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What are Bongs and How to Use Them: A Complete Beginners Guide

May 31st, 2022 | 7 min read

What are Bongs and How to Use Them: A Complete Beginners Guide


For many years, bongs have been one of the most popular smoking accessories. Even though it isn't new, it remains among the most popular choices for smokers. Chiefs of the Scythian tribe in Russia have used water pipes for two thousand years. Back then these bongs were made of gold!


When looking to buy bongs online, a multitude of styles and materials are available to choose from. This guide will assist you in better understanding the distinctions between each type and determine which one is best for you.

What is a Bong?


A bong is any pipe that is cooled by water. When using a bong, you place your flower in the bowl, fire it, and inhale via the mouthpiece. The smoke travels through the water, cooling it before entering your lungs. This reduces the harshness of the smoke.


Before we get into the many types of bongs, let's look at the most basic bong components that bring a beautiful glass piece together.

anatomy of a bong


Bowl and Joint: The hub of your herb is the bowl. This is where your flower is placed and ready to be lit. Every bowl has a joint that is needed to connect a downstem. This joint comes in a few sizes, the main ones nowadays being 10mm, 14mm, and 18mm.


While 10mm is usually exclusively used for portable bongs/bubblers, 14mm and 18mm are the most common sizes you will find. The key difference with joint sizes is the increase/decrease in airflow due to diameter size as well as resistance encountered when pulling the bong.


Ice Pinch/Catcher: This ingenious design has become a standard on many bongs. An ice catcher is super simple, it is just pinched formations within the tube of the bong that hold ice. Drop some ice cubes down the mouthpiece and you get some chilly hits!


Carb Hole: The carburetor, also known as a carb, is a tiny hole on the side of the bong. The carb hole's purpose is to clear smoke from the chamber. Some bongs are not equipped with a glass-on-glass removable bowl which is where a carb hole comes in handy. A bong can also have both, leaving it up to you which you prefer, though a removable bowl provides better filtration.


Base: Glass bongs are delicate, once they break there is almost no fixing it. The base of a bong is what provides it the stability it needs to lessen the chance of a mishap. The shape of the base is different depending on the style of bong you are using. Styles such as the beaker base bong specialize in providing superior stability.


Downstem: The downstem is a cylindrical tube that connects your bowl to the water chamber inside your bong. As you inhale, smoke is pulled from the bowl through the downstem which is then diffused through water. A downstem is often fitted with slits on the chamber end for better smoke diffusion.


Neck/Tube: The neck of the bong is the final passage your smoke travels through before inhalation. It is common for the neck of the bong to contain extra diffusers such as an ice pinch or percolators, the taller the neck the more it can be fitted with. Short neck bongs can have the problem of water getting in your mouth and tall necks can have issues with stability.

materials bongs are made of


Bongs are fashioned from a variety of materials, each with its own set of benefits and drawbacks. Here is a lot list of some of the most common materials bongs are made of.


Glass


The most common material used to make bongs is glass. Glass is most often used because it does not affect the flavor of the smoke, it delivers a clean, pure taste. This is also in part due to the fact that glass is transparent, making it very easy to check for resin buildup. Glass bongs will typically be the most expensive of all materials due to their demand and craftsmanship. The obvious main disadvantage of glass is its fragility, one mistake can easily wreck a glass bong.


Silicone


Silicone bongs are a relatively new innovation developed by the cannabis community that has become popular. This material is a good choice for individuals looking for a more cheap and long-lasting alternative. Silicone is the most durable material used in bongs. It is essentially unbreakable because of its soft and pliable form. You can toss a silicone bong like a football (assuming it isn't partly glass) and it will be fine!


Silicone bongs are also easy to transport.  You can even bend it or fold it to save space when on the go. Light, durable and cheap is the name of the game for silicone bongs.


Ceramic


For those who like their bong to double as an art object, a ceramic bong is it! They come in all sorts of unique shapes and colors, complementing your interior in a beautiful way. Usually they are quite heavy and bulky: not handy for passing around. This makes them more suited for special occasions rather than daily smoking. Due to their fragility, traveling with a ceramic bong is a challenge. They are typically a little more expensive than acrylic bongs, but still much cheaper than glass bongs.


Acrylic


The uses for an acrylic bong are in a similar vein to that of a silicone bong. They are an inexpensive and durable bong option, not as durable as silicone though. They are often sold in basic designs and critiqued for their cheap look. There is also a debate about the health effects of using an acrylic bong. 


Bamboo


Bamboo is a bit of a niche material for bongs nowadays but its roots can be traced to some of the first bongs in central Asia. Fun fact, the word bong actually comes from the Thai word bhang which means bamboo. These bongs have a cool aesthetic that provides the user with an all-natural feel.


As for the practicality of using a bamboo bong, they are extremely durable and will be well protected from mishaps. They typically have a barebone design with little to no extra smoke diffusion measures and are tricky to clean. Another issue that can arise from Bamboo Bongs is bacteria build-up.


Metal


Metal is a semi-common material used to create bongs. The most obvious benefit of a metal bong is its long-lasting and durable nature. It's also reasonably priced. Metal is heavy so the bigger of a metal bong you have, the less convenient it is to move around. They also have the disadvantage of altering the taste of your smoke and knowing when it's time to clean.


Designs of Bongs 


Now that we have discussed the materials bongs are made of, we'll cover the most common designs you'll find when looking to buy a bong online. Each of the bongs below might be made from any of the materials listed above, though glass is definitely the most predominant.


Beaker Bongs


A beaker-shaped bong is a classic design many will be familiar with, either from high school science or movies. The base of a beaker stretches out like a cone, creating a voluminous chamber. With a bigger chamber to hold smoke come bigger hits! Due to their extensive base, beaker-shaped bongs provide better stability, reducing risk of mishaps and making adding attachments such as an ash catcher safer.


Straight-Tube Bongs


Straight-tube Bongs are straightforward to use, no pun intended. Instead of a wide base, this bong is a cylinder from top to bottom. You will most often find percolators on a straight tube due to the length of the neck. Due to the uniform shape, drag is reduced meaning you will not have to pull as hard for your hits with a straight tube. The shape is also the most efficient for bubble stacking.


The trouble that straight tubes run into is stability. When adding certain attachments such as an ash catcher, it can greatly displace the weight and increase the risk of an accident.


Scientific Bong


Scientific Bongs are a middle ground between the straight tube and beaker bong. Providing the stability of a beaker while also allowing the inclusions of many percolators. They are typically composed of thick, all-clear glass with limited color or worked portions. It is known for producing high levels of diffusion which cools and filters your smoke.


Carburetor/Shotty Bongs


The carburetor bong has a hole in the middle of the bong. Although carburetors are not required for bong design, many believe carburetor bongs create a far more intense hit. As you let go of your finger, the carburetor hole opens, allowing new air to enter the pipe. This fresh air pushes the smoke deeper into your lungs, making it simpler to absorb the entire contents of the pipe.


Round-Base Bongs


A round-base bong is very similar in style to a beaker bong, just with a round chamber instead of a cone-shaped chamber. This shape provides slightly less stability than a beaker because it is prone to tipping over.


Percolator Bongs


A Percolator Bong is any bong that includes a percolator. You might be asking, well what is a percolator? While there are many unique designs percolators use, at its core a percolator is a contraption within a water pipe that provides extra smoke diffusion. This is typically located either in the base of your bong or the tube. Depending on how important smooth hits are for you and how much you're willing to spend, you can find bongs with multiple percolators. These are sophisticated and difficult to construct, making them pricey and challenging to clean options on the market.


Zong Bongs


A zig-zag-shaped water pipe is known as a zong bong. Aside from its appealing, distinctive shape, it's like any other bong but with a few extra perks.


Due to its zig-zag shape, a zong bong works as an effective ice pinch as well as a splash guard. The extra-long neck allows the chamber to be filled with more smoke, allowing you to take bigger hits. This long neck also means smoke must travel a longer distance to reach your mouth, giving it more time and space to cool.


Bubblers


The crucial distinction of a bubbler is its size. While very similar to a bong, a bubbler is much like a cross between a bong and a pipe. It uses water filtration just like a bong but is akin to a pipe in terms of shape and size. The compact size of a bubbler makes it more optimal for moving around than a bong. A bubbler is often referred to as a mini bong.


While a bubbler is convenient, you won’t have the luxury of customizing it as you would a bong. Often, a bubbler is fitted with a non-removable downstem, and the nature of its shape limits what you can add.

How to Use a Bong 


Step 1 - Add Water


Setting up your bong is the first step, fortunately, a bong makes this easy. All you have to do is keep it clean and fill it with water. Pour it in through the mouthpiece located at the top of the bong.


STEP 2 - Grind your Cannabis and Pack the Bowl


It's time to grind your Cannabis if you haven't already. A grinder is best for this, however, you can use your fingers or alternative methods found online from creative stoners. It is important to not grind your cannabis to a powder, a medium grind is best. Once your cannabis is ground, it’s time to fill the bowl. Be sure to not pack the bowl too tightly, as this will restrict airflow.


Step 3 - Lighting the Bowl and Inhaling


Hold the bong by the neck firmly with one hand and prep your lighting source in the other. When ready, place your lips inside the mouthpiece.


Ignite the herb starting around the rim of the bowl, so as to not burn too much at once, while simultaneously inhaling steadily and slowly. Keeping an eye on the chamber as it fills with smoke will give you an idea of how big the hit will be.


STEP 4 - Finish the Hit


When you're ready to finish the hit, remove the bowl or your finger off the carb and take a large inhale that is quick but not too quick. This is where the majority of the smoke is inhaled and is meant to clear the bong of smoke by allowing fresh airflow through the bong, forcing the smoke upwards. Don’t push yourself to clear it if you can't, you can always cover the mouthpiece with your hand and finish the clear when ready.


Step 5 - Cleaning the bong


It might be annoying and you might opt to wait for a few uses before cleaning your bong, but note that the longer you wait the more of a hassle the cleaning will be. Aside from the dirty look and taste, the resin buildup in the water and in the bong can turn into fungi and bacteria.


Remove any attachable pieces from your bong and drain the water. Add some isopropyl alcohol and salt (coarse salt is best) into the bong. Shake the bong for about 3-5 minutes then drain the bong. Finally, rinse the bong with water and soap.


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