Anatomy of a bong
When choosing your first bong, you obviously want to to figure out what is the best bong for you; and to do that you must first understand what a bong is. Also known as a water pipe, it’s a device for smoking cannabis that filters the smoke through a water chamber, which makes for a smoother and more pleasant hit than if you just inhaled the smoke of the dry herb directly. Aside from cooling down the smoke, the water also helps to filter out many of the toxins that make smoking so unhealthy (though we’re not about to claim that there’s less risk of lung cancer from using a bong).
While bongs come in many shapes, sizes and types, they’ll usually come with the following parts:
• Bowl – The bowl is where you place your weed before lighting it up. You’ll need a screen at the bottom of the bowl to keep ash and bits of weed out, which may come built in with the bowl; if the screen is a separate thin-wired mesh, it’ll need replacing often.
• Joint and downstem – The downstem is the tube that allows the smoke to flow from the bowl into the water. The joint connects the downstem to the rest of the bong; they can come at either 45 degree or 90 degree angles, but always downward.
• Smoke chamber – This is where the smoke goes after it has bubbled through the water. The bigger the bong, the bigger the smoke chamber, which means the bigger the hit. Unless you’re sure you can take big hits, you probably want to start with a bong that has a smaller smoke chamber – they can also a be a hassle to clean.
• Mouthpiece – This is where you put your mouth and inhale all that sweet, sweet smoke. The traditional bong mouthpiece is simply the horizontal tube at the top of the bong – however, bent neck mouthpieces are now available that keeps the water from splashing into your face, and also doesn’t force you to hunch over your bong in order to smoke it.
These are the essential components, but many modern pieces come with a variety of optional bells and whistles to enhance your bong ripping experience. We’re sure you want your first bong to also be your best, so here’s a rundown of some of the most common bells and whistles that may or may not be worth your money.
• Carb – The carb, which comes from the word “carburetor,” regulates the air pressure similar to the engine part from which it gets its name. Carbs are small holes that, when covered, concentrates more smoke in the smoke chamber in a single hit.
• Percolator – If one water chamber isn’t enough, percolators filter the smoke through several more channels of water – some swirly, some even bubbly. Percolators come in a huge variety of twisty, intricate designs, and we suspect some of them are more aesthetic than functional. But there’s nothing wrong in wanting to show off a beautiful bong!
• Diffuser – This special stem channels the smoke through winding, sometimes multi-channeled streams before hitting the water. It serves to cool down the smoke, and is also easier to clean than a percolator.
• Recycler – Serving pretty much the same function as a diffuser, in that it filters the smoke further through more loops and chambers, only it usually comes after the water chamber.
• Ice catchers – If you want a REALLY cool hit, an ice catch is a glass cinch that you can put a few ice cubes on. The smoke will travel through the ice before reaching the mouthpiece, giving you that icy-cool hit that many bong users swear by.
• Splash guard – If you don’t have a bent neck mouthpiece, an additional splash guard will prevent yucky bong water from getting into your mouth. This problem is especially likely in bongs that have heavy, bubbling percolation, so keep that in mind.
• Ash catcher – If you’re burning weed, there’s gonna be ash. Bowl screens help to catch it, but if some get into your bong, it’ll need to be cleaned. And if you’ve got a complicated, multi-chambered bong that’s a huge hassle to clean, you’ll want an ash catcher so that you won’t have to do it too often.
What your bong is made of is something you want to consider too. Glass may be the most common, but they also come in plastic, acrylic, silicone, wood or bamboo. There are advantages and disadvantages to all of these. Wood and bamboo can be gorgeous if you like the natural look, and surprisingly durable too, but you aren’t likely to find add-ons and attachments for them. Acrylic and plastic are much more affordable and less fragile than glass, and can be translucent too (which is important for knowing when it needs cleaning). But they’ll need to use metal for parts like the bowl and downstem, which can affect the taste of your hits.
Which leaves you with the classic glass bong – easy to clean, cools quickly, looks great, and leaves no weird aftertaste. If you’re afraid of breakage, look for bongs made of borosilicate or scientific glass, which contains 5% boric acid and has gone through an annealing process to strengthen it. If you or the people you’ll be sharing your bong with have butterfingers, this might be something to look into!
Yes, size does matter when it comes to bongs. The first thing you want to consider is how big a hit you can take. As we discussed earlier, bigger bongs have larger smoke chambers that provides a larger concentration of smoke in a single hit, often aided by carb holes. If you’re new to bong usage, we recommend taking smaller hits – but if you’re confident in your lung capacity, by all means get a bong that produces the biggest hit you can swallow!
Secondly, consider the practicality of your bong. Are you going to do rips strictly in your own home? Or do you want something portable, for on-the-go usage? Smaller bongs are not only easier to store or pack, but also to pass around a large group of people. Remember what we said about butterfingers – you don’t want someone’s clumsiness damaging your big beautiful bong due to how unwieldy it is. And while big, multi-tubed-and-chambered bongs have all the extras and trappings that promise smoother hits, there’s a lot to be said for a small, handy piece that you can take with you on trips.
Time to make your choice
Yes, the multitude of bong types, sizes and accoutrements can be more dizzying than the biggest bong rip, but don’t let that scare you! It can be the best investment you ever made to buy a bong that lasts, that gives you exactly the kind of hits you enjoy, and that serves your lifestyle needs. And hey, there’s no reason why your first bong has to be your last. When you’re ready to get your second, whether as a replacement or complement to your first, we’ll be here to help. Come back and refresh your memory if you ever forget the difference between a diffuser and a recycler!