Choosing Your First Cannabis Pipe for Flower
Purchasing your first cannabis pipe can be a bit confusing. Between finding reputable vendors, learning the lingo, and selecting a piece that suits your individual needs, there’s a lot to learn and consider before diving in. Fear not: this series will give you an overview of the purchasing process, including how to choose your first flower pipe or dab rig, where to shop for glass online, and an introduction to functional and non-functional glass art.
Glass pipes are a staple in the world of cannabis. These days, there are so many options to choose from that the uninitiated buyer can easily get lost in pursuit of their perfect pipe. Here, we’ll cover the differences between various styles of flower pipes while also considering other factors of the purchasing process such as pricing and features.
Size & Pipe Portability
From tiny one-hitters that fit in the palm of your hand to massive multi-chambered rigs that stretch several feet high, there is a pipe for every occasion.
Portability may or may not be a factor when purchasing your very first piece. For those who need a travel-friendly rig, consider a pipe that is smaller in size. On the other hand, if you plan on using this first piece as a tabletop centerpiece, you may want something larger.
The size of your pipe will also shape your smoking experience. Smaller pieces afford the user a certain level of control when dosing a hit—something that is harder to achieve with wide chambered glass.
A table top water pipe that sits 12” high and contains multiple chambers will yield a much larger (and sometimes rougher) hit than a small hand pipe. Inexperienced smokers should avoid larger pipes and bongs until they’ve practiced pulling from smaller pieces.
Percolation: Dry Pipes vs. Water Pipes
(Courtesy of Smoke Cartel)
Pipes may be used with or without water. Hand pipes, sometimes referred to as dry pipes, typically contain smaller chambers without a reservoir for water. Dry pipes tend to be much more portable than water-filtered pieces, but without water to filter and cool the smoke, they tend to deliver harsher hits.
And then there are water pipes—any glass piece that contains a chamber designed to hold water can be considered a water pipe. Handheld, more portable models—sometimes referred to as “bubblers”—offer smaller chambers while still allowing for water and percolation. The word “percolation” simply refers to the filtration process the smoke undergoes when passing through water.
Larger water pipes—often called “bongs”—are designed to hold more water for greater filtration. These larger pieces may also contain special features or percolators designed to further improve filtration.
The general rule is that a pipe with more chambers for percolation will provide a smoother, cooler hit. Percolation in and of itself will not affect THC absorption in any way. However, a larger pipe with more percolating chambers will allow for more smoke to pass through, thus delivering a larger dose of cannabinoids per hit.
The functionality of a glass pipe can change drastically depending on its design. Although there is no rigid dichotomy, the glass community tends to split pipe functionality into two nebulous categories: production glass and art pieces.
Production glass often maintains a functionality-focused design that can be easily reproduced en masse. One style of production glass that has become widely popular is “scientific glass,” featuring elements inspired by lab equipment. Scientific rigs will often have:
- One or more percolators
- A beaker or straight base shape
- Modular or detachable features
Glass art pieces—or “heady glass”—lean toward an aesthetic appeal. Heady glass pieces may incorporate scientific glass features such as various forms of percolation. However, these types of pipes are much more difficult to mass produce due to their high level of artistry, and they tend to be more expensive as a result.
Durability & Avoiding Broken Pipes
(Courtesy of Smoke Cartel)
Not all pipes are created equal. Poorly manufactured glass is thinner and easier to break than a finely crafted piece. Many inferior pipe manufacturers will source cheaper materials or skip crucial steps when blowing glass, resulting in a thinner, weaker product.
If you’re in a position to discuss glass durability with a retailer, consider asking for products that are manufactured with 100% borosilicate annealed glass. Also, don’t hesitate to ask about glass thickness when purchasing larger rigs.
Accidents will happen, especially with inexperienced consumers. This is why durability is such an important considerations for first-time buyers.
Pricing & Affordability
When shopping for your first glass piece, know that quality glass often does not come cheap.
Retailers base prices on several factors including artistry, size, and complexity. Whether buying online or at a storefront, there are usually plenty of options available at any price point.
It’s important to note that a low price tag does not necessarily infer a loss of quality; many retailers sell affordable quality glass, both online and in-store. Look out for price reductions and sales when shopping on a budget. Buying from an artist directly at a convention or expo is another great way to save money on a purchase. These events are saturated with retailers and artists, resulting in competitive prices.
Looking to graduate from flower to concentrates? Stay tuned for part two, where we’ll dive into important considerations when purchasing a new dab rig.