There are many ways to smoke cannabis, but perhaps none are as well-known as smoking a bowl in a pipe. Learning how to pack and smoke a bowl is an essential lesson in cannabis consumption that enthusiasts at both ends 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 fundamental principles will help optimize your bowl-smoking experience.
What is a bowl?
A bowl is one of the main components of a pipe or bong. Specifically, a bowl is the rounded-out part into which you pack your marijuana. The name of this component comes from an obvious source—a bowl is basically a small dish or basin designed for holding cannabis.
The bowl is attached to the body of your pipe or bong. At the bottom of your bowl, there will be a hole leading to the body of the pipe. When you ignite the marijuana and give your pipe or bong a drag, the smoke travels through the bowl, down the hole, into the pipe, and from there, into your lungs.
Bowls look and function a little bit differently depending on if they’re used in a regular pipe or in a bong. Bowls on the end of a pipe typically have a hole on the side called a carb. The carb plays a key role in controlling airflow, so you can let the pipe fill with smoke and then clear it when you’re ready to take a hit. On the other hand, bowls used with a bong usually do not have a carb. Instead, you control airflow by sliding the bowl in and out of your bong’s downstem.
What you need to pack a bowl
To pack and smoke a bowl, you will need:
- A grinder
- A pipe with a bowl on the end. The simplest kind is called a “spoon pipe,” but there are also variations, such as bubblers which include a small water chamber in addition to the bowl and body.
- Depending on your smoking preferences, you may need a bong with a downstem and bowl.
- A lighter or hemp wick to combust your marijuana
- As an extra option, you can use a tamping tool to more evenly pack the marijuana into the bowl.
Step-by-step instructions for packing a bowl
Option 1: Packing a bowl on a regular pipe
1. Grind your weed. If you’re using a spoon pipe, or some variation of a spoon pipe, you will begin by grinding your marijuana. The goal is to get a consistent grind so that all the little pieces of marijuana are more or less the same size.
The best way to accomplish this is with a grinder. If you have a grinder, place a medium-sized nug into the chamber where the grinding teeth are located. Put the cap back on and twist it back and forth until the nug is completely ground. If you do not have a grinder, you can use a pair of clean, sharp scissors or your hands to break your nug into small, evenly-sized pieces.
2. Pack your bowl. Once you’ve ground your marijuana, carefully pick up a pinch of weed between your fingertips. Place the weed into the bowl and gently tamp it down with your finger, the flat end of a lighter, or a tamping tool. Don’t pack it too tightly, otherwise you’ll have difficulty pulling the smoke through the bowl and into the pipe.
Tip: Place your pipe over a plate or tray while you’re packing it so you can easily gather up any pieces of weed that happen to fall out of the bowl during the process.
3. Smoke your pipe. Hold the bowl in one hand with your thumb covering the carb hole. Place the pipe to your lips. With your other hand, use a lighter or hemp wick to light a corner of the bowl. Once the weed sparks, pull the flame away and begin dragging in with your lungs. When you’re ready to inhale, remove your thumb from the carb and give a big drag. All the smoke that has built up inside the pipe will now rush into your lungs.
4. Ash your bowl. When the marijuana has all been burned, dump out the ash so your bowl is ready to be re-packed for your next session.
Option 2: Packing a bowl in a bong
1. Grind your weed. As with a regular spoon pipe, the goal here is to get a consistent grind so that all the little pieces of marijuana are more or less the same size.
The best way to accomplish this is with a grinder. If you have a grinder, place a medium-sized nug into the chamber where the grinding teeth are located. Put the cap on and twist it back and forth until the nug is completely ground. If you do not have a grinder, you can use a pair of clean, sharp scissors or your hands to break your nug into small, evenly-sized pieces.
2. Pack your bowl. Once you’ve ground your marijuana, carefully pick up a pinch of weed between your fingertips. Place the weed into the bowl and gently tamp it down with your finger, the flat end of a lighter, or a tamping tool. Don’t pack it down too tightly, otherwise you’ll have difficulty pulling the smoke through the bowl and into the bong.
Tip: Set your bong on top of a plate or tray while you’re packing the bowl so you can easily gather up any pieces of weed that happen to fall out of the bowl during the process.
3. Smoke your bong. Slide your weed-packed bowl into the downstem of your bong. When it’s in place, use a lighter or hemp wick to ignite the weed. As you do this, put your mouth to the mouthpiece and start pulling in with your lungs. You will see the smoke travel from the bowl, flow through the downstem, and begin bubbling up through the water in the base of your bong. When you’re ready to take a hit, continue pulling in with your lungs and slide the bowl out of the downstem. This will create an open flow of air, allowing you to clear the chamber and inhale all the smoke.
4. Ash your bowl. When you’re finished and you’ve fully combusted all the marijuana in your bowl, dump out the ash so your bowl is ready to re-pack for your next session.
Why people like smoking from glass bowls
If you’re packing and smoking a bowl, odds are that you’re using a glass smoking device. Glass is known for providing a simple, straightforward, and clean way to smoke cannabis. Specifically, because glass is an inert substance, it can be heated without leaching residual odors, flavors, or contaminants into the smoke. As such, many smokers enjoy glass pieces because they can be used over and over again without detracting from marijuana’s natural tastes and smells. Additionally, when a glass bowl or pipe becomes dirty or gunked up with sticky resin, the material can easily be cleaned and returned to like-new condition.
Why people hate smoking from glass bowls
There are a few reasons some cannabis smokers don’t like smoking from glass. Glass can shatter, chip, and break, especially if you drop your piece or ash in too aggressively.
In rare cases, poorly-made glass can shatter under intense heat, which could be dangerous.
Glass pieces are not as mobile or discreet as other methods of smoking. Even small glass pipes like chillums get dirty and smelly after a few uses, thanks to the sticky resin that coats the bowl or pipe after smoking. This makes glass hard to carry with you or use for on-the-go smoking.
Some smokers simply prefer the experience of rolling and smoking a joint, spliff, or blunt, as opposed to packing and smoking a bowl.
Choosing the right 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, a round basin deep enough to pack herb in, as well as an airtight channel that delivers smoke and air through a mouthpiece. In many cases, pipes also contain a second air channel known as a carb that is used to regulate the airflow through the pipe. As long as a pipe contains the first two items at the very least, you can smoke cannabis out of it.
Traditionally, pipes used for tobacco smoking 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, and also head shops.
Pipes can vary widely in shape and size, as well as in complexity, functionality, and availability. Bongs and bubblers utilize water to filter cannabis smoke and cool it prior to inhalation.
A common, basic type of pipe is called a “spoon,” because of its shape. 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.
What you need to get started packing a bowl
In order to smoke weed out of a pipe, 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 one is a lighter.
Traditional butane lighters work well, though there is a myriad of non-butane heating elements out there to choose from, if you want to avoid a butane flavor in your bowl. The most effective lighters and heaters will allow for optimal heating control when combusting or vaporizing a bowl.
Some 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:
- Twist a piece of wire or a paperclip it into coil
- Use a screen from a faucet head
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 to maximize airflow through your device and deliver an even smoke. 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.