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Bong vs Dab Rig

Bong vs Dab Rig

Bong vs Dab Rig - What’s the difference?

Upon my entry into the wonderful world of herb some years ago, bongs were the standard consumption method, if not just a good ol’ swisher. You grind the herb, pack the bowl, and light - simple. I actually didn’t know what dabs or a dab rig was until much later. They caught my attention because, well, you’re supposed to get really high, and who doesn’t want to get really high? That enthusiasm changed when I was asked if I wanted one at a party.

I have to be honest - I turned him down. It was the blow torch that threw me off, but I stayed close by and watched as the bowl got red hot. They would hover their wrist above it as it cooled and at the right moment, they globbed in a pearl of wax. I watched it try to creep up the walls before only a small drip was left inside.

Curiosity peaked!

I sat down to share my blunt and ask him how it all worked. He broke down the differences between the devices to me like I will here - with some added knowledge I’ve picked up over the years. It’s all about purpose, percolation, and size. Bongs and dab rigs may seem similar, but the truth is that there are plenty of differences between the two. Let’s break down what the two are and discuss.


Both bongs and dab rigs serve as a means to consume herb, but they do so in different ways. They each have their purpose; bongs are intended to be used with dried flower, while dab rigs use different parts and are designed for use with concentrates and wax. Bongs are utilized via combustion. Plant material is lit with a lighter and then the smoke is inhaled. Oil rigs use heat to vaporize waxy concentrate that is then inhaled. This is usually done with a torch, which brings us to making sure you’re using the right attachment.

Bowl Pieces vs Nails

Bowl Example


Bongs are designed for use with bowl pieces, which are exactly what they sound like, a bowl that holds your herb with a small hole in the bottom to allow air flow. They’re usually made of glass, though sometimes metal, and are easily able to withstand the heat from a lighter. 


Banger Example


Rigs are a bit different in that they need an attachment that is durable enough to withstand the high heat necessary to vaporize concentrates. These attachments are called “nails” and they’re usually made out of ceramic, titanium, or quartz. Recently the standard has shifted to quartz bangers specifically. Although nails come in a huge variety of styles, the functionality is the same. You heat the nail, drop your concentrate inside, cap it, and inhale the vapor.

Bowl pieces and nails are both the “receptacles” for your smoking material. Typically, bowl pieces tend to have a male joint, meaning they fit into the female joint of a bong. Dab rigs are opposite, usually featuring male joints where the nail fits over it. Keep in mind this isn’t always the case as custom pieces and outliers do exist.


More percolation is always better, right? Well, not in the case of dab rigs. Too much percolation can actually reduce the potency of your dab. If the oil vapor comes in contact with too much water it can reduce the effectiveness of your hit. That’s why you usually only see one percolator in high-end dab rigs.

Bongs, on the other hand, benefit from as much percolation as you can afford! From diffused downstems to triple-stacked honeycomb percs, each level of filtration makes herb smoke cooler and smoother. No matter how many percolators are stacked in a bong, smoke made from combustion won’t lose potency, flavor, or smokablity.


You may have noticed that people always want the biggest bong, but dab rigs tend to be much smaller. Well, the size of a piece greatly impacts the smoking experience - for better or worse. Here’s the science behind it.

Bigger is better when it comes to bongs. You don’t have to worry about smoke made from combustion losing potency or dissipating. This means you want to extend the smoke path with as many percolators as you can to get the maximum level of filtration. More bubbles means more surface area that has to pass through the water, cooling the smoke before it reaches your lungs. You can easily tell the difference when hitting a bong with a perc, then hitting one without. 

Unlike herb smoke, which loses very little potency when traveling inside a bong, oil vapor will be trapped and dissipate in the water. This means you want to inhale the smoke as quickly as possible, which is why most dab rigs tend to be on the shorter side. Most vapor is absorbed in 3-5 seconds, so certain percolators and huge tubes won’t give you the best hit.

Smoking from the “Wrong” Pipe

Now for the big question: Can you use a bong to smoke concentrates or a dab rig to smoke dry flower?

Short answer: Absolutely.

If you have a banger or bowl that can be used with your piece’s joint - go for it. There’s no reason you can’t smoke herb from a rig or concentrate from a bong, but you wouldn’t be doing yourself any favors. At the end of the day, both are just tools, and like all tools, they serve special functions based on their designs.

For other types of bong comparisons, check out our silicone vs glass bongs guide.

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