Maybe you fashioned one out of an old Coke can in college or maybe you had one passed to you at a party, but chances are you’ve interacted with a pipe at some point in your life. These handy little tools are incredibly useful for smoking weed because of their simplicity and portability. Knowing how to correctly use a pipe also happens to be the most basic skill you want to have in your smoker toolkit.
There are many ways to smoke cannabis, but perhaps none are as well-known as smoking a bowl in a pipe. Learning how to pack and smoke a bowl is an essential lesson in cannabis consumption that enthusiasts at both ends of the spectrum can benefit from.
Whether you’re interested in packing a pipe for a personal smoking session or preparing a bowl for a party, understanding these fundamental principles will help optimize your bowl-smoking experience.
Choosing the right cannabis pipe
Cannabis contraptions come in all shapes and sizes, but smoking pipes are arguably the most popular. Adapted from traditional pipes used for tobacco, the cannabis pipe shares all of the same key characteristics.
Pipes consist of a bowl, a round basin deep enough to pack herb in, as well as an airtight channel that delivers smoke and air through a mouthpiece. In many cases, pipes also contain a second air channel known as a carb that is used to regulate the airflow through the pipe. As long as a pipe contains the first two items at the very least, you can smoke cannabis out of it.
Traditionally, pipes used for tobacco smoking were made out of material such as wood, bamboo, or even ceramics. However, cannabis pipes today are widely made using borosilicate glass, as the medium is incredibly versatile.
While most states still widely market glass pipes as tobacco smoking accessories, they can be found in collectable and gift shops, and also head shops. You can also find them online, at cannabis events, and even in high-end glass art museums.
Pipes can vary widely in shape and size, as well as in complexity, functionality, and availability. Bongs and bubblers utilize water to filter cannabis smoke and cool it prior to inhalation.
A common, basic type of pipe is called a “spoon,” because of its shape. These are the best pipes to begin with if you are new to cannabis, as they are small, easy to use, and are typically inexpensive.
What you need to get started packing a bowl
In order to smoke weed out of a pipe, you’re going to need a few essential items to get started. Other than your bowl or pipe, you will need some form of heating element—the most basic one is a lighter.
Traditional butane lighters work well, though there is a myriad of non-butane heating elements out there to choose from, if you want to avoid a butane flavor in your bowl. The most effective lighters and heaters will allow for optimal heating control when combusting or vaporizing a bowl.
Some consumers prefer to light their bowls with hemp wick, a waxy piece of hemp string that ignites easily, maintains an even burn, and doesn’t give off an undesirable aftertaste.
Another heating element used often is a glass wand that can be heated to a point where it will vaporize your herb on contact, eliminating combustion smoke altogether while still delivering cannabinoids and flavor through a lighter hit.
Another factor to consider is whether or not to use a screen for your pipe. Screens can help keep you from inhaling burning bits of cannabis, but if you don’t have a pack of pipe screens, here are a few nifty tricks to consider:
- Twist a piece of wire or a paperclip it into coil
- Use a screen from a faucet head
We don’t recommend using aluminum foil, a soda can, or a window screen as a makeshift pipe screen, as these are often coated with materials that are hazardous to inhale.
Preparing cannabis for smoking a bowl is essential to maximize airflow through your device and deliver an even smoke. In order to do this, breaking down your herb is a crucial step. Doing this creates a homogenous airflow through the bowl where smoke can pass through evenly.
Before You Begin
Find a pipe that suits your needs and personality. How often are you planning on using it? Is this pipe going to live on your porch, bookcase, or coffee table? How much are you looking to spend? The more decorative the pipe, the more cash you can expect to throw down. The size will also determine how many hits you can get without having to repack the bowl. If this is your first time purchasing and using a pipe, I’d recommend starting with a small, basic glass hand pipe from your local headshop. It’ll be easy to use and shouldn’t set you back more than $20.
To get started, you’ll also want to acquire a lighter, a basic grinder, and a nug or two of high-quality flower.
Step 1: Grind
Break up a nug of dried flower, place it in your grinder, and twist a few times or until it resembles the texture of loose leaf tea. Achieving this consistency will allow air to easily pass through the plant matter and expose a great surface area to the flame. If you don’t have a grinder handy, place your bud in a shot glass and cut it up with scissors until you reach the right consistency.
Step 2: Pack
Grab a pinch of flower and pack it into the end of the pipe that resembles a bowl. Make sure your flower is secure enough not to fly out with the slightest breeze but not packed so tightly air can’t pass through.
Step 3: Light
Light your freshly packed bowl while at the same time inhaling through the other end of the pipe. If your pipe has a carb (AKA the small hole on the side of the bowl), you can hold your thumb over it while you inhale to clear the pipe’s inner chamber of smoke. Simply release your thumb once you’re done inhaling. One other weed etiquette tip: If you plan on passing the pipe around a circle, only light a corner of the bowl so there’s fresh herb for your friends to enjoy. They’ll thank you for it.
As with any new cannabis product or consumption method, start slowly and check in with yourself often. Believe it or not, smoking will not get you high instantaneously. After your first hit, wait 10 minutes and let the high unfold before consuming more.