When it comes to weed consumption, bongs and dab rigs are two staples of today’s cannabis scene. And while there are many similarities between the two devices, there are also a number of very important differences that dictate compatibility with flower or concentrates.
To break it down: Generally, bongs are designed for smoking flower, using a simple water filtration system to cool and filter the smoke before inhalation. A dab rig uses the same core water filtration concept as a bong, but the two also utilize completely different components when it comes time for consumption. While a bong is equipped with a bowl that holds flower, a dab rig will sport a banger or nail, which is designed specifically for vaporizing super-potent cannabis concentrates.
This guide will help you with what you need to know about bongs and dab rigs, including a primer on how each works, the key similarities and differences, how to select the right gear for your cannabis consumption needs, as well as the history and cultural impact of these iconic forms of paraphernalia.
HOW DO THEY WORK?
A bong typically consists of a removable bowl, a downstem that extends into a water chamber, a neck through which the smoke travels through, and a mouthpiece, from which the consumer inhales the smoke.
The physics of a bong are relatively simple. You pack the bowl with cannabis flower, then ignite it while pulling steadily through the mouthpiece. The smoke travels from the bowl down into the water, where it bubbles its way up into the neck. When you remove the bowl, the smoke rushes out of the neck, through the mouthpiece, and into your lungs.
The key component to the entire bong experience is the bubbling action. When the smoke passes through the water, two things happen. First, the temperature of the smoke drops, making it cooler before inhalation. Second, heavier particles are pulled out of the smoke, resulting in cleaner and smoother smoke.
The dab rig operates very similarly. In fact, you can think of a dab rig as an extension of the bong, adapted specifically for concentrates.
On today’s market you can find several different variations of a dab rig. But the basic rig looks a lot like a bong. The key difference is that the bowl has been replaced by a banger or nail. And instead of packing a bowl with flower, you drop a dab of concentrate onto a heated nail.
To use a dab rig, begin by heating the nail to super-high temperatures, typically until the nail or banger is red hot. Once the temperature cools down, you then place a small amount of concentrate onto the nail or banger while pulling through the mouthpiece. In many cases, you’ll also place a dome over the nail to trap the vaporized concentrate. As with a bong, the vapor then travels down and through the water chamber before being cleared through the mouthpiece.
The process of dabbing also requires different heating sources than a conventional bong. When smoking a bong, all you need is a match, lighter, or hemp wick. But to heat a nail to the temperatures required to vaporize concentrates, you need either a blowtorch or an e-nail, which electronically heats the nail to the desired temperature.
KEY SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES
- Bongs and dab rigs rely on water filtration to cool and filter the smoke or vapor.
- Both are primarily made out of glass and include various attachments.
- Both regularly include “ice catches” where you can add a block of ice to further cool your smoke or vapor.
- Bongs are for consuming cannabis flower, while dab rigs are for consuming concentrates.
- Most bongs require only a removable bowl, while most dab rigs require a nail or banger as well as a cap or dome.
- To use a bong, you ignite cannabis flowers using flame from a match, lighter, or hemp wick. To use a dab rig, you vaporize concentrates using a blowtorch or e-nail.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT GEAR
The first thing you need to consider is what type of cannabis product you’re going to be consuming. Bongs are for flower; dab rigs are for concentrates.
From there, it’s all about matching your gear to your preferences, needs, and style. Here are some key factors to consider when selecting a bong or dab rig:
Bongs range from smaller pieces including the closely related handheld “bubbler” to massive, tabletop-only multi-chambered pieces. Be sure you match the size of your piece to your smoking preferences.
Dab rigs are similar to bongs in this regard, although the largest component that will vary in terms of sheer size is the core water pipe. As with bongs, these range from very simple, purely functional pieces to much larger, more complex, hand-blown pieces with multiple chambers, percolators, and other accessories.
If you know you will only be smoking at home, a standard glass piece will serve you best. But if you want to smoke a bong out of the house you can buy smaller, portable bongs and travel cases designed for smoking on the go.
There’s not a lot of flexibility when it comes to the mobility of your dab rig. An all-out dab rig is pretty much for tabletop use only. But if you want to consume concentrates out of the house, go with a vape pen, which uses a small chamber of cannabis oil attached to a battery-fueled heating element.
Quality of Smoke or Vapor
If you want your bong to deliver even cooler, smoother smoke, opt for a bong with an ice catch. This accessory lets you drop ice cubes into the neck of the bong to cool the smoke before inhalation.
Dabbing is all about temperature. You always need to heat your nail up to temperatures that can effectively vaporize concentrates, giving the user more control over the experience. Lower temperatures produce a smoother and tastier vapor, while higher temperatures produce a harder-hitting vapor. High-temperature dabs — 340-700 degrees Fahrenheit, or 170- 370 degrees Celsius — will scorch your concentrates, giving the dab an astringent and harsh flavor. On the other hand, low temperatures dabs — below 340 degrees Fahrenheit, or 170 degrees Celsius — do not fully vaporize the entire dab, producing a more flavorful hit and leaving behind a small puddle of oil.
If you really want to dial in your dabbing temperatures, an e-nail might be the best route, as it lets you set a precise temperature. On the other hand, if you don’t need that level of precision, you can always stick with a blowtorch and set a timer to optimize your hit.
Function vs. Style
If you’re only in it for function, you can get very affordable, quality-made bongs. But if you also want to add some artistic flair, the sky’s the limit, with high-end glass artists making custom pieces that can cost $100,000 and up.
In this regard, dab rigs parallel bongs. You can purchase much more affordable rigs that include only the bare essentials. Or you can opt for much larger, more complex artistic pieces with heftier price tags.