A Guide To Purchasing A Marijuana Bong
By Marley Fumar and Amelia Sense
Are you thinking about buying a new bong? Let's be real: what stoner isn't always on the lookout for a new bong? But if your piece is broken, or if you're sick of cleaning it, or if you happen to have come into some extra money, or if you need to upgrade from your resinated old pipe, or if you're just in the mood for a new high, then you're probably thinking seriously about buying a new bong. Even if you are perfectly happy with your current piece, every bong could use a partner, or a party, of other devices.
Without even thinking about pipes, chillums, steam rollers, vaporizers, or any other devices used for smoking, shopping for bongs can be overwhelming. There are so many varieties to choose from including glass, acrylic/ plastic, ceramic, and wooden (bamboo, for the most part). Glass is classic, of course, and it's a material that is hard to go wrong with. Plastic bongs are the cheapest (yet still effective) bongs, ceramic bongs often come in crazy, fun, and beautiful designs, and bamboo boasts durability and style. Buying a bong is ultimately a matter of personal preference, and gaining all the knowledge of the existing options can take years of experience and exposure. Hopefully I can at least point you in the right direction or give you a better idea of what type of bong you're looking for.
The first question you should ask yourself is what will this bong be used for? We all know the obvious answer, but more specifically: what will be the bong's environment? Are you going to use it once a week or three times a day? Are you going to use it as a personal piece or pass it around when people are around hanging out? Are you going to take it with you on road trips? Are technicalities important to you? How often (be honest with your lazy selves) are you going to clean it? All of these factors should contribute to your decision making process when it comes time for you to choose a bong, be it your first or your fifteenth.
If this is your first bong, be mindful of your lung capacity. If you buy a bong with too many percs or one that is too tall for you to clear nicely, you won't be satisfied. If you never fill the chamber in your bong with smoke, you're not maximizing the potential of your piece. On the other hand, if you fill the chamber but are unable to clear it in one hit, you are left with less-than-fresh smoke, which can make for a stale tasting second hit. The measurements of the chamber and mouthpiece also impact how the bong smokes. Bongs that change diameter along the length of the chamber are difficult to clear, especially if the bong narrows towards the top. Too wide of a mouthpiece or chamber will also inhibit control of your hit, so make sure before buying that you are comfortable with your bong. It's been said over and over that "bigger isn't always better," and that remains true in the world of bongs.
Bigger bongs have a better chance of breaking. They take up more room, and subsequently are more often in the way of other activities. Though big bongs are usually awesome to hit, make sure that you have a safe place to store your bong (any piece, but especially larger ones) that will reduce that chance of breakage. And speaking of breaking...decide if you are going to be the only person using the bong. Friends who don't know not to just drop ice onto the ice-catcher or percs, or who don't know to not take the downstem out of the marbles, or who don't know how to hold onto the bong properly are the number one way bongs get broken. Simply having your bong on the living room table or in the garage puts it at a greater risk of being kicked or hit and knocked over than keeping it on the shelf above your clothes dryer or tucked under your bed, but we often like to show off our best pieces to our friends.
If you're planning on being the only one to use your bong and are confident that it will be kept safe, you should try out a really technical bong. Although these can get expensive, the cool, clean hits they produce, and the optimal THC absorption are worth the extra money. Generally, technical pieces mean glass; attachments, diffusers, percs, splash guards, ice catchers, and ash catchers also come to mind. Glass that is fragile or precarious is also best applied to personal or controlled use, and these pieces remain successful because of their intricate and often beautiful designs.
Do not be discouraged, however, from buying a glass piece just because of their breakability. There are many glass bongs that are quite sturdy and ideal for casual, everyday use. Soft glass is generally a good thickness (but be cautious with setting it down too roughly because the glass is thinner in the blown-out bottom chamber). Glass straight pipes or beaker bongs are also fairly sturdy for frequent activity and for being passed hand to hand as long as the height isn't outrageous. Inevitably, when thinking about glass bongs, you have to think about attachments: ash catchers, party bowl (male) pieces, extra percolators, single snap pieces, upgraded downstems (females), ect. I've seen stoners interchange and build on their attachments like leggos. Of course a quality bong without anything added on can be ideal in its simplicity and structure, but accessorizing is definitely a point to ponder.
There is so much variety in glass bongs that they deserve their own article. If you are someone who cares about seeing the clarity (or lack thereof) of water in your bong, you can get a clear glass bong. If you are someone who will want to be able to hit your bong while laying in a recliner or a hammock, you can get a bent bong that will direct the smoke back towards you without you having to sit straight over it. If you want the easiest clean, avoid extra percs and splash guards. If you like a very refreshing hit, make sure you find a bong with an ice catcher (and if you have a mini fridge or a beer fridge, get a bong that will fit inside to chill it while it's not in use, but never put your glass bowl piece in there or it will likely crack due to temperature shock from the flame when smoking). There are also different ways the smoke can be directed in glass bongs: think about the difference between a Helix and a Roor. If you want something colorful, glass blowers are pretty much the inventors of cool colors and color combinations.
Ceramic bongs tend to be smaller than many glass bongs because the material is heavier, yet they still offer a very pure tasting hit. These, too, can come in multitudes of color combinations and designs because anything in an artist's head can be painted on a ceramic surface. The chambers of ceramic bongs are also known to come in a wide selection of shapes from mushrooms to crescent moons to gnomes to abstracts. Funky shaped ceramic bongs are great for decoration and display. Due to their form, these bongs can be especially difficult to clean, so irregular or infrequent usage is optimal if you want to preserve the life of a ceramic sculpture bong. There are, of course, ceramic bongs in generic shapes as well, and they are often less expensive than glass, as well as more durable. One disadvantage (at least in my opinion) is that ceramic bongs never allow their user to see the water inside of them, so unless you keep track of exactly how much you've smoked through the water, its hard to know when it starts getting dirty.
Plastic (or the higher-end acrylic) bongs are typically translucent (similar to a clear glass bong but often colored) so that the user is able to see the quality of bong water. The obvious downsides to plastic bongs are that they are not glass (no percs, ice catchers or chilling), and the chance of diluting the taste of good weed. If you like being able to use a carb and effectively clear your bong with a quick breath, many plastic bongs are right for you because they include carbs. Other than that, plastic bongs can be a great investment. Maybe you're short on cash, maybe you just need a spare to haul with you on road trips to festivals, maybe you're taking it camping at the lake and don't expect to be able to keep track of it for long...these are just a few of the great reasons to buy a plastic bong.
Not much heavier, and just as (if not more) durable as the plastic bong, is the bamboo bong. "Bong" comes form the Thai word baung, which is the name for a cylindrical bamboo tube that people in Thailand and other places have been smoking out of for thousands of years. So if you really want to be authentic, use a bamboo bong. They last a long time, and can come with either a metal or glass bowl piece (glass likely being more expensive). Bamboo bongs can also be extremely ornamental due to their natural appeal and an artist's ability to carve or burn beautiful designs on them.
Now that you are more aware of your bong-buying options, the second question you should ask yourself is how much money you are willing to spend. Bongs can quickly get expensive, but if you know what attributes you are looking for, then finding the perfect one within your price range is much easier. Thirdly, decide where you plan on buying your bong. Is there a hemp-fest coming up next month? Are you planning on checking out a bunch of head shops after you get paid this Friday? Or are you able to head to your local smoke shop this afternoon? Once that's taken care of, the only thing left to decide is who's loading the first bowl!