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Differences Between a Bowl & Bong

| Tom Parry

 If you’re deciding between investing in a bong or a bowl, continue reading as we parse the differences and highlight the strengths of each design. 

For a quick, efficient, and effective way to consume THC, many people gravitate towards the world of bongs and bowls. Whether you’re at home chilling out or on the road smoking with friends, bongs and bowls provide a tremendous platform to enjoy cannabis. If you’re deciding between investing in a bong or a bowl, continue reading as we parse the differences and highlight the strengths of each design. 

Why Use a Hand-Held Device?

Bongs and bowls do a fantastic job when consuming cannabis. They efficiently use your stash to provide a strong high while also being a vehicle for social interaction and a shared experience at group sessions. 

When compared to a joint, bongs and bowls provide great ease and flexibility. Bongs and bowls are easy to pack, no rolling skills required, and can be easily refilled to keep a session going strong. Just keep your piece clean and your grinder full for a never ending supply of good times.

Bongs and Bowls - What’s the Difference?

The fundamental difference between a bong and a bowl revolves around the presence of a water filtration chamber. Bongs have this water chamber whereas bowls do not. Why does this matter?

Water filtration of bongs does a few things: First, by pulling the smoke through water, you are cooling the smoke between the hot temperatures of combustion and the moment of consumption. Second, you are filtering certain irritants present in smoke that helps enhance taste and the experience. 

Having water in your piece, though, inherently comes with additional precautions. For one, bongs are forced to have larger designs to incorporate the water chamber. This creates a heavier product, especially when water is added. What’s more, you have to deal with the water. This means you need to have spare water on hand and be aware of the risk of spilling dirty bong water.

The Science of Water Filtration

A huge advantage to a bong is having that water filtration, but you may be wondering how this works. With your cannabis connected to a downstem that ends in the water, lighting and pulling your bong brings the smoke down into the water where it bubbles up, bursts, and travels into your lungs. While in the water, undesirable byproducts of combustion like tar and ash are removed while the THC and other desired chemicals, with their low water solubility, remain in smoke form for you to enjoy.

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Does Size Really Matter?

Size matters, if and where you want it to. For both bongs and bowls, their size can be the make or break detail for you. Bongs, as just mentioned, tend to be larger. They need to accompany a water chamber, which limits how small they can get, but at the same time enables larger designs. This fact has created humongous bong designs standing multiple feet tall. All this size enables the user to take insanely large hits that will thoroughly toast an experienced user.

On the other hand, bowls are much smaller. This limits the size of hits, but also allows for fantastic portability. Bowls can easily be brought on the road or fit in your pocket to walk. Bowls are easy to pass around a circle, easy to pack, easy to clean, and easy to hide away. The small size allows for great flexibility, which can be more appealing to some users compared to a larger, more stationary bong. 

 What Types of Bongs and Bowls Are Out There?

With an understanding of the bongs and bowls, let’s explore some common designs that fit into each of these categories.

One hitter

A one hitter is one of the smallest, most discrete versions of a bowl. Often just the size of a large cigarette, one hitters live up to their name providing singular hits while being easy to hide.

Sherlock pipes

For an unique aesthetic while you smoke, the Sherlock pipe provides that iconic, old time design for a tobacco pipe that can be described as the shape of a soup ladle. These handheld bowls are easy to use, portable, and interesting in looks.

Spoon pipes

A simple spoon-like design makes for a great handpipe. These pieces are straightforward to use and fit in the palm of your hand. They come in all sorts of sizes and colors allowing for great flexibility within the spoon pipe sphere. 

Bubblers

Bubblers are where the best features of bongs and bowls combine into a single product. A very simple, minimal water chamber provides basic filtration while the piece as a whole remains small and manageable. While not particularly excelling in portability or hit size, but being okay at both, bubblers provide a great middleground. 

Mini bong

For a simple bong, the mini bong provides a great option. Usually just one chamber, the design is simple, on the small size, and provides solid water filtration. 

Round-base bongs

There are a few different base designs for bongs with a circular base being one of the most popular. With a solid base, bongs in this design can come in a huge variety of different shapes and sizes. Whether you want a 1 foot tall bong or a 3 foot tall one, you’ll be able to find a round-base bong in whatever size you want with whatever bells and whistles you desire.

 Materials on the Market

Along with a ton of different design options, there are multiple options for the material used to construct your piece. Each material comes with its own advantages and drawbacks, largely boiling down to personal preference for what you pick. 

Wood

Great for hand pipes, wood provides a unique feel and aesthetic. What’s more, wood provides a unique taste that some users love. A major drawback, though, is that damage from combustion will accumulate on a wood piece overtime. This means that a wood piece will eventually break down after enough use. 

Silicone

Silicone is a common material used for both bongs and bowls. Silicone is far more durable than glass, for example, making it a great choice for users who are prone to breaking things. What’s more, silicone pieces are extremely easy to clean as you can just toss it in the dishwasher when you’re done. That said, some people don’t like the feel of silicone and say that the taste is impeded when using it.

Ceramic

Both bongs and bowls can be ceramic as well. Ceramic provides a unique aesthetic and feel, which some people gravitate towards. Although, much like glass, ceramic pieces are prone to breaking if proper caution isn’t taken while transporting and using it. 

Glass

The most common material used for bongs and bowls, glass is common for a reason. Glass pieces are reliable, relatively easy to clean, maintain flavor, and can be extremely flexible in design allowing for crazy customization. With glass, you can easily find an artist to commission a completely custom piece of your own design. The only downside to glass is that it’s glass; you can easily break your piece with mismanagement. 

Watch Out for Cheap Glass

Not all glass is created equal. Cheap and imported glass bongs and bowls will be less costly up front and may seem like a good idea, but warped walls, bad connections, thin chambers, and shotty material combine to create bad products. Paying a little more for a reputable glass artist is always the right choice.

Choosing a Bong or a Bowl: Factors to Consider

Cost

Budget always plays a large role in this decision. You shouldn’t spend beyond your means, and you can find a whole range of prices from a small $10 bowl up to intricate bongs that can cost thousands. Find a range that is comfortable and works for you.

Durability

Durability is a huge factor when considering bong versus bowl along with the type of material you want. If you are prone to breaking things, staying away from glass and ceramic will be your best bet. 

Portability

Depending in what context you plan to use your piece will dictate what design works best for you. For more discrete, portable pieces, the world of bowls has a huge selection of great options for you. For a more at-home, stationary setting, bongs can be ideal in the filtration they provide and the high they can give. 

Look and Feel

Sometimes, just the look and feel of a bong versus a bowl can be the deciding factor. Bowls fit in your hand and provide a light, comfortable feel. Bongs will be much larger and must be properly gripped, which is a different vibe but one that some people enjoy.

Budget always plays a large role in this decision. You shouldn’t spend beyond your means, and you can find a whole range of prices from a small $10 bowl up to intricate bongs that can cost thousands. Find a range that is comfortable and works for you.

Durability

Durability is a huge factor when considering bong versus bowl along with the type of material you want. If you are prone to breaking things, staying away from glass and ceramic will be your best bet. 

Portability

Depending in what context you plan to use your piece will dictate what design works best for you. For more discrete, portable pieces, the world of bowls has a huge selection of great options for you. For a more at-home, stationary setting, bongs can be ideal in the filtration they provide and the high they can give. 

Look and Feel

Sometimes, just the look and feel of a bong versus a bowl can be the deciding factor. Bowls fit in your hand and provide a light, comfortable feel. Bongs will be much larger and must be properly gripped, which is a different vibe but one that some people enjoy.

Conclusion to Bongs & Bowls

At the end of the way, if your goal is to consume cannabis, bongs and bowls will both do a great job for you. Depending on what you want from the experience and the setting of your use can guide you towards finding the ideal piece for you. Consider the factors we discussed above, do some window shopping, and redefine your smoking experience with a new bong or bowl all your own.

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