removes the cap to inhale through the top of the pipe. Gravity bongs are popular, and they definitely involve water, but since the smoke never passes through the water, “bong” might be the wrong word for them.
Related: What is a Gravity Bong?
The Variety of Bongs
Bongs come in different shapes, sizes, materials, and sizes, resulting in dozens, if not hundreds, of possible types. It’s easier to just look at each variable independently.
First Up: Shape and Size
Most bongs are variations on the same structure; a central, water-filled chamber and a tube extending from near the bottom—below the water level—that ends in a pipe bowl. The mouthpiece, or downstem, is at or near the top of the chamber. Bongs can be straight-tube, round-based, or beaker-shaped, depending on the shape and size of the central chamber. Most are actually flat-bottomed, even the round-based bongs. The difference is how much the bottom flares out. There more flare, the less likely your bong is to tip over.
Some smaller bongs look more like a traditional pipe in shape, with the water reservoir in a swollen area between the bowl and the mouthpiece, but they work on the same basic principle.
Regardless of shape, the bigger a bong is, the more smoke is needed to fill it. Users with really big lungs, or who like to share with friends, like big bongs, but for others, the larger size tends to waste herb.
Bongs can be made of almost any non-toxic material, provided it’s waterproof and at least somewhat fire-resistant. Glass is the most versatile and the easiest to clean, and among the most attractive, but it costs more and can break. Plastic is the least-expensive and among the most durable, but can alter the taste of the smoke. Ceramic is the most attractive and has a mid-range price, but can break and it’s hard to tell when it needs to be cleaned because it’s not see-through. Metal is both durable and low-cost, but can alter the taste and, being opaque, is again hard to keep clean. Bamboo is the most traditional material. It can also alter the taste, but a way many users like.
Glass and plastic are the two most popular options.
Styles and Complications
Some bongs have carburetors, some have percolators, some have multiple chambers, and some have all three.
A carburetor, in this context, is a hole in the side of the bong, above the water level. By covering and uncovering the hole with a finger, the user can control airflow into the bong, making it easier to inhale more smoke.
Percolators divide the smoke into multiple small bubble streams, exposing more of it to the cooling water. There are several different styles of percolators, each with a slightly different effect.
A multi-chamber bong has two water reservoirs in sequence so the smoke gets cooled twice before inhalation. Some have a percolator for each chamber.
In general, the more complex a bong is, the more expensive and harder to clean it is, but the more control the user has on the smoking experience.
Homemade Bongs – for you DIY’ers out there
With a little know-how, it’s possible to make a bong out of almost anything, from plastic bottles to carved fruit to snow. Some of the simplest and most popular home-made pipes are gravity bongs made with a cut-up plastic bottle and a bucket of water, but remember these are not true water-pipes.
In general, home-made bongs are simpler and generally crude versions of the professional thing. Their main advantage is convenience and affordability. But they are also generally less efficient and sometimes even dangerous.
Then there are those individuals that enjoy getting inventive and building things form scratch. But carving bongs from items like fruits or vegetables just isn’t very convenient, and a little goofy. That said, using organic fruits does result in an interesting and unique flavor addition to the smoke.
Choosing the Right Bong
Bongs are larger and more complex than other kinds of pipes, but the smooth, mellow smoking experience makes them a perennial favorite among both casual and regular users alike. The sheer variety can be overwhelming, and for newcomers, all the jargon and slang in the world of bongs doesn’t help. But most bongs can be sorted into a couple of simple categories based on what it’s made of, its shape and size, and the presence or absence of complications such as percolators.
Weighing Prices – staying on budget
The top of the price scale is likely to be a highly complex, brightly-colored glass bong, while the cheapest is usually a simple, plastic piece. But the cheapest bong is not necessarily the best deal, even assuming you don’t want to splurge on something fancy (and some do). That’s because glass bongs are more versatile, with the option to expand your bong’s capabilities with a variety of attachments.
If you want to start simple and expand your smoking horizons gradually, a basic glass bong could be a better bet than buying a plastic model—and then having to buy another and then another after that.
Would you rather spend less time cleaning your bong or have a smoother, cooler smoke? Do you want a portable piece, or do you like inhaling monster-size hits? Is clean, pure taste important to you, or are you willing to put up with an altered flavor if it means your bong won’t break when you knock it over? These are the main trade-offs to consider when buying a bong.
The variety of bongs, from simple to intricate, can be confusing, but ultimately gives users more options for how they want to use cannabis. The more options users have, the better.
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