The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Bong
No other piece holds the same majesty nor commands the respect as a bong. The right bong inspires awe and provides a flawless smoking experience that can’t be beat. How do you pick the right one, though?
This guide covers all the most important features to consider when choosing the right bong for you. There are plenty of choices, and now it’s time to narrow them down to a proper short-list.
“Bong” is a general term applied to water pipes. They can be in any shape, color, or size, so long as they include basic bong anatomy:
- Joint, Downstem, and Bowl: Joints always lead at a down-angle toward the water, allowing downstems, slides, and bowls to be placed into the bong. Smoke goes from the bowl, through the downstem, into the water, and finally up the smoke chamber in into your lungs. Joints are typically either 14mm or 18mm, and come at either 45 degree or 90 degree angles.
- Smoke Chamber: As the smoke bubbles through the water, it fills the smoke chamber of a bong, ready to be inhaled. As bongs get larger, their smoke chambers get longer, resulting in bigger potential hits. It can be difficult to clear large bongs, so resist the urge to purchase the biggest water pipe you can find if you don’t want monster hits.
- Carb: Carbs are small holes which, when covered, create pressure within a piece which allows a greater concentration of smoke to be produced in a single hit. Once released, the smoke captured in the chamber of the bong can be released. Ideally, carbs are located well above the water line to avoid accidental spills. Not all bongs have carbs, and instead require users to remove the slide before inhaling.
Additional accessories like diffuser stems, percolators, ash catchers, etc., are all optional pieces which improve the smoking experience, usually by further cooling and filtering smoke.
Bongs are commonly made from glass, ceramic, and plastic (acrylic). Which you choose comes down to personal preference, but like shape, each material comes with its own strength and weaknesses.
- Glass: Glass is easy to clean, cools quickly, and can be very durable. Glass blown with multiple layers and boroscilicate glass are much stronger than plain glass, but the biggest downside of using glass has always been that it is fragile and cannot tolerate extreme temperatures. Because it leaves no after taste, and allows users to keep an eye on water quality, glass is usually preferred to ceramic, plastic, wood, or anything else.
- Ceramic: Ceramic is thicker and heavier than glass, and can withstand higher temperatures without fracturing. It is fragile like untreated glass, however, and should be handled with care. Unlike glass, ceramic is opaque, so you won’t be able to see the water inside or watch the smoke to judge your hit. Ceramic is often considered a cheaper alternative to glass while being classier than plastic.
- Plastic: There isn’t anything inherently wrong with plastic bongs, and in fact plastic offers a number of benefits. It’s cheaper than glass or ceramic, and gives manufacturers a lot of freedom with color, opacity, texture, and shape. They’re also much more likely to survive a tumble. So, why not use plastic? Plastic bongs use metal downstems and bowls, which leave a lot to be desired in taste and function. If your budget allows, it’s almost always better to buy all-glass bongs and accessories.
Beyond the basic anatomy of the bong, pioneering bong-makers have been adding accessories and extensions to water pipes since the beginning of time. These accessories usually serve a purpose, such as cooling or filtering smoke, but are also made to look neat and add to the overall aesthetic of the piece. Some accessories come built into the bong, while others can be added later and switched out with multiple pieces (like ash catchers).
- Diffusers: Before smoke reaches the water, it travels down a diffuser steam. This special stem breaks the smoke up into several separate streams, increasing surface area and cooling smoke on its way down to the water. They’re easy to clean and switch out among your bongs.
- Percolators: These sub-chambers diffuse smoke through several channels of water, creating hundreds of little bubbles which filter, cool, and humidify your smoke. The result is a smoother, gentler hit. Percolators come in a huge variety according to personal preference and efficiency. The most common types are inline, coil, tree, and honeycomb.
- Ice Catchers: Built within the chamber of the bong, above the water, ice catcher offer a cinch of glass to hold ice. This provides a chillier hit as ice water drips into your reservoir and smoke travels over ice before reaching your lungs.
- Splash Guards: Anyone who has experienced the putrid splashback of bong water knows it’s an situation you’d rather avoid. Splash guards are domes fit between the water and chamber of a bong to catch water before it reaches the mouthpiece.
- Ash Catchers: As bongs become more complicated, they also become more difficult to clean. Getting every last piece of gunk out of a honeycomb percolator isn’t easy, and even standard bongs can be a pain to maintain. That’s why many smokers choose to use an ash catcher, which is an external accessory which provides an extra chamber specially designed to catch ash and resin before it reaches your bong.
Standard bongs work perfectly well, but some people like to enhance their smoking experience and express their personalities through the use of accessories, additions, and extensions. Ice catchers and splash guards add a bit of luxury to your piece, while percolators and ash catchers offer improved functionality and style.
Picking the Right Bong
Now that you’re familiar with the different types of bongs and accessories, you can make an informed decision about the perfect bong for your collection. Whether you need a small, simple piece, or a multi-chamber monster, the right bong is right around the corner.
Most of all, remember to treat yourself, but forego the 6-footer unless you need to settle a bet.