Everything that you need to know about waterpipes is covered in this Bong 101 Guide. From glass, ceramic and plastic bongs to their diffusers, percolators and clutches.
The bong selection and options were pretty bleak back in the day, you’d probably have to settle for whatever you could find at a flea-market or resort to bongineering your own DIY solution. Fast forward a decade or two and now you are simply spoiled rotten by the dazzlingly vast array available for every budget. Frankly… it can be a full time job just keeping up with the endless options and innovations, so whether you spending 50 bucks or half a million we’ve put together this super nifty guide for amateur and professional Bongologists
What is a Bong?
The sweet and short of it is that a bong is a smoking pipe which contains a water chamber through which smoke will bubble to be filtered and cooled. This can vary from tiny lighter sized bongs to massive behemoths that defy lung capacity. The technology is nothing new as this kind of thing has been done for millennia across the globe. What has definitely changed though is the form, functionality and artistry of the modern bong.
The Anatomy of a Bong
They traditionally consist of a:
– Bowl, where you pack the herb.
– Downstem, where the bowl fits on and the smoke travels down.
– Water chamber, where the down-stem enters and bubbles the smoke.
– Neck, where you hold the bong and inhale the smoke from.
– Clutch (aka Carb), a simple hole that allows you to control the bong’s air and smoke flow with just a touch of your finger.
Entry level products have the most basic of these functions while more premium ones will improve upon these elements by increasing either the bubble diffusion of down-stems or adding additional chambers for water and smoke to percolate further before being inhaled.
How to use a bong
Step 1 – Packed your prefered herb into the bowl.
Step 2 – Place your mouth on the neck opening and slowly enhale enough to make the water bubble.
Step 3 – Ignite the herb with a match, lighter or hemp wick while slowly inhaling.
Step 4 – Once you have inhaled sufficient smoke, release the clutch or pull out the bowl so that you can clear the bong of smoke.
Step 5 – Exhale!
Glass vs Ceramic vs Plastic vs Wood vs Silicone
Glass, ceramic, plastic, wood and silicone are the predominant materials used in today’s bongs. Plastic and wood are reserved mostly for lower end products, while ceramic and silicone are becoming increasingly popular mid range options due to being a happy balance between quality and affordability. The higher quality options on the market are made from laboratory grade borosilicate glass and typically have more functionality and accessory compatibility than the many cheaper glass options out there. Many canasseurs refuse to let their lips even touch anything other than glass when enjoying a fat bowl of their favourite herb.
The Battle of the Joints
This is a situation where sex definitely does matter. Entry level bongs are unlikely to have more than a very simple bowl and down-stem while higher end bongs will have standardized male of female joints that allow bowls or down-stems to be easily removed for cleaning, replacing or upgrading. These sizes are 10mm, 14mm or 18mm in Male or Female. Close attention needs to be paid to these when purchasing replacement or upgrade parts for your bong as you don’t want to end up with incompatible joints and a sad face.
Customizing and Upgrading
Most entry level options are typically not compatible with accessories and add-on gear. Higher end glass bongs however use standardized joins and fittings that make them almost infinitely customize-able. Popular upgrades and add-ons include:
- Ash-catchers – A mini bong that goes on your bong to reduce the amount of ash in your bong while adding an extra level of diffusion.
- Adapters – Basically a small adapter that will allow your standard bong to work with accessories that it may not usually be compatible with.
- Bowls – The first part to be broken on most bongs is the bowl. This is often an opportunity to upgrade the bowl to something that may function better or look cooler.
- Down-stems – Many bongs have down-stems that that simply open at the bottom with a single hole through which smoke can bubble. It has become increasingly popular for bongs to feature diffused down-stems as they provide more holes and therefore many tinier bubbles for maximum fizz.
- Dab Nails – Perhaps the fastest growing market for bong accessories are dab nails for use with concentrates. These nails are made from either titanium, quartz, glass or ceramic. These nails however tend not to be compatible with lower end bongs. Learn more about concentrates here.
Are Bubblers the same as Bongs?
Yes and no. Bubblers were traditionally a very simple blend between pipe and bong. The simplicity of one piece glass pipes was applied to bongs that usually had a number of pieces, as discussed in our Bong Anatomy section above. This created a beautiful harmony for folk who wanted the best of both, the simplicity and smaller size of one a piece pipe with same water chamber functionality as a bong… albeit with much less accessories compatibility.
Then came the recent emergence of bubblers that are far more bong like, but that still needed their own identity. Bubblers were therefore re-gentrified from rather simple designs to become one of the fastest growing products in the industry. What appears to have driven this is the desire of concentrate users to identify with products that would specifically be for their new smaller bong niche. So they started to give their high end bongs a sex change (usually male to female) that would allow them be more ergonomic with the dab nails and other related accessories that they were using. The line between bong and bubbler has become increasingly hazy though, so let’s settle on them all essentially being bongs.
Can I Dab with a Bong?
You most certainly can so long as the bong has either a 10mm, 14mm or 18mm joint that will fit a dab nail. It’s best to first talk to the store that you will buying your dab nail from if you are uncertain about whether it will be compatible with you have or intend to buy. Any decent head shop or store should be able to easily establish the right nail for your bong.
Cleaning your bong
Some people consider the grime in their bong to be a badge of honour, I am not one of those people. Your bong water should be changed daily in order to prevent mold and other nasty stuff from forming. I suggest warm soapy water for silicone, plastic, wood or ceramic bongs. You can use strong alcohol or acetone to clean the stubborn bits in all glass bongs and then follow up with a soapy rinse.
There you have it, a thorough lesson in Bongology that will hopefully help you chose the best bong for you. Please comment below with your top bong tips, tricks and hacks.