That Moment you need to Perform a Bong Hit in Front of Others and Realize how Lame and Old you are.
In the summer of 2012 I found myself in a Boulder, Colorado parking garage, holding a huge bong in my hands and getting ready to attempt my first “rip”. Ever self-conscious, I insisted my companions not watch me. While also requesting that they light the bowl and pull it out at the proper time. I was 29, a mother of two, and convinced I looked absolutely ridiculous.
Using a bong can be intimidating for the uninitiated. Big and fragile, relics of the cool kids, your lack of experience makes you feel 15 again, not wanting to show how inexperienced you are. If you are a woman its made doubly awkward by the phallic nature of the device and the clearly sexual act of putting your mouth on this long… tube. It’s embarrassing.
But really guys, we’re adults now. It’s okay that we don’t know how to do these things, and I’m here to walk you through it so your toking can be anxiety free. Cause that’s what moms do. Let’s begin.
What is a Bong Anyway?
Bongs are simply filtration devices for smoking *cough* herbal material. In its most basic form, the bong is a cylinder tube with water at the bottom. A hole above water level accommodates a stem (sometimes called a down stem) and bowl. As the cannabis in the bowl is burned, the smoke produced is sucked down the stem, under the water where it is cooled, and then bubbles up the chamber and into your waiting lungs. Because the smoke is whipped up during the filtration through water, bongs produce a thicker, creamier smoke that is quite pleasant to inhale.
Bongs have been around for literally centuries, throughout Asian cultures and across the African continent. Our current use of the term bong comes from a Thai word “bong” referring to a bamboo water pipe used for smoking cannabis. They are usually made from glass, but ceramic bongs are also popular and known for their rich color and beauty. There are also plastic bongs, a very inexpensive option. The classic glass bong is the easiest to find and worth the extra dollars to avoid smoking out of plastic. You can also find wood bongs, traditionally made with bamboo.
The bong above is my most basic one. I actually don’t have it anymore because I stonededly banged it on the counter and put a big hole in the base. *sob* But I do have pictures of it, so lets all pretend it still exists. A bong one step simpler than this would be a straight cylinder, with the water at the base but no large water bowl. It also may not have an ice catcher.
The marijuana is lit in the bowl, you suck in to pull air and smoke down under the water and then up into the chamber. Then, when you are ready to inhale your smoke, a release in pressure is created by pulling the bowl out of the stem, and inhaling. The resulting inhale of smoke has been filtered, cooled, and whipped up into a creamy hit of absolute bliss.
Stepping up the Bong game: Percolator Bongs
Okay, so if that was a basic bong, what is a step above? A percolator bong! When the main chamber is broken up into one or more smaller chambers with additional filters, you’ve got yourself a percolator bong. Percolator bongs have an extra level of filtration and therefore cost more. The smoke produced when filtered through multiple percolators is even creamier and “cleaner” tasting than from a basic bong.
The above bong is my oldest piece, a sturdy bong with a built-in 8-arm percolator. I love this bong because of how thick the glass is. It just feels like it could really take a beating without breaking, a great characteristic for any bong investment. Totally off-topic NSFK but: This is my absolute favorite scene from GTAV, in which our heroes wimpy son takes down a bad guy with night vision goggles and a bong. Ok sorry. I’m immature.
The Big Daddy: A Honeycomb Percolator Bong
Alright, so we’ve established that the more the chambers, the more the filters, the more expensive the bong will be. This bong is my fanciest piece, a four-chamber behemoth with an ice catcher, dome filter (that top chamber), and THREE honeycomb filters. DAMN!
Also, you can see that this bong does not need an extra down stem piece. Rather, the bowl fits nicely into a permanently attached stem.
Honeycomb percolators are beautiful and well-crafted. They whip up a potent, milky smoke. The downside of filters like this is that any solid plant matter that makes their way past a honeycomb is a major PITA to clean. Rubbing alcohol and salt is great for dissolving and scrubbing built-up resin, but are not so effective with large plant matter. I take extra precautions to use a screen in my honeycomb bong, to help protect any large bits from traveling through and getting stuck in the limbo that exists between filters.
A bong like this produces a ton of extremely thick smoke, and it’s no joke. When taking a hit from a bong it’s important to be able to clear the smoke you produce. If you make more smoke than you can clear, the leftover smoke tastes stale and gross. Less than fresh smoke can send you into a coughing fit. To remove stale smoke from a bong without clearing it, pull out your bowl and just let it make its own way out, or gently blow into the bong to push the stale smoke out. Be careful doing this, watching the water level and staying above a sink if necessary.
Vanity Pieces- For the Stoner with Disposable Income
My most recent bong purchase is this beautiful piece. Hubby and I fell in love with her at the head shop, with her shapely curves and head-turning mouth piece. This is an example of a mouth piece where your lips go around the opening and not within it. I feel exotic when using this piece, and so husband has dubbed it my Cleopatra bong.
This bong filters the smoke through two additional chambers and makes a lovely, lightly filtered smoke. Instead of having to pull the bowl out of the stem to clear the bong, there is a small hole called the carb, at finger level. This makes it particularly easy to use and has made it a fast favorite of mine. A carb hole allows the experienced toker to develop their own method of riding the carb, and building up their smoke according to their preference.
There are downsides to a bong like this, with tight corners for the water to maneuver. Its’ narrow connections between chambers makes this intricate piece difficult to fully clear. Smoke tends to hang out at the bottom of those oblong chambers on either side of the bong. It is also quite difficult to fully drain of water. Guiding water along its path out is like a brain puzzle.
Notice how this bong sits at a kind of awkward angle. It’s actually an effective angle for taking a hit, but with its small base and offset center of balance, it is a particularly fragile piece. Something like this is super easy to knock over simply by setting it down incorrectly.
Extras | Modding your Bong
The bowl is the easiest part of the bong to replace. Because you handle this part so often, bowls are often broken. Mishandling and intense heat are often main offenders. Because of this, it’s a good idea to have more than one on hand. Trust me, breaking a bowl when all you want to do is get high, sucks.
Bowls come in an endless array of styles, sizes and shapes. My favorite bowl is my Hello Kitty one. It happens to be extremely big and deep, meaning I can pack a huge bowl and be set for a great smoke session without having to reload every few hits.
When you buy a bong it will come with a down stem and bowl. These two pieces must fit together. Stems and bowls come in two diameters, 14mm and 18mm. If unsure of your size, you can use a dime to help you figure it out. A dime will fit in a 18mm but not in a 14mm. The joint of the bowl or stem (it’s thicker and frosted) can be male or female (a male joint fits within another joint, female fits over another joint).
Many down stems have some form of diffuser on the end. Diffusing down stems have small slits or notches, holes, or “shower heads”. Stems with no diffusion are also common.
Occasionally you may run across a bong that has a small hole above water level. This is called the carb (or carburetor, choke, hole, shotgun, kick). Cover and uncover this hole with a finger or thumb to help stoke the bowl as you suck and to fully clear the bong when ready.
A Percolator, or Ash Catcher, or Bubbler. Whatever.
When you are ready to get super crazy with accessories, it’s time to check out the world of external filter devices. They come in a variety of shapes, methods, sizes, and names. Sometimes called bubblers, percolators, and ash catchers, they all have the same purpose. They fit onto a down stem in a bong and have a place for the bowl or their own built-in bowl. These are a great tool for someone looking to dress up their existing piece and not drop $200 bones on a new bong with a nice filtration system. Side pieces like this can be found in all price ranges and are easy to store because of their small size.
How to Use a Bong
Getting set up
- Carefully add water to your bong in a sink that is large enough to properly accommodate it. Add water through the mouthpiece, trying to get the stream of water as directly to the bottom on the bong as possible.
- Add enough water to cover the bottom filtering portion of the down stem. Start with around one and a half inches above the end of the down stem, and then give it a practice run by inhaling on the mouthpiece without lighting anything. Too much water will eventually get sucked up onto your face, which is totally awful. Too little water and the bong will not function properly and you will get a dry hit. A multi-chambered bong will have water levels constantly changing between chambers, so keep an eye on them between rips. It is normal to need to dump out water as your smoke session continues.
- Take out the bowl and pack it with your marijuana. If it’s ground up, having a 1/4 teaspoon measuring spoon works as a great scoop. If you prefer to not grind your weed, just look over your nugget, remove any large stems, and break up the piece to help the bowl burn evenly.
- If your bong has an ice catcher- an obstruction that keeps ice in the top of your chamber, out of the water toss a couple ice cubes in. An iced bong hit is the best.
- Have drinking water nearby.
How to take a Hit from a Bong
- Light the weed by holding a lighter directly to the bowl, running the flame over the marijuana. While lighting, place your mouth into the mouthpiece and gently suck, watching the flame. As you suck, the flame will pull into the bowl and get a nice “cherry” of burning weed going.
- Once the bowl is properly lit you can set your lighter down and stoke the bowl as you see fit.
- When the amount of smoke in the bong reaches what you would like to inhale, you can stop sucking. Catch your breath, and then open the bongs airway by pulling the bowl from the stem (or releasing the carb), and then strongly inhaling the smoke into your lungs.
Things to Remember
- There is no shame in coughing. Every stoner has had some awful coughing fit associated with performing a huge bong rip. Women who’ve given birth- make sure you’ve peed recently cause uh… there may be some hardcore coughing going on. *wink*
- Change the water in your bong often. The quality of the water in your bong directly affects the taste and smoothness of your smoke.
- Too much water in your bong will lead to sucking bong water up onto your face, and if you are seriously unlucky, in your mouth. This is a very unpleasant experience so take care not to over fill your bong, and keep an eye on water level within your chambers.
- Clean your bong regularly! To do this, drain the bong, add coarse salt and then 90% rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol). Cover all openings with corks, paper towels, rags, saran wrap or your hands, and then shake shake shake. Way more than a Polaroid picture. A proper cleaning requires a butt-load of shaking, so pretend it’s a shake weight and work on those upper arms.
- Bong rips are potent suckers! When I was a newbie to smoking weed, a single bong rip would incapacitate me. If you are new to this do not expect to be able to care for children for at least four hours. Always try new cannabis methods when you are not responsible for any kids.
Having questions about how to hit an unfamiliar bong is totally normal. A proper stoner friend will help you as much as possible, and really, it’s kind of natural technique that most people pick up almost instantly. Bongs are a great toy for any stoner. There really is nothing like a cool, iced bong hit. Taking it slow and remember the point of all of this is pleasure. Have fun, and good luck out there stoners!