Ultimate Guide to Bongs and Pipes

bongs and pipes

Smoking cannabis in a bong has to be one of the most common ways of getting your fix of marijuana. Despite the existence of several new and novel approaches for marijuana smoking, a bong remains the go-to choice for many. And they should be – they give the rich, smoky experience that is distinct, enhanced and potent. The best bit is that they are different types of bongs and so many incredible bong designs to choose from. They cater to a varied array of tastes, and go from functional to minimalistic to downright decaftdent, fit for any number of purposes. But this also means that with such range in options, a lot has to be considered while you decide on the perfect bong for your needs. Some of the important aspects to consider are affordability, convenience, durability, portability etc.

The average bong will have 4 elements to it – the downstem, the neck, the bowl and the water chamber. It will be pretty simple with a base capable of storing water, a bowl that holds your herbs, a downstem that is made to connect the base to the bowl and finally a mouthpiece for inhaling. The water in the base chamber is meant to remove smoke impurities, giving you a nice, clean hit.

What is a Bong?

To break it down, it is nothing but a water pipe. Bong is definitely a rather cool name for it though. What does it mean? It means that when smoke passes through the water-filled chamber, it effortlessly creates a mellow flavour profile with a coolness attached to it. It affects the lung less harshly too. However, we need to remember that while all bongs are water pipes, all water pipes are not bongs. Let’s look at what that means –

Bongs vs Dab RigsDab bong

A dab rig contains a vaporizer attachment, also known as a dab nail for oils and concentrates, whereas a bong will typically have a pipe bowl for smoking the herb. Also, size-wise, dab rigs are smaller generally.

Bongs vs Hookah

A popular kind of water pipe, hookahs are mostly used for molasses-based tobacco preparation. They are usually larger, having a hose connected with a mouthpiece, and can have several hoses as well for group smoking purposes. A little know-how pertaining to its uses can come handy. While there are some users who mix tobacco with cannabis, there are cannabis-only hookahs as well. Despite all that, a traditional hookah is best suited for molasses tobacco.

hookah on black background

And Then There is Gravity Bong

A gravity bong basically has a tube along with a pipe bowl aka “cap” at the top with water in the bottom. When some of that water is drained, a partial vacuum is created which sucks in air all through the smouldering herb, filling the pipe with smoke. The user then can proceed to remove the cap, and inhale through the pipe top. Gravity bongs are often hailed as a favourite, and they definitely involve water. However, since technically the smoke does not pass through the water, the ‘bong’ tag may be a misnomer.

The Different Types of Bongs

The sheer variety in the types of bongs that are available is staggering. Different bong types guarantee different sizes, shapes, materials with hundreds of options in the market.

Shape and Size

There is a common, central theme to the structure of a bong, which basically has a central, water-containing chamber, coupled with a tube starting from close to the bottom, under the water level which finally ends in a pipe bowl. The mouthpiece is placed at the top of this chamber. Depending on what you want, types of bongs range from round-based, straight-tube to beaker-shaped – all of them dependant on the size and shape of the central chamber. Almost all are flat-bottomed, even in case of round-based bongs. What differentiates one from the next is the extent of the bottom flare. The more flare it has, the less likely the bong is to tip over. There are smaller bongs which have the traditional pipe shape with a water reservoir nestled in a swollen area between the mouthpiece and the bowl, but the basic principle remains the same. However, no matter the shape, a bigger bong will need more smoke to fill it. While many prefer the bigger bongs for a more concentrated hit, many think it wastes herb.

Material Counts

Any non-toxic material, provided it’s at least partially fire-resistant and waterproof, can be used in making a bong. Let’s look at some of the evergreen popular ones –

two glass bongs next to each otherGlass – Without a doubt, this is numero uno. Very versatile and easiest to keep clean. Clearly, it’s a fan favourite. Using glass bongs lets you experience the purest and cleanest taste; glass never interferes with the smoke’s flavour. Owing to its transparent nature, it is also easy to keep a check on the gunk and resin build-up. Additionally, they are all a thing of beauty. While it is undoubtedly the most preferred material, it runs the risk of breakage and is the most expensive.


Plastic – After glass, it’s definitely plastic. The reasons are clear – they come extremely durable (won’t break even if you drop it) and are cheap. No more fear of any glass breaking. Plastic bongs are quite handy while traveling as well. On the flip side, plastic will most likely alter the taste of the smoke, which is an important drawback. Despite it though, they remain quite popular.


blue ceraminc bongCeramic – Ceramic bongs are much heavier than either glass or plastic bongs. Also, ceramic is a delicate material, so you probably should only bring it out occasionally, quite unlike a plastic bong. They can however be very creatively designed in a variety of shapes, colours and sizes. Since ceramic as a material is easy to work with, bong crafters can easily mould it in many different designs. Since making them involves some amount of creative expertise, they are usually more expensive than plastic ones. Ideally ceramic bongs should not be used daily but they are the perfect choice in case of a special occasion. When not in use, it can double as a decorative piece. They will however need some maintenance with cleaning and will need to be handled responsibly to avoid breakage.


Wood – If we go way back, we will find that the earliest bongs were made from wood. In these modern times, wood is quite a traditional material to choose for your bong. Wooden bongs made from hardwood are considered the best contemporary wooden bongs. Other types of wood commonly used are oak, maple, rosewood and walnut. It is quite natural that the wood in a wooden bong will infuse its own unique flavours into the smoke and most wooden bong fans are primarily looking for that flavour mix.


Bamboo – They are either found as simple, tubular designs or can be more stylish with paints, garnish and metal additions. Especially in places like Thailand, where bamboo is found in plentiful. Bamboo is nothing but grass that has dried completely with the feel of wood. Bamboo doesn’t leach as much as wood but also cannot produce the clean, unadulterated smoke that you get off a glass bong. The good thing about bamboo bongs is that they are very durable, so if you are looking out for a long-term piece, go for bamboo.


Metal – Metal bongs in general are quite rare and finding one can be tricky. However, if you do get your hands on one, it will prove to be long-lasting and affordable too! Usually they are made of stainless steel or aluminium. They look really smart and can be very stylized. But, metal bongs can influence the taste of smoke and are also difficult to keep clean. But if metal is your thing, go for it.


Type of Bong Designs

What we need to look at now are the types of bongs in terms of design. The following bongs can be made from any of the materials already mentioned, even though some materials tend to be more popular than the rest, with due reasons of course.

different types of bongs displayed

1.   Carburetor Bong

There are only two ways about it – either your bong has a hole in the middle or it doesn’t. If your bong does come with a hole, it’s a carburettor bong and if it doesn’t have one, it’s automatically not a carburetor bong. That simple. While carburetors are not intrinsic to the design of a bong, many are of the opinion that having a carburetor intensifies the hit strength. What happens is when your finger is released, fresh air gets into the pipe through the carburetor hole, forcing the smoke up into your lungs quickly, making it easier for you to inhale all the contents.

2. Straight-tube Bong

As far as simplicity goes, straight-tube bongs are the simplest. They have a simple tube which is sealed at one end by a stem as well as a bowl outside of the tube. The process of using one is straightforward enough – a little bit of water is usually placed in the tube, your herb in the bowl and you are all set to go. No fuss, simple smoking.

3. Beaker-shaped Bong

In all other manners, a beaker-shaped bong is similar to the straight-tube bong except that it has its bottom flared into a cone shape, giving it the look of a beaker and also its name. Since the base is larger, it is automatically more stable. You use this the same way you would with a straight-tube bong – add water, herb and fire it up. Off you go.

4. Round-base Bongs

Similar to beaker bongs in a way that the base is wider than both the tube and the mouthpiece. As the name suggests, round-base bongs come with a spherical water chamber coupled with a flat base. While round-base bongs are certainly more stable than straight-tube bongs, beaker bongs are even more stable since the flat base is larger. However, despite the shape, the mechanism to use it is the same as the rest.

5. Multi-chamber Bong

The variety of bong designs is truly something. Next one up, is a multi-chamber bong, also known as a recycler bong, and is a variant of the straight-tube bong (even though the chamber can be of various shapes). In this bong, the straight tube is divided into two chambers, and connected by a third chamber. The upper and lower chamber hold water, which gets the smoke filtered twice. The end product is superbly cooler, and smoother smoke than what any beaker, straight-tube or round base can provide. Building a complex, multi-chamber bong is difficult and hence more expensive than the others on the list. Also note, cleaning might require more effort.

6. Percolator

A percolator bong can be any shape you want – beaker, straight tube, round base, anything. The unique bit is of course the percolator. It is a glass piece that dispels the smoke before it can go through the water creating a bubbling effect in the bong. Since the smoke gets spread out that way, it gets filtered better and also cools faster.

The percolator can be located at the bottom of a bong (a single-chamber percolator), in another chamber (a multi-chamber percolator), and even both (a multi-chamber, multi percolator). As percolator bongs are obviously complex to make, they are expensive and also difficult to clean, owing to its many nooks and crannies.


A smoker’s collection is not complete without a glass pipe. These days, glass pipes are beautifully designed, and definitely modern.

Sweet Puff Pipe

Close up of a sweet puff pipeGet your smoking game up with a Sweet Puff Pipe. With intricate engineering at play, the Sweet Puff Pipe is meticulously crafted with a hand-blown borosilicate Pyrex glass tube that neatly curves at a 90-degree angle and ends in a diamond round bowl with an opening of approximately 1 cm in diameter.

A trademark Sweet Puff Pipe measures 8 cm to about 20 cm in length, all fitted out with an anti-roll marble which brings in superior stability. Comes with two variants of ‘straight and short’ and ‘long bend’, which are super exciting to use. The big advantage is that Sweet Puff Pipes can be used for both smoking of herbs and use of vaporized liquids and concentrated oils.


The main difference between a bubbler and a bong is the size. They both use water filtration to create nuanced and cool smoke. But the physical difference is a lot – a full-sized bong vs a handheld, nifty and portable bubbler. In a similar fashion, the difference between a bubbler and a regular pipe is the use of water filtration. Both types are small and can be carried around easily. But a bubbler adds the extra zing of water filtration for an enhanced smoking experience.

Dry Pipes

Dry pipes are super-handy and a true classic. It can be made with a number of materials like ceramic, clay, wood, metal and glass. Its functionality is pretty simple and can be found in a myriad of shapes but will typically have a tube design along with a bowl in one end and another hole to inhale smoke from. Because of its relatively ease of use, it’s quite popular among newbies who can slowly ease into the whole smoking experience without having to deal with big, complicated smoking devices.

Some people even argue that for a better-preserved, raw and unfiltered smoke quality, dry pipes are the best, especially since they involve a much shorter smoke travel distance. Also, they are naturally more easy to maintain. Commonly referred to as hand pipes, they are portable, discreet and emphasize the concept grab-n-go. Since it is devoid of any superfluous extras or components, there is no fear of losing or breaking it while in transit.

Water Pipes

Just like bongs and bubblers, a water pipe is basically any pipe that has a bottle-like, vertical tube that can be partially filled with water with a smaller tube branching out with a bowl at the end. Mostly made of glass, they can also be made with clay, wood, acrylic or silicone.

With so many types of bongs available, it might not be easy to pick the right one. But the important thing to do is to start with what your needs are. Once you have them clear in your mind, you can easily direct yourself towards a bong that has all the functionalities you require. Ask yourself questions like are you willing to put in the time and effort in cleaning your bong or do you want a fuss-free device? Does portability matter to you? Does the smoke need to be pure or are you okay with dealing with an altered flavour? Another important consideration is the budget. A highly intricate, beautifully designed bong will obviously be priced high while the cheapest will usually be a simple, plastic one. The best deal will be something that satisfies both quality and price. The answers to these questions will ultimately reach you to your goal destination. Hope this post has helped you in getting there.

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