The SmokeSmith Gear Guide To Bongs & Water Pipes

Consider the bong. It’s the most faithful of smoke devices, designed to filter smoke through water to allow you to inhale a cool, filtered hit every time you use it. Your bong is a trusted stalwart in your smoke gear collection, always standing at ready.  Just add water...But what style of bong is right for you?  We get that question a lot, from both absolute beginners and old pros alike.  Selecting the right bong is a bit like buying a car (but way more important, of course) in that there are a lot of brands and each brand has many models with different features.  And what about adding accessories to your bong, and keep it well maintained once you have it? 

To answer all these questions we devised this guide to bongs and water pipes, designed as both a buying good and a handy resource. SmokeSmith Gear has bongs of all styles and price ranges, and we know you’ll find one you like at our online headshop.

SmokeSmith Gear Guide To Bongs

What Is A Bong?

Let’s start by defining just what it is we are talking about. A bong is a water-filtered smoking device that produces smoother, cooler, cleaner smoke. By filtering the smoke from dried herbs or concentrate through water, heavy residue particles and water-dissolving molecules do not enter the respiratory system. Bongs are also called ‘water pipes’ and are distinguished from hand pipes because hand pipes are used “dry” (no water is added). Although bongs are available in an endless array of sizes, shapes and styles, bongs have three distinguishing features in their construction.  These are:

Water Chamber: The bottom of the bong consists of a bulbous chamber that holds water, which functions to filter and cool the smoke so that it feels smoother on the throat and in the lungs when it is inhaled by the bong user.

Tube: Once the smoke passes through the water chamber, it flows upward into a long-neck vertical tube and out through the mouthpiece. While tubes are often straight, bongs are also created with elaborate chambers that further filter the smoke and provide artistic beauty to the piece.

Downstem: The downstem is the diagonal stem that protrudes from a small hole in the tube. The bottom of the stem rests in the water chamber while the top flares into a bowl (to hold dried herbs) or a nail (to hold concentrate, in the case of a dab or vapor rig). The downtem draws the air and smoke into the water as the user inhales, which creates bubbles. When the downstem is fixed, it is accompanied by a carb, a small hole above the water line that is covered by the thumb and then released when the user is ready to clear the tube. When using a slider downstem, the smoker pulls the stem out to release the smoke from the chamber.

Bong Material Choices: Dry Herb vs Concentrates

The first thing to decide is how you want to use your new bong.  Do you want a bong for use with dry herbs or are you are looking to consume waxes or concentrates?  If you are looking to enjoy dry herbs you will want to focus mostly on more traditional bongs, which will come with a dry herb bowl that slides in and out of the actual bong.  If you are more interested in concentrates or oils we suggest you choose a dab rig, which feature a dab nail and are typically a bit smaller than traditional dry herb bongs. There are some pieces, such as the Grav Labs Android, that are dual function, and which can be used to smoke both dry herbs and concentrates, and those are handy for people who are looking to smoke different types of materials.

Guide To Buying A Bong


Bong Shape & Style

Bongs today come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and styles, and it’s hard to know how to discern the advantages of each. The most common shapes are beakers and straight tubes. A beaker bong has a wider bottom (shaped like the beakers you used to use in high school chemistry class). Straight tubes are long straight glass cylinders. Beaker bongs do not need a base (the beaker bottom itself is the base) whereas straight tubes typically have a circular base added at the bottom of the tube to provide stability. Beaker bongs hold more water and thus offer more filtration. Straight tubes will provide a “faster” hit because the chamber will clear more quickly. There are also some bongs with rounded bottoms which are variation on the beaker bottom. In terms of dab rigs the most common styles are recyclers, mini rigs, and Faberge egg. Any of these shapes can come with or without percolators or recyclers, which we will detail below.  But in short percolators and recycler bongs contain multiple chambers that loop your vapor and water, providing a smooth and flavorful hit. The shape and style of bongs impacts their functionality and effectiveness so understanding this is important in making the right purchase decision

Glass Quality and Thickness

Like almost everything today bongs have a wide disparity in prices. If you are just looking for the cheapest bong you can find there are plenty of them to be found.  But you get what you pay for, and most of the cheap bongs available online are made with “soft” glass and are thus not very durable. The are many factors that influence the price of a bong tag but perhaps the most significant is the quality and thickness of the glass. We specialize in selling “hard” glass bongs.  “Hard” glass refers to the dense scientific glass that is used in higher quality bongs, which is thicker and more durable, and which stands up to heat without breaking.  The preferred glass for bongs, water pipes, dab rigs, bubbler and hand pipes is called Borosilicate, which is a type of glass that contains silica and boron trioxide as the main glass-forming components. In addition to being very resistant to thermal shock Borosilicate glass is very flexible and can be turned in to many different shapes without losing its strength. As a result, bongs made with Borosilicate glass are more expensive, but they are also of a higher quality than soft glass versions.  Most Borosilicate bongs are at least 4 millimeters thick.  When examining bong thickness, the bigger the thickness number the better. But with that increase in quality and durability provided by thicker glass comes a slighter higher price point.  Most of the bongs we sell are 5 millimeters or thicker.

Bongs And Percolators

These days many of the bongs you will find will have percolators. Percolators are additional filtration and diffusion chambers located in a bong or water pipe, usually inside the main chamber or within the tube on the way to the mouthpiece. There many different shapes and styles of percolators, including honeycomb, showerhead, Swiss, inline and tornado. Some bongs have one percolator but there are many that have multiple percs.  Despite these difference the percolators all operate the same way: smoke and water are forced through the percolator by the negative pressure from the inhalation. This accelerates heat transfer – that is, the hot smoke is rapidly cooled by the bubbling, aerated water. And breaks the smoke into finer particles, increasing the surface area. Again, this cools the smoke as well as filtering out some of the harmful carcinogens hit. The result is a spectacular bubbling action and a smooth, cool hit. If you’re looking for a bong to use with dry herbs you may want a water pipe that contains more percs as this will lead to enhanced smoke cooling and filtration. If you are looking for a dab rig, you will may want fewer percs because you don’t want to ruin the flavor from your concentrates.

Bong/Water Pipe Accessories

Bongs offer a lot of flexibility. They can be modified with the addition of bong accessories and attachments. One of the most popular bong accessories are ash catchers, which are removable glass attachments that can be added to any bong and is meant to stop ash and debris from entering your water pipe. This helps to keep your water pipe clean and adds an additional layer of filtration and smoke cooling. You just need to make sure the ash catcher joint can fit into your water pipes joint. Some smaller bongs are too small to support the added weight of an ash catcher but larger bongs can accommodate them. Other accessories include splashguards, which blocks dirty bong water from getting into your mouth and ice pinches, which hold ice in place to cool the smoke down. 

Find the best bongs at SmokeSmith Gear

How To Clean A Bong

The key to keeping a bong for a long time is proper care and maintenance (and not dropping it onto the floor).  Because the water in a bong acts as a filter your bong will eventually get dirty over time (again, think of the oil filter in your car as a corollary).  The good news is that keeping your bong or water pipe clean is not very difficult.

Items You Will Need
Isopropyl alcohol
Coarse salt
Ziploc bag
Paper towels


  1. Place the stem and bowl on a towel and then pour out the dirty bong water and rinse the insides of the pipe with hot water
  2. With bong empty, add a ¼ cup of salt to the main chamber
  3. Add isopropyl alcohol to all chambers of the bong (use enough so that the tube is nearly full).
  4. Cover the openings in the bong with towels or cotton ball or your fingers.
  5. Make sure you have a good grip on the pipe, and plenty of room, then SHAKE. Shake the shit out of it. You should start seeing results immediately. Continue shaking until residue is removed. For particularly stubborn stains, soak the bong for a couple hours or overnight. Pour the alcohol and salt mixture into the sink
  6. Put the stem into a Ziploc bag (or tall glass), fill with alcohol and salt, then shake and soak. Repeat with bowl.
  7. Thoroughly rinse the salt and alcohol out of the pipe’s chambers with cold water (and rinse the bowl and stem as well).

A Final Word On Bongs And Water Pipes

We have found that our customers who use bongs are satisfied with the smoother flow, speedier results and clean, filtered hits. Before buying a bong do your research.  Spend time looking at the various shapes and sizes. Hold several models, testing the weight and height to ensure the perfect fit.  Examine the thickness of the glass. To find the perfect piece browse our collection of bongs and water pipes. As a full service online headshop we offer the best brands and we also have free shipping and great customer service.  If you still have questions or cannot find the exact right bong or water pipe please email us.