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The Differences Between a Bubbler and a Bowl

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

Both bubblers and bowls give smokers great flexibility in where and how they can conduct their sessions. These types of smaller pieces can easily be transported for use at a friend's house or vacation, but also make for great at-home smoking devices as well. 

While similar in the niche they occupy, there are some distinct differences between bubblers and bowls that should be considered prior to purchase. Today, we’ll explore those differences and explain how bubblers and bowls can each excel if given the right circumstances.

Why Use a Portable Piece?

Many individuals gravitate towards the world of bubblers and bowls due to their compact size and discretion. These smaller, portable pieces are extremely easy to hide and just as easy to transport. Bring the comforts of home on the road to spice up your days! 

What’s more, these smaller pieces tend to be broadly affordable. Whereas larger bongs can reach huge price points, the smaller, simpler world of small bubblers and bowls can be some of the cheapest smoking devices on the market. 

Bubblers and Bowls - What’s the Difference?

When parsing the differences between bubblers and bowls, the main differences stem from the presence or lack of water in the device. Bubblers have a small amount of water at the bottom of the inside whereas bowls will be completely dry. You may be asking, why should I care about using water in my piece?

Just like how bongs use water, bubblers similarly utilize the water in their chamber to provide a layer of filtration and cooling upon inhalation. This makes hits gentler on the lungs, improves flavor by removing unwanted contaminants, and makes the process a degree healthier. Bowls, on the other hand, do not have this layer of cooling filtration, usually resulting in harsher drags.

Science of Water Pipes

So the water in a bubbler is supposed to filter the smoke, right? How does that work? 

By having a small downstem that reaches from the bowl into the water, your inhalation will pull the smoke through the water before it bubbles out of the surface and can be consumed. While in the water, certain contaminants are pulled out leaving a cleaner, and cooler, final product. This filtration process, it should be noted, doesn’t remove any of the sought after chemicals as THC and other important factors in the smoke are not very water soluble. 

Bowls, on the other hand, do not have the water filtration or cooling. Instead, these pieces are extremely straightforward as they hold the weed for you to light, inhale into the dry chamber, and then pull straight into your lungs. 


Does Size Really Matter?

Of course, size matters, but maybe not in the way you think. As mentioned, a huge advantage to bubblers and bowls is that they are small, compact and portable. This small size allows you to bring them places larger pieces could never dream of without fear of breaking or being confiscated. 

If a bubbler or bowl is just not the size you want, you should look into a bigger style piece like a bong. But for a small, portable piece that brings a tremendous smoking session on the road, like a bowl or a bubbler, having a small stature is absolutely crucial.

What Types of Portable Pieces are Out There?

With an understanding of how these pieces work, let’s explore the world of common bowls and bubblers.

One Hitter

These are amongst the smallest and simplest bowls on the market. These pieces are straightforward, allowing one hit to be packed at a time. Sometimes resembling a cigarette, these pieces are extremely discrete and portable making for great smoking on the road.


Arguably the most common shape of bowl, spoon bowls have a spoon-like shape where you can pack the wide spoon section while holding the handle. Again, these pieces are extremely portable and are known for being able to pull hard.


For a different look, steamrollers provide a long tube, a raised bowl, and just a different vibe to the bowl aesthetic. The massive carb holes on a steamroller allow for tremendous airflow through the piece and large hits for the size.

Hammer Bubbler

Often considered one of the best types of bubblers, hammer bubblers tend to be a medium size piece that resembles a hammer. At the head, a hammer bubbler will be outfitted with percolation to provide great filtration and cooling upon consumption. While larger than some of the other options here, a hammer bubbler can still easily be transported in a backpack provided it is protected from breaking.

Sidecar Bubbler

Usually a little smaller than a hammer bubbler, the sidecar bubbler gives more flexibility in use with its smaller stature. These pieces look like a regular bowl with a sidecar attached where you can achieve a small degree of filtration in the additional chamber. The only downside to one of these pieces is that they can be harder to clean than other options due to the tight quarters and crammed corners. 

Sherlock Bubblers

Whereas the previous two bubblers tend to work on a more lateral level, the sherlock bubbler is a more vertically oriented piece where, just like Sherlock’s pipe, the piece works its way from the mouth down to the chest of the user. Some people prefer this style and aesthetic, although there is still just the simple filtration provided by a bubbler and seen in the hammer and sidecar models. 

Aaron Uretsky
Linework Sherlock. Silocone Carbide
From $220.00

Materials from Best to Worst

Picking the right material for your bowl or bubbler is huge to the overall experience as well as the longevity of your piece. Ideally, you should be scouting for durable, high-temperature resistant material that can’t melt or be damaged in the face of a lighter’s flame. High-quality glass, therefore, makes a premier medium to use for smoking. Here is a list of some of the materials you can find used to make bowls and bubblers from worst to best:

  • Metal/Acrylic (not recommended)
  • Bamboo/Wood
  • Glass
  • Ceramic
  • Scientific Glass 

Avoid Cheap Imported Glass!

Not all glass is created equal. When making a purchase of a glass bowl or bubbler, always look for quality American-made, artisan-crafted glass to ensure that you have the best product available. 

Imported glass is of a significantly worse quality that leads to warping of bowl walls and usually premature breakage. While imported glass pieces often carry a cheaper price tag, you’ll quickly see why they can’t/won’t charge a lot for these products; they just don’t last! 

Choosing the Right Pipe: Factors to Consider

When finding the right bowl or bubbler for you, there are a series of factors you should keep in mind. We’ll outline the most important below:


Cost always plays a huge role in any purchase, but especially for pipes. You can find a piece that fits your price range, for sure, whatever that range may be. Whether you want a $10 mini bowl or want something more complicated for a few hundred dollars, there is a piece for you!


The durability is the next big factor to consider when making a bowl/bubbler purchase. If you find that you’re prone to breaking things, maybe staying away from a glass piece would be advisable. If your piece is going to stay at home, however, and is relatively safe day to day, choosing glass could provide the experience you are seeking.

Look and Feel

Above, we only outlined a few of the different types of bowls and bubblers on the market. There is a huge variety of pieces in aesthetic, which gives plenty of room for everyone to find one they like. For the best sessions, find a piece that you love to look at and enjoy the feel of. 


Portability is a huge advantage to the world sphere of bowls and bubblers. But even within this sphere, there is still fluctuation in how portable your piece is. Consider where you plan to bring and use your piece. Spoon bowls, for example, will be easier to safely bring somewhere compared to a fancy hammer bubbler, which will break if not stored perfectly.

Conclusion to Bubblers and Bowls

Whether you prefer bubblers or bowls, these pieces are tremendous options to add to any session or collection. Being extremely portable, you can bring your high on the road and enjoy the wide world around us. Find whether you want filtration in your piece or if you prefer the harsher drags from a bowl. Embrace your cannabis and enjoy the day! 

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