Bongs: What They Are and How to Use Them
If you smoke weed, chances are you've smoked with a bong. Bongs are a crucial piece of equipment for the modern smoker. These glass, metal, silicon, or ceramic tools deliver big hits of THC for powerful experiences. They come in every size and shape imaginable, with an arsenal of different accessories to elevate the session.
But, bongs are not just some new fad popularized by modern-day weed lovers. Bongs have a history dating back thousands of years. Throughout history, they've delivered recreational, therapeutic, and spiritual support to countless ancient humans.
It's worth taking a deep dive to explore the bong's evolution into the modern-day piece of art it has become. Once there, maybe we should also examine the benefits of bongs still appreciated by people today. Not to mention how to properly use a bong (and with what accessories), to reap those benefits.
Are you ready for the more extensive exploration of historical and modern-day bongs yet? This is a history and how-to-guide all rolled into one.
A Brief History of Bongs
Cannabis has a history of use dating back thousands of years. Archeologists have documented the chemical residue of cannabis in temples and sacred sites across Asia, with one of the earliest discoveries is from 2500 BCE Jirzankal Cemetery, Pamirs region, in China.
The researchers believe mourners and worshippers burned cannabis in wooden braziers. As the authors explained," Cannabis is one of the oldest cultivated plants in East Asia, grown for grain and fiber as well as for recreational, medical, and ritual purposes."
So how did ancient cultures consume this magical plant?
Archeologists on the other side of the continent discovered the first documented smoking device for cannabis — this time in Russia. The device is made of pure gold and has decorations depicting ancient gods.
If you take a close look, it has an uncanny resemblance to your water bong sitting on the coffee table today, besides the pure gold, of course. The research team has connected it to the ancient Scythian culture and dates it to 2400 BCE.
While the Scythians were likely not the only culture taking rips out of bongs, this is the earliest dated archaeological evidence. Thanks to historical trade routes, like the Silk Road, cannabis culture traveled across the continent, from Asia to Africa to Europe. The most popular water bongs at the time were likely much simpler contraptions, made from cheap materials like wood, clay, and bamboo.
The modern word "bong" likely comes from one of these ancient Thai bamboo smoking devices known as the "bhang." Over the years, and with many an English translation, "bhang" transformed into "bong."
With the rise of counterculture and cannabis-loving hippies in the 1960s, bongs began their most recent evolution into the epic pieces of art we know and love today. Not without bumps in the road — thanks to the war on drugs. But bong makers, sellers, and smokers are a creative bunch. In the 21st century, it's easier than ever before to find bongs for sale online and off.
The digital revolution has changed the way people shop for pipes and other smoking accessories. E-commerce has opened up an entirely new world of access that allows users to shop from the privacy of their homes and spend as much time as they want discreetly looking at products.
Modern Day Bongs
Water pipes are available in a plethora of materials and prices, making it easy to find a piece to suite any taste or budget.
Glass Bongs – Glass is the cream of the crop when it comes to the different types of materials used to make bongs. Glass bongs deliver the highest-quality experience with little to no taste added to adulterate the flavours of the trichomes, terpenes, and other cannabinoids in your flower. This experience does not always come cheap. While there are plenty of affordable glass pieces, these bongs can carry hefty price tags, especially when you get in the heady works-of-art.
There is one huge drawback to consider with glass bongs - their lifespan. Usually one drop on a tile floor is all it takes. If your house is all carpeted, you might be safe, but if you have all tiles floors, be ever so careful with your glass bong. They are fragile. I live in a house with all tile floors, and whether it be a slide, pipe, bong, or other glass smoking accessory, I break a couple of them per month on average. Not exactly something I am proud of and I am also a clumsy Libra with butterfingers, but I tell you as it is something you might want to consider.
Silicone Pipes – Silicone bongs are fairly new on the market and are a miracle solution for any clumsy stoner. High-quality silicone that is used for baking and able to withstand extremely high temperatures is used to make silicone bongs. They are durable and basically impossible to break. They also start off on the lower end of the pricing scale with introductory bongs offered for less than $50, which is probably another reason why these are some of the best-selling water pipes at our online head shop.
Ceramic Bongs – These water pipes are great for the artist in your life and they make wonderful gifts. When you get into ceramics, the sky is the limit when it comes to the customizability of the piece. Dragons. Fairies. Mushrooms. Aliens. Skulls. You name it. Again, same as with glass bongs, there is a very real possibility of breaking a ceramic bong if it falls. However, it should be noted, ceramic is probably more durable than glass, but still, hard floors are unforgiving. Ceramic does provide for a good experience and gives off very little taste mixed into your bud.
Acrylic Bongs – Entry level water pipes that people usually start off with are typically made out of a type of plastic known as acrylic. These are the cheapest bongs on the market and you should be able to find plenty of options for under the $20 price point. However, when they get very hot, they give off a rather foul taste and they can make your weed taste or feel harsher than it actually is. If you are new to using a bong and want to give it a whirl and see what it is all about without the investment of some of the other bongs on the market, then acrylic is definitely the way to go. Oh, it should also be noted, these things are virtually indestructible. Seriously, it would take a lot of effort to damage one of these and even if you did, they are inexpensive to repair or replace.
Bamboo/Wood Bongs– Most of these water pipes are a simple straight up and down tube that has a downstem and pipe bowl attached to it. The smoke is forced through the water filtration at the bottom of the pipe and many types of wood provide pleasant tastes and odours. In fact, a lot of people who buy wooden bongs do so for this precise reason and therefore they opt for a special type of hardwood. Both wooden and bamboo bongs are fairly durable and not very expensive to purchase.
Metal Bongs– Less common on the marketplace are metal bongs, but they do exist. Typically, a metal water pipe is a larger version of a typical metal pipe that is used for smoking. There are some major advantages to metal pipes, including the fact that there are usually several joints and areas where you can disassemble the piece and access the inside. This is great if you are out of bud and need to scrape some resin out of your pipe or if you are just in there to do a good cleaning. Furthermore, metal bongs are extremely durable and damn near impossible to break.
DIY Bongs– People can make water pipes out of random things they have lying around their houses. For instance, you can hollow out a watermelon and put water in the bottom of it and a pipe bowl stem into the side of it and use it as a bong! Another prop commonly used to create a home water bong is a plastic bottle. You can even find glassmakers who specialize in pieces that look like various objects commonly used to create pipes at home, such as this impressive plastic bottle glass pipe:
Bongs have evolved in more ways than just the obvious physical and aesthetic changes that can be seen with the naked eye. There are also way more functions and accessories that are available for modern bongsand you can buy them online. For instance, many modern bongs include percolators which are built in to help achieve the smoothest possible hit. Recycler designs with multiple chambers are also popular to help deliver a smooth delivery that hits just right every time.
Why You Should Buy a Bong, or Two, or Three
Smoking from a bong is the no-BS way to get your head right. When done properly, a couple of nice dense bong hits of some dank chronic will get you lifted and provide a more intense experience than other methods of delivery, i.e. smoking a joint. When I think about what it feels like to take rips from a bong, it reminds me of a Kottonmouth Kings’ song that’s all about bong tokes that goes something like this:
“Take a bong toke...I love rippin' outta bongs it gets me so so high
When I take a big toke 'looks like my eyes start to cry
Tears start to swell up when I take a huge hit
Of that bong biggie bong diggity dank dank shit…
Well now I'm back with a plan to get the whole world united
The plan's called bong tokes first you pack it then light it
Then you pass it to a friend and keep on paying it forward
Until we all live as one to form a weed world order…”
So I gave you those lyrics to help illustrate what it feels like taking a nice big rip from a bong and some of the passion stoners have for bongs. Now, let’s get down to the science and talk about the benefits of smoking from a bong.
Five Benefits of Smoking Weed from a Bong
Smoother hits – The consumption of cannabis through combustion - aka smoking - can cause irritation to the throat upon inhalation. When the hot smoke enters the lungs through a joint, blunt, pipe, or other method without passing through water filtration, it can create a burning sensation that’s not so fun. Bongs cool the smoke through the filtration process and create a smoother delivery of the smoke.
Sanitation– The water filtration system within a bong traps bacteria and/or other mold particles, thus reducing the overall number of microbes you ingest. Also, the social aspect of marijuana in a group setting involves the passing around and sharing of the device used to consume it. With a bong, some of those contaminants you may be passing to one another will be removed in the water. In order to reap the maximum benefits of the filtration, change the water between smoking sessions and give your bong a weekly deep cleaning with alcohol and Epsom salt. You can also use an alcohol swab to sanitize the mouthpiece between users if that is a concern - which is something you obviously can’t do with a joint. If you want more information on how to properly clean a bong, check out our article “How to Clean a Bong”, which breaks it all down.
Bigger hits – It is not hard to figure out why stoners are interested in taking the most massive rips possible - it’s to get as high as a kite, my friend. You can fill the bong with as much smoke as you want to take in at one time and then, bam! If you are a newbie with water pipes, start out with moderately dense hits and work your way up to bigger rips.
Filtration– When anything is lit on fire there are carcinogenic materials produced as a result. While toking from a bong is not going to eliminate all the toxins that result from the combustion of marijuana, it can significantly reduce the amount of compounds that wind up in your lungs at the end of a smoking sesh. Also, bongs play an important role in catching unpleasant byproducts from smoking, such as the tar. All smokers can relate to the terrible experience of pulling hot ash straight through a pipe and into your mouth when smoking. With the way that a bong works, that nasty gunk that breaks through gets caught in the water. If you want an even cleaner experience, you can find ashcatcher attachments to add to your bong.
Healthier– Pharmacologist Nicholas V. Cozzi conducted a literature review of all the water pipes studies, which were mostly from the 1960s and 1970s. According to the paper: “Research has shown that water filtration reduces both the amount of particulate matter and the number and quantity of toxic substances in the smoke that passes through it.” It further described that a bong “can be effective in removing components from marijuana smoke that are known toxicants, while allowing the THC to pass through relatively intact.”
How Do You Use a Bong?
Smoking weed from a bong is a fairly straightforward process. Don’t allow this seemingly daunting list intimidate you. I promise, all these words simply describe a process that takes just a couple of minutes from start to finish.
We’ve all been newbies at one time or another, so there’s nothing wrong with wanting to know how to smoke from a bong before you are in the situation or if you bought a new piece and need to know how it works. So, in order to make the most out of your experience with a bong, it is important that you know how to properly set it up and how to take a hit like a pro. Keep reading to learn how to do both.
How to Set Up a Bong Before Smoking
Add water to the bong. Water filtration is the key difference in using a water pipe versus other forms of marijuana combustion, i.e. smoking from a bowl or a joint. Most bongs are easily filled with water through the mouthpiece. If available, it is best to have water that is distilled and unchlorinated. Add just enough water to cover the opening of the downstem and stop well before there is a carb or choke.
Add ice to bongs with ice catchers. A lot of bongs have an added feature called an “ice catcher” which is built into the design to deliver a smooth hit. It looks like a pinched point that you will find somewhere on the main chamber of the bong located between the mouthpiece and the water. You might have to break apart some of your ice cubes (depending on your tray or machine, etc.) in order to make them big enough to fit through the mouthpiece but large enough to not fall through. I actually got a glass bong on my birthday more than a month ago and I did not realize that was why a pinch was there and I am currently toking from it loaded with ice now, and let me tell you - ice is nice. *Bubbling sounds ensue*
Break up the flower. This is actually a very critical step in order to create an efficient and smooth burn. If you just pack a bud with the stem and all into the bong, you are going to put forth a lot more effort than what is necessary in order to smoke. Using a grinder is the best method as it breaks down your weed quickly and the end result is a product consistent and uniform in texture. When you do not have a grinder available scissors or other chopping tools will also suffice.
Pack the bowl right. There is a right and wrong way to do this. See #3 for a great example of how not to do it. Here is a quick rundown of how it should be done:
- Fill the bowl and spread it out evenly with your fingers
- Tap the bud down lightly to where it will stay in place
- Keep the air pockets throughout the flower and be careful not to pack it too tight or it will be difficult to fill the chamber
Have a drink handy. Sometimes taking the hit can be an intense experience and you may want something ready to drink immediately afterwards. Save yourself a last minute dive for the kitchen and grab your favourite tea, ice coffee, OJ, water, or whatever you love to drink when you’re high. No joke, I knew some kids back in the day who used to take a bong hit, stuff their mouth with a Reese’s Cup, and wash it down with chocolate milk before letting out the hit. They called themselves members of a “Chocolate Milk Cult” and they even had their own “induction” ceremony. Whatever floats your boat, roll with it. That is what’s so cool about bongs is you can make up your own rituals and do it your own way. Have fun with it.
How to Take a Bong Hit Like a Pro
Truth be told, bong rips can kick your ass. Having fresh water and adding the ice is going to make a much smoother experience, so it’s good you took the time to set it up right. Now, it’s time to roll! Let’s take hits from the bong. Oh I can’t help myself, I have to drop these lyrics as they go through my head as we get ready to do this thing:
“Hits from the bong
Hits from the bong
Pick it, pack it
Fire it up, come along
And take a hit from the bong
Put the blunt down just for a second
Don't get me wrong, it's not a new method
Just got an ounce in the mail…”
Listen to the entire Cypress Hill classic on YouTube here. But back to the matter at hand.
Choose your lighter. Any old gas station light will do the trick, but there are a lot of smokers that are moving away from disposable lighters and towards more renewable sources such as zippo lighters and butane torches. There is another growing wave of people who are going away from lighter fluid and butane altogether and instead opting for natural options like hemp wicks or matches. Also, depending on the type of herb you are combusting, sometimes the lower burning options such as matches or hemp wicks are best to preserve the terpenes and cannabinoids. So, while most of the time, any lighter will do the trick, you do have some choices and considerations when it comes to the flame that you choose for bong hits.
Light it up! Now, it’s time for the best part. Smoke that shit! Put your mouth on the mouthpiece of the bong and if there is a carb, cover it with your finger. Get your flame going before you make contact with the cannabis and be precise with your movements as you touch the flame over the bowl evenly. Start sucking and the flame will pull down into the flower. Keep that shit going and slowly inhale as a bright red cherry lights up in the bowl and you see the chamber fill with smoke.
Cornering the bowl.If you are sharing the bowl with a group of friends, you should consider the way you take your hit. To corner the bowl means to take a corner of the pipe and put your flame there. It helps to preserve a fresh hit for the next user when you do this technique.
Pulling in the smoke. The longer you inhale more smoke will fill up inside of the bong. Inhale slowly and as much as you can to make the most of your experience. Once you have reached the end of that initial inhalation, it is ok to take a break and cover the bong mouthpiece and keep your finger over the carb if there is one. Let out your smoke and get ready to take a massive rip when you clear the pipe!
Take your hit. It’s time. Move your finger off that carb and clear the chamber of the bong as you inhale the smoke. Take this step as fast or slow as you prefer. While the initial draw is important to do nice and slowly in order to fill the chamber with smoke, once you’re there and ready to go, you can take it all in at once, or do it slowly and even take another pause where you cover the top and exhale again before clearing the rest of the smoke. If you are new to taking bong hits, go at your own pace, which may be different from your friends’.
Hold it in baby. This is the final step to taking a bong hit like a pro and it is sadly often missed. If you hold in the smoke as long as you can with your final hit, you are giving your lungs the chance to absorb more THC molecules from the smoke. The longer you can hold it in – the better.
How to Choose the Perfect Bong for You
Heady glass. Scientific glass. Ceramics. Acrylics. Zongs. It might feel overwhelming at first when you look at the variety of water pipes available. This is especially true when you are shopping for pipes online and you’re given a thousand things to choose from. Which way should you go? How do you know which type of bong is right for you?
From size to durability to functionality to living situation to price to user preference and style – there are dozens of factors that could influence your decision when it comes to picking out a water pipe. To take a deeper look at all the considerations you should have when buying a bong, read our previous blog post, “Different Types of Bongs: How to Find the Perfect Bong For You”.
Buy Bongs and Water Pipes Online
It’s never been easier to find the bong of your dreams. Seriously, you can find some jaw-dropping pieces online for insanely good prices that will make you the envy of all your friends when you crown your shelf or mantle with an insanely cool piece such as the following “Rainbows and Waterfalls” heady glass bong:
Some people might feel a little sketched out about buying a bong online. At World of Bongs, we have made the process easy and secure. Every single shipment we send out is carefully tracked all the way to its destination. We understand these pieces can be very expensive. Therefore, we have insurance on every single order in case anything happens to your piece during transit, we have a replacement already covered and on the way! Our secure payment processor accepts all major credit cards and it doesn’t matter where you live, we ship worldwide!
So, what are you waiting for? Shop our online store today for some amazing deals on bongs you won’t find anywhere else. In fact, we like to think of our e-Commerce site as the “heady collection” if you will, when it comes to online headshops. Other sites will cram every single cheap piece ever thrown together from obscure retailers just to make a buck. We actually procure thousands of pieces to deliver only the highest quality and headiest selection of bongs and pipes.