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Pipes vs. Bongs: Which Is Better?

left side (woman using pipes in smoking weed), right side (man using bong in smoking weed)

When choosing between a pipe or a bong, the decision lies in convenience, ease of use, smoking habits, and user preference. The main difference between pipes and bongs are in size and portability, though both are popular and effective tools for consuming cannabis flower.

Users who prefer a smaller tool or something that works on the go may opt for a pipe, whereas those who need more flower per session or want cleaner smoke may benefit from using a bong.

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What Are Pipes?

Pipes are a small, handheld device and a quintessential tool for smoking marijuana. They are one of the best choices for consuming cannabis for convenience and user-friendliness. Generally more affordable and budget-friendly (in case they break), you can purchase a pipe in most dispensaries and any smoke shop.

How They Work

Pipes work by packing a bowl with ground cannabis, lighting the bud with a lighter or hemp wick, and inhaling the resulting smoke through the mouthpiece. There are different types of pipes with different shapes, such as hand pipes or one-hitters (chillums), but they all follow the same basic steps.

How to Use One

It only takes a few simple steps to smoke out of a pipe, though there are a few handy tips to know when starting:

  1. First, take a small amount of flower and grind it into smaller pieces, or pick it apart with your hands.
  2. Pack the flower into the pipe’s bowl, careful not to overstuff and accidentally restrict airflow.
  3. Holding the pipe in your nondominant hand, place your thumb over the carb — the small hole on the side of the bowl — and hold a lighter in your dominant hand. If using a hemp wick, use the lighter to light the wick before getting ready to inhale.
  4. Spark the lighter close to the bowl and inhale while keeping your finger on the carb. This will lead smoke into the neck of the pipe and get it ready to inhale.
  5. Once the flower starts to combust, move the flame away from the bowl. Keep the cherry going by inhaling the smoke and adjusting your thumb on and off the carb.
  6. Exhale the smoke and repeat until you’ve finished all the flower in the bowl.

Potential Benefits

Pipes are smaller and more portable smoking devices with many potential benefits to the average consumer. They are made of durable materials, usually thicker glass so that they can last a long time with proper care. They’re typically a lower-cost investment upfront, meaning there’s a lower barrier to entry, or if you lose or break one, it’s less of a loss.

Pipes are also more discreet than bongs, and more convenient to put away in a drawer or tuck away in a bag than a larger piece of glassware.

Risks and Drawbacks

There aren’t too many risks in purchasing and using a pipe; many are affordable and not too much of a loss if they break. However, buying the cheapest pipe on the shelf can impact the flavor of the smoke, adding a taste of plastic or too-hot smoke if the materials aren’t of the highest quality.

Using a pipe also carries the general risks associated with smoking cannabis, which come part and parcel with smoking combusted plant matter. When flower combusts, the flame’s heat burns off some cannabinoids and terpenes and converts some of the plant into harmful carcinogens. These toxins can harm the throat and lungs, potentially dangerous to those who are immunocompromised or have lung issues.

What Are Bongs?

A bong is a water pipe used to smoke marijuana. Smoking from a bong offers marijuana users a less lung-irritating and potentially more potent way of consuming their flower, thanks to the water’s filtering of the heat and tar in the smoke.

How They Work

When you combust dried cannabis flower, the heat breaks down the chemical bonds of the plant matter and converts its cannabinoids, terpenes, and other components into smoke. The shape of the bong allows it to filter out many harmful carcinogens or chemicals and leave behind only the desired parts.

The smoke travels through water, which traps the ash and tar before allowing smoke up the pipe and through the mouthpiece. The water acts as a filter and reduces the number of byproducts that make it to your lungs, significantly reducing the typical harshness of the smoke.

How to Use One

Bongs are relatively straightforward to use, and all follow the same basic principles of air and smoke flow as pipes:

  1. First, fill the bong with water directly into the mouthpiece. Submerge the downstem no more than an inch in water. This will ensure you’re not overcooling the smoke and losing out on the cannabinoids.
  2. Pick apart your flower or grind it into small pieces using a grinder to prep it for the bowl.
  3. Pack the flower into the pipe’s bowl, careful not to overstuff and accidentally restrict airflow.
  4. Get ready to inhale. Hold the bong in your nondominant hand and hold the lighter or lit hemp wick in your other. Put your mouth to the mouthpiece, creating a tight seal that keeps air from escaping.
  5. Light the flower in the bowl and slowly inhale to guide the smoke into the device.
  6. Once you’ve drawn a hit into the chamber, remove the bowl from the bong and inhale the smoke. Hold the smoke for 2-3 seconds and exhale.

Potential Benefits

The main reason for choosing a bong over other smoking apparatuses would be the cleaner, larger smoke in each exhale, but one can make other cases for the benefits of bongs.

Given their size and the larger bowl, bongs allow you to inhale bigger and cleaner hits with less flower. They’re also much easier to clean and made of customizable and interchangeable parts that come apart for easy maintenance.

Bongs can be made up of several different materials, offering variable price points for those who want more cost-effective solutions. Higher quality bongs can also be considered a work of art, great for displaying on a shelf or mantlepiece.

Risks and Drawbacks

A bong’s size detracts from its portability and discretion, though smaller-sized bongs are meant for individual use and travel. This makes them difficult to lug around, whereas a pipe may more efficiently fit in one’s luggage.

Bongs can also break easily when made of ceramic or glass, which can be cost-prohibitive if you keep repurchasing one. The bubbling of the water on inhale is also louder than smoking out a pipe, in case you want to keep your smoking private from neighbors.

Similarities and Differences Between Pipes and Bongs

Bongs and pipes are both cannabis smoking devices that follow the same principles of combusting flower in a bowl, pulling the smoke into a chamber, and inhaling from a mouthpiece. They can be made of many of the same materials, including glass, ceramic, silicone, and plastic, and both are available at various price points to fit your budget.

Portability and smoke cleanliness are the biggest differentiators between pipes and bongs. Pipes feature only a short tube without a filtration mechanism but are much easier to use on the go and without attracting too much attention. Bongs produce a cleaner, filtered smoke but are better suited for home use or those requiring larger doses of flower.

How to Decide Which Is Best For You

When it comes to choosing between a pipe or a bong, it’s all a matter of personal preference. It’s probably best to have one of each to suit whatever situations you may need to smoke cannabis and allow yourself to enjoy the best of both worlds.

When to Use a Pipe

A pipe works best for small hits, smoking when out and about, or more casual shared smoking sessions. All you need is a lighter and some flower to consume a small amount of cannabis, no matter where you are or if you need to be discreet.

When to Use a Bong

A bong is better suited for big hits, usually when smoking in the privacy of your own home. Bongs are also preferential for those seeking a cooler smoke, especially if you have lung conditions such as asthma or are immunocompromised.

The Bottom Line

So which is better, a pipe or a bong? It ultimately comes down to user preference, as each carries its pros and cons and is better used in specific scenarios than others. Most people don’t choose between one or the other, instead opting to own one of each to suit any cannabis smoking situation.

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