By Vanessa Matthews
When you’re in the market to buy a water pipe, whether it’s your first one or your twentieth, all the of selection and information can be quite daunting. If you’re trying to get an idea of where to start, here are a few of the main criteria you may want to consider when buying your perfect water pipe!
Water pipes are for smoking either dry herb or concentrates. This should have a bearing on the type of piece you’ll buy. Believe it or not, many dabbers prefer smaller dab rigs, as they tend to retain flavor more strongly and prevent vapor from going stale, which can happen as vapor travels through larger pieces. Not only that, but the vapor you get some dabs tends to be higher in temperature, since you’re using a torch, after all! So taking massive dabs from a tall beaker may not be your best bet. If you’re planning on strictly dabbing, or using your pipe for both dabs and herb, a small to medium piece will be ideal. If you’re just going to be smoking plain ol’ weed, the bong world is your oyster when it comes to sizes! Weed smoke can be slightly gentler (with the right percolation) than dab vapor, so the size of your water pipe all comes down to preference. If you like to stick to gentle hits, you may want to steer clear from large bongs with wide mouthpieces, as they can easily hit your throat with more smoke than you can handle.
Everyone has a different price range in mind when it comes to bongs and water pipes. That’s why they range anywhere from $10 to hundreds of dollars! It truly comes down to your budget, as well as how many bells and whistles you require for your piece, and the type of smoker you are. Lower cost water pipes, which can still deliver nice quality and experience, will typically be simple in function and design. For more casual smokers, or those who just want something that gets the job done, staying in a lower price range is perfect. Water pipes on the higher end of the spectrum are more likely to include more intricate percolators, thicker glass, artistic design, and so on. So when it comes down to it, the amount of cash you spend on your perfect water pipe is determined by what is important to you in your piece!
When it comes to size, it’s important to take into consideration what kind of smoker you are on the day-to-day. Do you spark up when you’re lazing around the house? Or are you more of an on-the-go consumer? Your smoking habits are very important when figuring out which water pipe to buy, because some are better for travel, and some are more suitable for home use. If the convenience factor is important, it will be ideal to stick to a smaller, more handheld piece. If you’re planning on keeping your piece at home more often than not, then a larger bong could be just right for you.
While water pipes can come in a range of materials such as acrylic, wood, and metal, it’s undisputed that glass reigns supreme. It lacks the health concerns of smoking from plastic, the off-putting taste of metal, and so on. Second to that is silicone: While silicone pieces typically won’t have the classy look that glass can, it’s a fantastic solution for clumsy smokers, as well as on-the-go smokers. If one of those sounds like you and an unbreakable piece is a must, a silicone water pipe might be your best friend.
Glass thickness is a big deal when it comes to bong-buying! The thickness of material correlates with what type of quality you’ll be getting in your piece. A 3mm-thick bong can be just right for casual smokers, but if you’re a regular smoker (or one that’s a bit clumsy at times!) a piece in the 5mm-9mm range will be ideal for the best durability and longevity. Basically, the thicker the glass, the longer your water pipe will likely last. So if you want a piece that’s likely to last a long time, 4mm or higher is preferable.
Arguably one of the most important features of a water pipe are the percolators. Percolators diffuse your hits by acting as a pathway for smoke to pass through water out of little holes. This ensures your hits are cooled, moisturized, and overall more enjoyable. Different percolators can perform similarly, and it can truly sometimes come down to personal preference. Some percolators, such as a matrix or swiss, add to the aesthetic appeal of the piece. Some have more or less drag, which is the level of resistance there is in pulling a hit. To learn more about specific percolator types, check out our comprehensive water pipe percolator guide! To get you started with choosing the right perc for you, here are a few common varieties:
Diffused Downstem: The most basic of the bunch. This is a long tube with 4-6 slits at the end, and are removeable from the piece. If you're looking for a perc that's easy to clean, a water pipe with this type is a good option.
Showerhead: Another great basic option. It's disc-shaped with slits all around, delivering moderate filtration with minimal resistance. Overall, it's a small and low-maintenance variety.
Tree: This type is great for thorough filtration. They consist of several "arms" with a couple slits in each, which means there's lots of filtration coming from all angles! They can sometimes take a little longer to clean, but it's well worth it for those beautifully-clean hits.
Matrix: One of the more intricate and stylish percs. This type consists of many horizontal and vertical slits, intersecting to create lots of holes throughout the perc. These percs look great, deliver top-notch filtration, and have medium drag.
Everyone’s style is different - the way we dress, the way we decorate our space, and so on. That’s no different when it comes to smoking gear! Water pipes range from extremely minimalist, to colorful and extravagant. Take the two pipes above as an example. Are you attracted to the bare-bones look of a clear beaker bong? Or is a piece with intricate designs and bold colors more your style? You’ll want to hold on to your prized water pipe for a long time coming, so it’s important that you like what you see whenever you pull it out.
Believe it or not, joint size may be something you’ll want to take into consideration, as well. The joint is the hole where the bowl piece or dab nail slips in, and the most common sizes you’ll see are 10mm, 14mm, and 18mm. However, 14mm is the absolute most common out of the bunch. While not the most important factor in choosing your bong, it still can have a bearing on your choice, as it will be much easier to find unique bowl pieces and attachments that are compatible with your piece. If you’re not big on having an unlimited range of style options for bowls and nails, any size of joint will do.
Another specification to pay attention to is the mouthpiece style. If you love rips that really kick you in the face, a wider, straight mouthpiece will be your jam. But if you appreciate a gentler hit, you can get that from a water pipe with a narrower bent mouthpiece. The size and angle of your mouthpiece will slightly alter your inhalation experience, so it's important to keep this in mind when choosing your pipe.
There are several additional features certain water pipes can have. While not necessities, these are things that can enhance your smoking experience in different ways. Depending on what's important to you when you pick your piece, you may consider a water pipe with one or more of these additional features.
Ashcatcher: A perc-containing attachment for the joint of your water pipe that serves multiple purposes: It gives your smoke an extra layer of filtration, while also keeping your pipe cleaner longer by catching ash.
Recycler: A tube system in a water pipe that recycles smoke back into water for extra filtration and cooling. Refer to our recycler guide for the whole scoop on recycler types!
Ice Pinch: Either glass spikes or a small hole in the neck of a pipe that allows you to pack ice into the neck to cool down smoke. An ice pinch is perfect for those who love cooled, refreshing hits.
Splash Guard: These prevent water from travelling up into the mouthpiece while you take hits. They can be particularly helpful when it comes to straight-neck bongs.
Hopefully with all of these criteria in mind, you're now armed with the information to feel confident about your next water pipe purchase! When you're in the market to buy a new water pipe, what are the most important features to you?