Smokers have a lot of choices when it comes to smoking or ingesting their substance of choice. There are hand-rolled joints or cigarettes, blunts, bowls, and pipes, to name just a few. In states where marijuana is legally available, fans of the drug can find vape cartridges and edibles. But one classic smoking method hasn’t gone out of style in decades, and that’s using a water pipe — more popularly known as a bong.
Bongs offers certain advantages to the smoker, but what are those advantages, and how do bongs work? Here’s what you need to know about water pipes or bongs.
How water pipes work
Water pipes can come in different shapes and sizes, but they all have a few basic traits in common. Virtually all bongs have a cylindrical tube that ends in a mouthpiece on one end. The other end of the tube may remain straight, like a test tube, or flare out and widen, like a beaker.
A bowl — the part of the apparatus where the smokable substance is placed and, later, lit — emerges from the side of the bong, often as part of a removable “stem.”
The bong is partly filled with water — hence the term “water pipe” — and the bowl is filled with a smokable substance.
When a bong is “hit,” the smoke travels through the bowl down into the water, where it is cooled and impurities are left. From there, the purer, cooler smoke moves up the tube and to the smoker’s lungs.
Some water pipes have a removable stem attached to the bowl. By grabbing ahold of the stem or brown and removing it, smokers can use this device like they would use a carb on a bowl or pipe. This creates a two-stage smoking experience: first smoke is pulled into the tube, and then (as the stem is removed) into the lungs. This can enable the smoker to take larger hits of their preferred substance.
Why use a water pipe?
Water pipes are just one way to smoke, but why should you consider them?
For some, the appeal lies in the water pipes’ ability to give you larger hits. Since the smoke is cooled, purified, and often chambered through the removable stem system, hits from a water pipe can be very large indeed. Generally, the larger the water pipe itself, the larger the hits can be.
When smokers use water pipes, they make very efficient use of their smokable substance. As the smoke is pulled into the pipe and then into the smoker’s lungs, very little of it escapes. That compares favorable to the efficiency of, for instance, a joint. Joints lose a lot of smoke to the air in between hits. There are reasons to use every smoking methods, but when it comes to efficiency, the logic is in water pipe smokers’ corner.
Water pipes can also be an aesthetic choice. Some are more beautiful than others, and the varieties are diverse. Smokers can choose clear glass and clean lines or swirled, artistic bongs. There are endless options, but it all comes down to the smoker’s creative preference.
How to shop for a water pipe
If you think a water pipe might be right for you, here’s how to shop for one.
Start by considering your budget. Water pipes can come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and price ranges, but don’t cheap out on the brand name. A quality bong like a RooR pipe will last longer and perform better than the no-name competition.
Think about the features you want, too. A removable stem is a great option to splurge on. Other optional perks include ice catchers (to hold ice that cools the smoke) and percolators (which distribute smoke more evenly through the water for better purification).
Shop online or at your local head shop, and rely on trusted outlets that will give you the right prices on name brands. There are a lot of great options out there, so happy hunting!