Just about every long-time smoker has a bong hanging around somewhere. These handy, water-filled devices are just about ubiquitous in the cannabis community. There are plenty of reasons why people prefer bongs, but there are also plenty of rumors that are unfortunately false. Getting a bong is a great decision for most smokers, but your purchase should be based on facts, not fiction.
One common rumor about bongs is that they get you higher than a joint. This probably springs from how science-y bongs look. There’s so much going on! It must get you higher – right?
When it comes down to it, this is unfortunately just a rumor. Science stepped in to test this out. When all other factors are controlled, one gram of weed smoked with a joint will get you just as high as a gram smoked through a bong. The THC content doesn’t change just because it’s been filtered through water. If you’re inhaling all the smoke from the joint or the bong, you’ll get equally high.
There is one factor that the study didn’t cover. Users who swear that they get higher off of a bong probably are getting more buzzed. However, it’s not because of some chemical magic. Instead, bongs let you take much larger rips than a joint. The result is that one or two hits from a bong can get you blazed, while a joint just won’t.
Furthermore, pretty much all of the smoke from a bong is going to be used. None of it goes to waste in the atmosphere. A joint can easily lose smoke to the air, leading to less THC entering your system. It’s just easier to use a bong efficiently than it is to smoke with a joint.
Even if bongs can’t get you higher than other methods, they’re still great. There are plenty of benefits to using a bong, and they’re related to how bongs work in the first place.
How Do Bongs Work
A bong is a complex piece of work, even in its most basic form. Air pressure, chemistry, and physics combine into a single glass bong. The result is a smoother smoke for you – but how does it work?
The Anatomy of a Bong
First, it will help if you understand the basic parts of a bong. A basic bong consists of four basic parts:
The tube: The body of the bong is the tube, sometimes called the chamber. This is where smoke and water go.
The mouthpiece: The user breathes from the bong through the mouthpiece. Some bongs have a fixed mouthpiece, while others allow you to swap out different mouthpieces.
The bowl: The bowl holds burning weed, and has a small hole for smoke to travel into the bong.
The downstem: Like the stem of a pipe, the downstem carries smoke from the bowl. It’s usually angled downward. Some downstems have diffusers at the end, to make smoke bubbles smaller.
There are other components that can be included as well. These aren’t necessary for the experience, but they make the bong easier to use or easier to clean.
The carb: This is a small hole on the side of the bong that comes with an air-tight plug. In bongs with fixed mouthpieces, the carb is how fresh air gets into the bong during a rip.
Ice catchers: Some people like to add ice to their bongs. However, many bongs contain fragile parts that shouldn’t interact with solid objects. An ice catcher helps keep ice cubes from dropping into the bong and breaking these fragile components.
Percolators: The point of using a bong is to get as much smoke to contact the water as possible. Percolators help make that happen. They break up bigger smoke bubbles into smaller bubbles, so there’s more surface area available.
A basic perc is a tube or disc with a lot of small holes or slits. This put in the tube a few inches above the bottom of the downstem. When bubbles rise and hit the perc, they’re broken up into smaller bubbles for a while. Some bongs have multiple percs stacked a few inches apart, for maximum filtration.
Slides and joints: Some bongs can be completely disassembled. When that’s the case, the downstem is usually attached to the bong with a slide and a joint. The joint is the hole where a slide attaches, and the slide holds the downstem. The result is a bong that can be cleaned very thoroughly.
How to Use a Bong
The bowl is on the end of the stem, which connect to the tube near the bottom. The mouthpiece is at the top of the tube. Then the tube is filled with water, which is what makes a bong different from a super-complex pipe.
Like a pipe, weed is placed in the bowl of the bong. It’s lit, then the user takes a slow drag from the mouthpiece. This starts pulling the smoke from the burning weed down through the stem and into the water. The smoke then bubbles up through the water and collects in the tube.
Once there’s enough smoke in the tube, it’s time to inhale the smoke. The bowl may have a “carb,” or the bowl may be removeable. Either way, there should be a way to make a hole above the waterline to let in fresh air. That hole should be opened up. Then the user can take one quick, deep breath through the mouthpiece to inhale all the smoke. Fresh air will replace the smoke through the hole, and the bong is ready to be used again.
The Science Behind Bongs
All these parts have a purpose behind them. A bong makes your smoking experience much more pleasant. It can even make it healthier. It’s a trick based on how THC, smoke, and water interact.
THC is a fat-soluble chemical. That means it doesn’t readily dissolve in water. If you use a vape, you may know that vape juice involves using glycerin to carry the THC – that’s because water doesn’t like to absorb THC.
On the other hand, many other chemicals in smoke are water-soluble. When they come in contact with water, the water absorbs them happily. Lucky for bong-users, the water-soluble parts of smoke are also some of the substances that can damage lungs. These chemicals also cause coughing and the harsh feeling of taking a hit from a joint.
That’s where bongs come in. By forcing smoke to bubble through water before you inhale it, you’re putting all the water-soluble substances in direct contact with it. The water absorbs those problem chemicals, while THC and other cannabinoids bubble right on through. The smoke that makes it through the bong water is much less harsh but just as potent.
What Are Bongs Used For?
Using a bong is one of the healthiest options out there when it comes to smoking weed. Smoking is never a completely risk-free endeavor. It’s just about impossible to completely filter smoke. However, smoking with a bong is the simplest way to turn weed into a high without breathing in too much tar.
The water filtration that bongs offer is the big secret. That filtration keeps your lungs safe from a variety of carcinogenic substances. Check out the difference in water quality between fresh water and the stuff you pour out of the bong at the end of the night. All the brown goo that’s in the water was in the smoke originally. You or your friends would have inhaled it without a bong. Many people never go back to using joints after they see the state of bong water after a fun afternoon.
Using a percolator bong only improves the filtration. Percs break up the bubbles, and smaller bubbles mean more filtration. You can get bongs with built-in percs, or you can get customizable bongs that let you swap parts out. A good perc can improve water filtration by a ton.
Bongs are also used to help cool down smoke. This is both a health and comfort benefit. Inhaling smoke that’s too hot can lead to scalding the back of your throat by accident. Even if you don’t give yourself a sore throat, very hot air can trigger coughing fits. By cooling down the smoke, it becomes easier, safer, and more pleasant to inhale.
How Much Do Bongs Cost?
Bongs have a huge range of potential price points. Depending on your budget, there’s definitely an option out there for you. However, not all bongs are created equal. A starter bong might cost $25, but you’ll want to upgrade pretty quickly if you decide that you like the bong experience.
The absolute cheapest bongs on the market are typically acrylic. These plastic bongs are simple, cheap, and hard to break. If you’re taking a bong to a party, an acrylic bong is the perfect option. You can get an acrylic bong for anywhere between $25 and $70.
Sometimes you get what you pay for, though. Acrylic bongs are being studied for potential health risks. Most acrylic bongs use metal mouthpieces and acrylic doesn’t always respond well to heat. Even if it turns out that smoking through acrylic is perfectly safe, many people report that it adds a funky flavor to their hit. If you need a short-term or start bong, acrylic is great, but it’s not a long-term solution.
The next step up is silicone. It’s just about impossible to break a silicone bong unless you’re stabbing it. That makes it perfect for travel, parties, and hanging with clumsy friends. Even better, silicone is food-safe, so the health risks are minimal. You can get a great silicone bong for $50 to $100, on average.
Silicone still adds just a hint of flavor to your smoke, though. Plus, most silicone bongs can’t be modified with swapped mouthpieces or downstems. If you’re a purist, you’re looking for something flavor-free and modifiable.
Glass bongs are the top-shelf option. Glass is completely heat-resistant and flavor-free. Just about every glass bong can be modified, with parts swapped out to make it the perfect piece for you. Depending on what you want and the brand, glass bongs can range from $50 to $1000+. The expensive rigs are usually custom-blown pieces of art, though. You can get a completely customized glass bong for $150 or less if you look, and stock options for less than $100.
The one downside is that glass is breakable. Getting a thick glass bong with a solid base can minimize the risk, but it’s still there. Investing in a glass bong is worth it, but make sure you can protect it from accidents before you buy.
How Are Bongs Made?
Different bong materials lead to different production methods. Acrylic bongs are simple, for example. The acrylic is poured into molds, and when it’s hardened, the pieces are glued together. Similarly, silicone bongs are made by pouring silicone over a mold. Glass bongs, on the other hand, are much more complex.
How to Blow Glass Bongs
Glass is an interesting substance to work with. Glass objects can be made by pouring it into a mold, but it’s not the most efficient method. Instead, glassblowing is how most hollow glass objects are made. Just like bubble gum, molten glass expands when air is blown into it. This forced air process is how even mass-produced bongs are created.
First, the chamber and base of the bong is created. A ball of glass is heated until it’s glowing hot and a tube is placed in the center. Air is blown through the tube and into the glass ball, carefully turning it into a bubble of molten glass. The glassblower turns the bubble on the tube, keeping the glass thickness even and the base stable.
Tubing is made next, like the downstem and other parts. Tubing is usually made out of a separate piece of glass, and it’s formed the same way. The big difference is that tubing is bent into truly unique shapes in the process, so it’s not all heated evenly.
There’s a fine balancing act to making removable tubing. It has to fit the fixture perfectly, or the bong won’t be air-tight. Every manufacturer has their own standards, so if you’ve broken your slide, your best bet is to get a replacement from the same brand as your bong. Otherwise, you’ll have a hard time finding that perfect fit again.
Once all the parts are made, it’s time to connect the pieces. The joint locations are very carefully heated so they are hot enough to melt together without losing their shape. The true sign of a good bong is a smooth, even bond at any joints. If your piece looks like it was made out of one continuous piece of glass, you have some excellent craftsmanship on your hands.
Why Do People Put Ice in Bongs?
One of the big benefits of bongs is how they cool the smoke before you breath. Some people want a truly chill experience, and so they turn to ice. After all, the cooler the water, the cooler the smoke. Adding some ice to your bong water leads to cooler smoke and a smoother toke.
If you’re in the market for a bong and you like the idea of using ice, make sure your new piece has an ice catcher. Most bongs with ice catchers also have percolators, which are delicate and thinner glass. Just dropping ice cubes onto your perc can fracture it and break your bong. An ice catcher is a pinched area in the bone that keeps ice from hitting the perc. It also keeps ice collected in one place, to keep the water cooler and force more smoke past the ice.
Best Places To Find Bongs Online
Unless you have a truly terrific headshop nearby, it’s going to be easiest to get your bong online. There are a few websites to check out if you’re looking to get your next piece delivered.
If you’re a fan of the science behind the bong, DankGeek is a great choice. They have everything from thick glass bongs to acrylic, along with water pipes, accessories, and replacement parts. Whether you need a simple, cheap option or a true monster of a piece, they have you covered. They also have a Rest in Piece program, giving you a discount if you send in a picture of your sadly deceased previous bong.
One of the longest-running weed webstores, GrassCity has been selling bongs and smoking supplies online since 2000. They sell just about every weed accessory on the planet, including a truly impressive range of bongs. They have something for every smoker, and they’ll give you stylish options on top of everything else.
Glass-lovers will find everything they want and more at Hemper. There are hundreds of bongs on offer, along with some bongs that are specific to Hemper. They also offer a subscription box to keep you topped up on all your smoking supplies, along with new accessories for your Hemper bong.
Bongs have been a favorite smoking method for centuries. They’re long-lasting, they protect your lungs, and they’re stylish. Investing in a good bong will elevate your smoke sessions for years to come.