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How To Use Pipes, Water Pipes, & Dab Rigs

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Everything you need to know about choosing and using marijuana accessories like pipes, bubblers, bongs, and dab rigs.

When first setting out, it can be hard to know which marijuana consumption method is best for you. Here, we cover the basics on some of the most popular methods for using marijuana – pipes, bongs and water pipes, and dab rigs – defining important terms, describing their parts, teaching you how they work, and revealing the benefits of each. This guide will give you everything you need to confidently get started using cannabis. 

Pipes

Marijuana pipes offer a basic accessory with which to smoke your dry flower and are a starting point for most consumers. Marijuana pipes are commonly made from glass due to its heat resistance and ease of cleaning. When made of blown glass, intricate color patterns and shapes can be created, adding to their appeal. However, pipes for dry marijuana can be made of a wide variety of materials, including ceramic, metal, wood, silicone, and more. The choice in material is ultimately up to you and your own preferences. 

Parts of a Pipe:

The Bowl – This is the part of the pipe that you fill with your dry flower. When buying a marijuana pipe for yourself, it is important to consider the size and depth of the bowl, as it will determine how much dry flower can be smoked before needing to load it again.

Some marijuana pipes, usually ones made out of metal, have a screw on cap with a small hole for air and flame. This is holds your ground marijuana in place and minimizes smoke escape.

The term bowl is sometimes used to refer to the entire pipe. Other times, it is used to refer to the dry marijuana put in the pipe, as in “smoke a bowl.”

The Mouthpiece – This is the part of the pipe that you will put up to your lips when you inhale. To get a good hit from your pipe, you will want there to be a seal between your lips and the mouthpiece.

The Stem or Chamber – The pipe’s stem or chamber is the part of the pipe that moves smoke from the marijuana in the bowl to the mouthpiece.

The Carb – A small hole, usually on the side or front of a pipe, the carb allows the user to use their finger to control the airflow of the pipe and to clear the chamber or stem. You will cover the carb with your finger or thumb when taking a hit and uncover the carb when clearing the chamber of smoke.

How to Use a Pipe:

how to use marijuana pipe

To smoke your marijuana from your pipe, you will first want to fill the bowl with your favorite marijuana strain, broken down to your preferred consistency by hand or with a grinder. The finer the grind, the more robust the smoke will be. It is best not to overfill your pipe, as your marijuana might expand when first combusted and fall out.

Once you have filled or “packed” your bowl, you are ready to smoke. Hold your marijuana pipe in your hand with your finger or thumb over the carb (if your pipe has one). Bring the pipe to your lips; then inhale as you light your marijuana with a lighter, match, or hemp wick.

Once your marijuana is lit, you can remove the flame. Take in the amount of smoke you feel comfortable inhaling, probably a few seconds, then remove your finger from the carb and continue to inhale to clear the stem of smoke. Each time you inhale off of your pipe, it is called “taking a hit”. You can think of a hit off your pipe as a unit of smoking.  

If your marijuana is still lit, you can take another hit, or you can light it again if needed for your next hit. Once the marijuana turns to ash and will no longer stay lit, you can tap it out into an ashtray and refill if desired.

Benefits of Pipes:

Pipes are a fast way to smoke marijuana, are usually easy to take with you, and allow you to enjoy the flavor of your favorite cannabis.

It only takes a moment to load a pipe, and depending on the size of its bowl, smoking can take just a few minutes. It is also possible to smoke a bowl slowly over time, tapping the cherry out between each hit.

Because of the small size of most dry herb pipes, you can pop one into your bag or even your pocket if you need to take it with you.

Their small size also makes it easy to store between use. Finally, pipes and similar accessories that don’t use paper allow you to taste the unique, often complex flavors of different marijuana strains.

Bubblers

Bubblers work in the same way as marijuana pipes, but include the element of water to cool and filter the smoke. Bubblers have an added chamber that you can fill with water between the bowl and the stem through which the smoke will flow, making the distinctive bubbling sound for which bubblers are named. Bubblers are typically made of glass, ceramic, or silicone.

Parts of Bubbler:

The Bowl – Like in a pipe, the bowl is the part of the bubbler that you fill with your marijuana flower.

The Mouthpiece – This is the part you will put up to your lips when you inhale. To get a good hit, you will want there to be a seal between your lips and the mouthpiece. 

The Stem The bubbler’s stem is the part that moves smoke from the marijuana in the bowl through the water to the mouthpiece.

The Water Chamber – The water chamber is where you will add the water for your bubbler. In some bubblers, the water chamber is part of a single unit with the rest of the pipe. In others, the water chamber is detachable, making it easier to fill.

The Carb – A small hole, usually on the side or front of a bubbler, the carb allows the user to use their finger to control the airflow of the pipe and to clear the chamber or stem. You will cover the carb with your finger or thumb when taking a hit and uncover the carb when clearing the chamber.

How to Use a Bubbler:

best glass marijuana pipe

To smoke your dry herb from your bubbler, you will first want to fill its water chamber with enough water to cover the downstem leading from the bowl. If you under fill your bubbler, the smoke won’t be filtered by the water. If you overfill it, you might get water in your mouth when taking a hit – an unpleasant experience, especially if the water hasn’t been recently changed. 

Next, you will fill the bubbler’s bowl with your favorite marijuana, broken down to your preferred consistency by hand or with a grinder. The finer the grind, the more robust the smoke will be. It is best not to overfill, as your marijuana might expand when first combusted and fall out.

Once you have filled or “packed” your bowl, you are ready to smoke. Hold your bubbler in your hand with your finger or thumb over the carb if it has one. Bring the pipe to your lips; then inhale as you light your marijuana with a lighter, match, or hemp wick.

Once the marijuana is lit, you can remove the flame. Take in the amount of smoke you feel comfortable inhaling, probably a few seconds, then remove your finger from the carb and continue to inhale to clear the stem of smoke.

If your dry herb is still lit, you can take another hit, or you can light it again if needed for your next hit. Once the dry herb turns to ash and will no longer stay hit, you can tap it out into an ashtray and refill if desired.

Benefits of Bubblers:

The benefits of a bubbler are similar to that of the pipe. They are quick and easy to use with minimal time needed to smoke a bowl. Because bubblers allow you to burn your marijuana without the paper associated with joints and blunts, your hits are often more flavorful, making them ideal when smoking high quality, fragrant marijuana strains. 

The added feature of moving the smoke through water cools the smoke and offers some filtration of the smoke itself for a much smoother hit when compared to smoking marijuana from pipes.

Bongs

Like bubblers, bongs are considered water pipes because they move the smoke through water to cool and filter it before you inhale. However, unlike bubblers, which are typically designed to fit in the palm of your hand, bongs tend to be larger tabletop units. Bongs can be made from a wide range of materials, from glass and plastic to wood or bamboo.

Bongs work the same as other smoking devices in that they have a bowl to hold your lit dry herb, a mouthpiece from which to inhale smoke, and stem to connect the two. Like bubblers, what makes bongs unique is the addition of the water chamber.

The name of the game with bongs is really big hits. Bigger hits reduce the frequency with which you need to smoke. The large size of most bongs allow for bigger water chambers and bigger stems, which equals large amounts of cooled smoke in each hit. Some bongs let you add ice to the stem, further cooling the marijuana smoke after it passes through the water.

Parts of Bong:

The Bowl – Like in a pipe, the bowl is the part of the bong that you fill with your dry herb. The diameter and depth of a bowl determines how much marijuana can be added at one time.

The Carb – A small hole, usually on the side or front of a bubbler, the carb allows the user to use their finger to control the airflow of the pipe and to clear the chamber or stem. You will cover the carb with your finger or thumb when taking a hit and uncover the carb when clearing the chamber.

The Slide – If your bong doesn’t come equipped with a carb (many don’t), then you will likely have a slide. This means that your bowl will have a handle or bumps for grip. When you are ready to clear the chamber and stem, you will slide out the bowl, allowing air to flow through the bong as your inhale and clear the smoke.

The Downstem – The piece the slide fits into to make a airtight seal is called the downstem. The smoke will move from the bowl to the water chamber through the downstem. Some downstems have a diffuser at the end. A series of small holes, the diffuser more fully integrates the marijuana smoke with the water for a more complete cooling effect.

The Mouthpiece – This is the part you will put up to your lips when you inhale. To get a good hit, you will want there to be a seal between your lips and the mouthpiece. In some bongs, the mouthpiece can be quite large.

The Water Chamber – The water chamber is where you will add the water for your bong. In most bongs, the water chamber is larger than the stem; in others, the water chamber and stem are a single, long cylinder. Some water chambers have a percolator. This is a series of holes and chambers that create more bubbles when smoke moves through the water chamber to expose the smoke to more water surface area.

The Stem The bong’s stem is the part of the pipe that moves smoke from the marijuana in the bowl through the water chamber to the mouthpiece. Some bong stems have an “ice pinch” so that ice can be added to the stem to further chill the marijuana smoke.

How to Use a Bong:

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To smoke your marijuana from your bong, you will first want to fill its water chamber with at least enough water to cover the downstem leading from the bowl. How much water should you add to a bong? If you underfill your bong, the smoke won’t be filtered by the water. If you overfill it, you might get water in your mouth when taking a hit – an unpleasant experience, especially if the water hasn’t been recently changed.

Does how much water you add change if your bong has a percolator? If your bong has a percolator, you will want to fill the bong to below the percolator, leaving just a bit of air between the percolator and the water.

Next, you will fill the bong’s bowl with your marijuana, broken down to your preferred consistency by hand or with a grinder. The finer the grind, the more robust the smoke will be. It is best not to overfill, as your dry herb might expand when first combusted and fall out.

Once you have filled or “packed” your bong’s bowl, you are ready to smoke. Hold your bong in your hand with your finger or thumb over the carb if your pipe has one. Some larger bongs might need to be supported with your other hand, the table, or even the floor. Bring the pipe to your lips; then inhale as you light your marijuana with a lighter, match, or hemp wick.

Once the dry herb is lit, you can remove the flame. As you inhale, the bong will fill with smoke. Once it fills with the amount of smoke you feel comfortable inhaling, probably a few seconds or more, then remove your finger from the carb and continue to inhale to clear the stem of smoke.

If your bong doesn’t have a carb, you will want to pull the slide out after you fill the bong and either hold it or set it aside gently while you inhale to clear the bong. Once you finish your hit, you can replace the slide.

If your marijuana is still lit, you can take another hit, or you can light it again if needed for your next hit. Once the marijuana turns to ash and will no longer stay hit, you can tap it out into an ashtray and refill if desired.

Benefits of Bongs:

Like bubblers, the key characteristic of a bong is the water filtration. However, bongs improve on bubblers by allowing for a bigger water chamber for more filtration and a larger stem for bigger hits. However, this larger size reduces the portability of this type of smoking device.

Some bongs add diffusers in their downstems, percolators in their water chambers, and ice pinches in their stems – all designed with the intention of further cooling marijuana smoke for a smoother hit.

Because bongs allow you to burn your marijuana without the paper associated with joints and blunts, your hits are often more flavorful, making them ideal when smoking high quality, fragrant cannabis strains.

Those looking for an extra powerful hit while saving some money can experiment with a DIY gravity bong.

Dab Rigs

Dabbing has soared in popularity since surging onto the scene in the early 2010’s. This is due in large part to the fact that dabbing provides a more potent, more flavorful, and possibly more healthy alternative to smoking dry herb.

Dab rigs work in the same way as bongs, except that they are designed for cannabis extracts, instead of dry flower. In fact, with the use of an adapter, some bongs can be turned into dab rigs, and vice versa.

Since they work on the same principle, dab rigs and bongs share many of the same parts. However, since dabbing flash vaporizes marijuana extracts, dabbing creates vapor, rather than smoke. To achieve this, dab rigs have some unique features.

Parts of Dab Rig:

The Nail – This is the heating element on which you need to vaporize your cannabis extract. It is an attachment with a flat surface with walls and a hole in the middle. Most nails are made from either titanium, quartz, or ceramic. In some cases, dab rigs will have a bucket or a “banger” which acts similarly to nails as a hot surface for your dab.

The Globe – While less common than they once were, if you are using a small quartz nail, you might also have a globe. This round glass attachment has holes on either side. Once your quartz nail is hot, you will place the globe over your nail before taking your dab. The globe helps to capture the vapor produced by your herbal extract as it melts on the heat of the nail.

The Downstem – The piece below where your nail sits is the downstem. The vapor will move from the nail to the water chamber through the downstem. Some downstems have a diffuser at the end. A series of small holes, the diffuser more fully integrates the vapor with the water for a more complete cooling effect.

The Mouthpiece – This is the part you will put up to your lips when you inhale. To get a good dab, you will want there to be a seal between your lips and the mouthpiece.

The Water Chamber – The water chamber is where you will add the water for your dab rig. In most rigs, the water chamber is larger than the stem. Some water chambers have a percolator. This is a series of holes and chambers that create more bubbles when vapor moves through the water chamber to expose the vapor to more water surface area.

The Stem The dab rig’s stem is the part of the pipe that moves vapor from the marijuana extract in heated on the nail through the water chamber to the mouthpiece. Some dab rig stems have an “ice pinch” so that ice can be added to the stem to further chill the vapor.

The Torch – A mini propane or butane blow torch, similar to those used to make creme brulee, is used to heat the nail on your dab rig before dabbing.

The Dab Tool – The dab tool or “dabber” is the tool you will use to dab your marijuana extract onto your hot nail. These dab tools are often made of metal, though glass is also a popular dabber medium.

How to Use a Dab Rig:

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As discussed above, dabbing works much in the same way as using a bong, with some important differences. Dab rigs are specifically equipped to vaporize marijuana extracts, rather than burn dry herb. Here are some tips to dabbing properly.

First, it is recommended to load your dab – or the amount of cannabis extract you want to use in a single hit – before you heat your nail. This ensures that your dab is ready before your nail cools again. Remember that marijuana extracts are quite a bit stronger than marijuana flower, so a little bit is all you need. Start small, using bigger dabs as your experience grows.

Once your marijuana extract is loaded on your dab tool, use your torch to heat the nail, aiming your flame away from yourself, others, and the dab rig itself. Heat the nail until it just starts to glow red hot. Extinguish your torch and set aside. If your dab rig has a globe, you’ll want to replace it now.

Wait a few seconds for your nail to cool slightly. The ideal temperature for dabbing has been hotly debated, but as a general rule, a hotter nail will more fully vaporize your marijuana extract, while a cooler nail provides a more flavorful dab but may not fully vaporize your dab.

Then, while inhaling, use your dabber to dab your extract on the hot nail. Once your dab has fully vaporized, remove your dabber and continue to inhale until the dab rig is cleared of vapor. You can then wipe off your dabber and set it aside.

Important: never touch your nail until it has fully cooled!

Benefits of Dab Rigs:

Dabbing offers users a number of advantages over more traditional means of consumption. First, marijuana extracts are vaped, rather than smoked, so users aren’t exposed to the same potentially dangerous compounds as smokers. marijuana extracts are also considered more flavorful when dabbed than dry herb is when smoked. Finally, extracts are more potent due to higher percentages of active compounds. That means dabbers can consume less material and dab less often than smokers.

You can find more information about dabbing.

Learn More

Read more about consumption methods, home cultivation, How To’s, and other topics like these on our Cannabis 101 page.