There are many ways to smoke cannabis, but none are perhaps as well-known as smoking a bowl. Learning how to pack and smoke a bowl is a quintessential lesson in cannabis consumption that enthusiasts at every end of the spectrum can benefit from. Whether you’re interested in packing a pipe for a personal smoking session or preparing a bowl for a party, understanding these key fundamental principles will surely help you optimize your bowl smoking experience.
Exploring the Cannabis Pipe
Cannabis contraptions come in all shapes and sizes, but smoking pipes are arguably the most popular. Adapted from traditional pipes used for tobacco, the cannabis pipe shares all of the same key characteristics. Pipes consist of a “bowl” (thus the vernacular reference), which is a round basin deep enough to pack herbs in, as well as an airtight channel that delivers airflow through a mouthpiece. In many cases, pipes also contain a second air channel known as a carb that is used to influence the maximum delivery of airflow through the mouthpiece. Essentially, as long as a pipe contains at the very least the first two items, you can smoke cannabis out of it.
Traditionally, pipes used for tobacco smoking purposes were made out of material such as wood, bamboo, or even ceramics. However, cannabis pipes today are widely made using borosilicate glass, as the medium is incredibly versatile. While most states still widely market glass pipes as tobacco smoking accessories, they can be found in collectable and gift shops (also referred to as “head shops”). You can also find them online, at cannabis events, and even in high-end glass art museums.
Pipes can vary widely in shape and size, as well as in complexity, functionality, and availability. Many pipes utilize water to filter cannabis smoke and cool it prior to inhalation. Other pipes are basic and take a physical form many refer to as a “spoon.” These are the best pipes to begin with if you are new to cannabis, as they are small, easy to use, and are typically inexpensive.
Packing and Smoking Your Bowl
To pack and smoke a bowl, you’re going to need a few essential items to get started. Other than your bowl or pipe, you will need some form of heating element. The most basic heating element available is a lighter. Traditional butane lighters work well, though there is a myriad of non-butane heating elements out there to choose from. The most effective lighters and heaters will allow for optimal heating control when combusting and/or vaporizing a bowl.
Many consumers prefer to light their bowls with hemp wick, a waxy piece of hemp string that ignites easily, maintains an even burn, and doesn’t give off an undesirable aftertaste. Another heating element used often is a glass wand that can be heated to a point where it will vaporize your herb on contact, eliminating combustion smoke altogether while still delivering cannabinoids and flavor through a lighter hit.
Another factor to consider is whether or not to use a screen for your pipe. Screens can help keep you from inhaling burning bits of cannabis, but if you don’t have a pack of pipe screens, here are a few nifty tricks to consider:
- taking a piece of wire or a paperclip and twisting it into coil
- using a screen from a faucet head
- using a small, dry rock approximately the diameter of your pipe bowl
We don’t recommend using aluminum foil, a soda can, or a window screen as a makeshift pipe screen, as these are often coated with materials that are hazardous to inhale.
Preparing cannabis for smoking a bowl is essential in order to maximize airflow through your device and deliver the most even smoke possible. In order to do this, breaking down your herb is a crucial step. Doing this creates a homogenous airflow through the bowl where smoke can pass through evenly.
There are a few tricks to packing a pipe that will help to maximize airflow:
- Ensure that your weed is evenly broken down but not too finely ground. Hand pulling your herb is the most basic way to do this, but grinders make this process much easier. There are many ways to break your cannabis down, so don’t be afraid to get creative.
- Use a stem and/or a nice-sized intact calyx to stuff at the very bottom of your bowl to prevent particulates from passing though. You can also use a screen if you have one available. This will also facilitate better airflow.
- Pack your herb very lightly at the bottom and slightly denser at the top for an even smoke. This allows the cannabis towards the top to maintain a burn, or “cherry” while opening airflow for easy inhalation without any clogging.
Follow the Rules of Smoking Cannabis
For everybody first learning how to smoke a pipe, there are a few pieces of etiquette to follow that will help ensure you have the best possible experience. When engaging in a smoking session with others, make sure that you pack a bowl that’s proportional to the size of your smoking circle. For an intimate session, packing personal bowls or “snaps” is great when alone or with one other person. This way, you take turns lighting personally packed micro bowls meant to be consumed in one single hit. For larger groups, heavier packed “party bowls” ensure each smoking buddy gets a fresh hit of green herb.
Traditionally, the provider of the cannabis will determine who gets to light the first hit. To make sure everyone gets the same experience, make sure to corner your bowl by only lighting a fraction of the visible cannabis. This lets everyone get the same great flavor without leaving an ashy hit for somebody. If the bowl is already lit, feel free to pass it, but let your passing buddy know the bowl is “cherried.” Lastly, never pocket a lighter. Everybody hates a light thief!
With these tips in mind, smoking a bowl should be a walk in the park. Always remember to use proper etiquette when packing a bowl for friends, and make sure you are consuming cannabis in a safe and legal place. Otherwise, pack a fat one, call some friends, and have at it!