What is a Bong?
A bong is a water pipe used to smoke marijuana. They come in many shapes, sizes, and styles, but all serve the same purpose: to cool the smoke from your marijuana by passing it through water.
It’s hard to pin down exactly where the bong originates from, but there are examples of water pipes from many cultures throughout the world. The most classic, the hookah, originates in the middle east, while other examples, such as the steam chalice, originated in Jamaica. In Thailand, where many cannabis landrace strains originate from, smokers have been using hollow bamboo tubes to smoke cannabis for centuries. These bamboo tubes are known in Thailand as “baungs,” the most probable origin of the word.
Today, bongs range from simple acrylic tubes to massive works of glass art. The selection is limitless, so let’s narrow down a few of the more popular styles and types.
What Kind of Bongs Are on the Market?
When discussing the variety of bongs available on the market, two distinct categories that must be examined: material and style.
Bongs come in a wide variety of different materials, as a trip into nearly any smoke shop will demonstrate. The most popular materials for bongs tend to be glass, plastic, and ceramic, though it’s not uncommon to find them made from metal or wood, either.
While colorful acrylic was once the norm for bong smokers, glass is now the industry standard. Glassblowers can do incredible things when working with glass bongs, and not just for aesthetics. Their creativity and craftsmanship have led to countless design improvements in bongs, leading to better-cooled, more-filtered hits. Let’s examine a few of the most popular styles, including one classic DIY option.
The straight tube design is pretty much what it sounds like. A tube, typically made of glass, is outfitted with a port for a downstem, which is then fitted with a bowl for herb. They’re about as simple as they come, but there’s a reason this simple design remains exceedingly popular today: it works! On top of that, straight tube bongs remain some of the easiest to clean, as there are few nooks and crannies for residue to hideout. Most modern tube bongs also feature an ice-pinch to hold ice cubes, further cooling the smoke.
Beaker (or Bubble) Base
Much like the straight tube, a beaker or bubble base bong is simply a tube with a broader base. In some cases, glassblowers will create a round, conical base from which the tube emanates, creating a beaker-shaped bong. In other cases, a glassblower may opt to create a rounded, spherical base resembling a large bubble. While a beaker base may be sturdier due to its larger surface area, both designs tweak the straight tube to create a larger chamber and more potent hits.
A carburetor bong features a small hole that is plugged with one’s finger. Typically featured on acrylic bongs, very few glass bongs possess carburetors (or carb, for short). When a smoker releases their finger from the hole, a rush of fresh air is introduced into the chamber, pushing the smoke into the user’s lungs. Though once immensely popular, carbureted bongs have largely been replaced by glass-on-glass fittings and connections.
A common yet brilliant addition to many bongs is the percolator, a device built into the downstem or tube of the bong that allows for additional water filtration and cooling. A variety of percolator designs exist, such as the tree, the showerhead, and disc percs, but they all have one purpose in common, to further cool and filter your cannabis smoke. There are tons of percolator designs out there, and they add a lot to the functionality and aesthetics of a bong.
Multi-chamber bongs, sometimes called recyclers, feature more than one chamber, filtering the smoke in one chamber, then recycling or passing it to another to be filtered again. There are definite advantages to this, such as the added filtration, which leads to smoother, cooler hits. However, it must also be noted that multi-chamber bongs tend to be more challenging to clean as there are lots of interior angles in which residue may find a home.
The infamous gravity bong is a DIY creation that enables massive rips. Approach the gravity bong with caution, as even seasoned bong smokers have been known to be knocked out for the count by these heavy hitters. Two basic designs exist the waterfall and the bucket. Both involve a two-liter soda bottle which is modified to house a bowl in its cap.
In the waterfall model, a full bottle of water is drained through a small hole in the bottom while a lighter is held to the bowl in the cap. In the bucket model, the bottom is removed from the bottle, the bottle submerged, and the cap and bowl placed on top. The bottle is slowly drawn from the water while a lighter is held to the bowl. Both models fill the bottle up with thick, dense clouds of smoke. In the bucket model, the user pushes the bottle down into the water, forcing the smoke into their lungs. If it sounds painful, it’s because it usually is. Again, gravity bongs are fun, but they’re not for the faint of heart!
How Does a Bong Work?
A bong achieves its purpose of cooling and filtering your cannabis smoke by passing it through water before it reaches your lips. Additionally, the shape and dimensions of the bong directly affect the amount of smoke a user is able to inhale with each hit.
A basic bong features a chamber (or tube), a downstem, and a bowl. Theoretically, the bigger the chamber, the bigger the hit the user can get from the bong. Thus the reason that some bongs can take on comically large proportions.
By and large, size has been replaced by functionality in the modern bong market. Now, the inclusion of multiple percolators, ice-pinches, and multiple chambers has made nearly any bong capable of massive tokes.
What Should You Know Before You Buy a Bong?
When it comes to finding the right bong, almost everything boils down to personal preference. However, here are a few considerations to make that may affect your enjoyment of your new device.
- Size – Buying a bong that is too large or too small can present problems. Too large, and it may leave you floored every time, as well as struggling to find a place to store it. Too small, and you may find that it is easily broken or knocked over, or even worse, that it leaves you with a mouthful of bong water.
- Compatibility – Most smoke shops carry a decent selection of glass-on-glass fittings for bongs, making it easy to replace broken or damaged parts. It may be important to consider before buying something highly customized and very expensive, as it may not possess standard fittings.
- Strength – If you have pets or know that you’re particularly clumsy, a fragile bong may not be best for you. Fortunately, many producers manufacture extra-thick glass bongs for this very reason. Pick up a nine-millimeter-thick glass bong, and you can feel the difference.
Bong Like A Pro: Tips & Tricks
There are lots of ways to improve your smoking experience. Here are just a few.
- Cleaning – Keeping your bong nice and clean is the best way to make sure your weed tastes great and your bong functions correctly. Isopropyl rubbing alcohol, salt, and hot water make a fantastic cleaning agent for glass.
- Accessories – There are countless ways to customize and accessorize your bong. Some of our favorites include ash catchers, which add a separate chamber and percolator to your bong, and dab rigs, which allow you to take dabs straight from your bong without a separate device.
- Water – Speaking of bong water, treat it like it’s toxic waste. It isn’t, but it’s incredibly difficult to get the smell out of your clothes or carpet should you wind up spilling it.
How Do I Use a Bong?
Fill your bong’s chamber with water, fill your bowl with your best weed, light and inhale. When you feel yourself nearing your limit, remove the flame and pull the bowl from the downstem. This will enable you to clear the chamber of the remaining smoke. If you’re smoking with friends, it’s always nice not to pass them a bong full of old, stale smoke.
Which Bong is Best for Me?
There’s not one bong that’s best for any one person. While you may consider size, compatibility, and strength, it’s really all a matter of personal preference. Pick a bong that makes you happy.
What Gets You Higher - Bong or Pipe?
It has long been rumored that bongs get you higher than pipes because of the size of hits you can take from them. While there may be some truth to this, more important factors to determine which would get you higher would be the THC content, quality, and genetics of your herb.
Bongs have been around for centuries, and it’s doubtful they’ll be going anywhere anytime soon. Modern-day bongs regularly incorporate incredible feats of glasswork, and the innovation just keeps growing. Bongs are a classic tool in the cannabis world for a reason: they’re practical, effective, and even beautiful. With modern-day glassblowers creating magnificent works of art in the form of bongs, why not take a look at what’s available? You might be pleasantly surprised.
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