Bongs and dab rigs are widely used in the world of marijuana. Both are different types of water pipes, and, although there are many similarities between them, there are also some significant differences regarding the type of product that you can use with each. So, if you want to make the most of your cannabis sesh, you need to make sure that you’re using the right tool. Bong or dab rig? That is the question. Or rather, what’s the difference between these two devices?
The main difference between bongs and dab rigs (the most popular devices for dabbing) is the product that you use with them. Both consist of the same water filtration system to cool down and filter the smoke before inhalation, but they are used with completely different substances. Bongs include a bowl where dry marijuana is deposited, whereas dab rigs have a ‘nail’ or ‘banger’ which is specifically designed for vaping super potent cannabis concentrates.
Having said that, both instruments are water pipes that use percolation (i.e. the slow passage of fluids through porous materials) to filter the smoke or vapour. Therefore, they both share the same principle: they extract smoke or vapour through water by means of suction.
Users of dab rigs and bongs know that these devices are highly effective in decreasing the puff temperature. In addition, they showcase some really original designs (they’re normally made of glass, silicone, acrylic, or ceramic); they sound incredibly bubbly; and they considerably improve the consumption experience.
Both bongs and dab rigs are used to consume cannabis, but they work in different ways. Bongs are intended for use with tobacco, dried herbs, or marijuana flowers, whereas dab rigs are designed to be used with concentrates such as BHO, cannabis waxes, or cannabis oils.
With bongs, cannabis is consumed by means of combustion. The plant matter is burnt with a lighter and then the smoke is inhaled. On the other hand, dab rigs use heat to vaporise the concentrate before it’s inhaled. This is normally done with a blowtorch, but you can get hold of an electric nail to better control the dabbing temperature.
In general terms, a bong consists of a glass container; a downstem tube that is connected to a water chamber; a straight tube through which the smoke travels; and a mouthpiece from which smoke is inhaled. The physics of a bong is relatively simple: you fill the bowl (i.e. a small metal or glass plate) with dry flowers, and then you light them while constantly inhaling through the mouthpiece. Smoke travels from the bowl to the water, where it bubbles and then quickly rises up the tube before reaching the mouthpiece, from where it’s inhaled into the lungs.
The key component of the whole bong experience is the bubbling effect. When the smoke travels through the water, two things occur. Firstly, the smoke temperature decreases, making it cooler before inhalation. Secondly, the heavier particles are extracted, which results in cleaner, softer smoke.
A dab rig works similarly. In fact, you can think of it as an extension of a bong which has been specifically designed for concentrates. The key difference is that the bowl where you place the weed in the bong has been replaced with a small platform called ‘nail’ or ‘banger’, where you put the concentrate as opposed to dry flowers.
In a bong, the weed is placed in the bowl, which has a small hole at the bottom to allow air flow. This is usually made of glass, or sometimes metal, and can easily withstand the heat of a lighter.
Dab rigs are slightly different, in the sense that they need an accessory called a ‘nail’ or ‘banger’ that is durable enough to withstand the high heat needed to vaporise concentrates. Although these are essentially the same as a bowl, a nail is smaller and is often made of titanium, whereas a banger has a more traditional bowl-like shape and can be made of quartz, titanium, or glass.
The dabbing process also requires a heat source that’s different from the one used with a conventional bong. To smoke using a bong, you only need a lighter or some matches; but to heat a nail to the required temperature to vaporise concentrates, you need either a blowtorch or an electric nail.
The reason for this is that the dabbing experience has a lot to do with temperature. Lower temperatures produce a vapour that’s softer and tastier, while higher temperatures produce a stronger vapour. High-temperature dabs (170 – 370ºC) burn the concentrate, which provides a sharp and harsh taste. On the other hand, with low-temperature dabs (below 170ºC) the concentrate does not completely vaporise.
The more filtration, the better, right? Well, not necessarily. In the case of dab rigs, excessive filtration can reduce the dab’s potency. When the concentrate’s vapour is in contact with too much water, this can reduce the effectiveness of the puff. This is why you normally only find one percolator in high-end dab rigs.
In simple words, a percolator is a glass chamber that reduces the size of the smoke into smaller particles by forcing it to pass through tiny holes. This breaks the smoke down into smaller bubbles within the water, creating more surface area, which in turn leads to the smoke cooling down further before it reaches the lungs.
Most bongs have multiple chambers along the main tube, with water and smaller orifices. With these, the smoke takes longer to reach the mouth, which translates into a more delicate experience. If the percolator also has several water chambers, then the smoke will get filtered several times, causing it to cool even further.
Therefore, bongs benefit from as much percolation as you can afford. From diffused downstems to triple stacked honeycombs, each filtration level makes the weed smoke softer and fresher. No matter how many percolators a bong has; the smoke produced by combustion won’t lose any potency, flavour, or ability to be smoked.
You may have noticed that people always want the biggest bong, although dab rigs tend to be much smaller. For better or for worse, it is actually true that the size of the bong has a great impact on the smoking experience.
Bigger is better when it comes to bongs, because you don’t have to worry about the smoke produced by combustion losing power or dissipating. This means that you can extend the smoke route with as many percolators as you wish to obtain the maximum filtration level.
Unlike the smoke of dry weed, which loses very little potency when it travels through the bong, the vapour of an extract when you’re using a dab rig remains trapped and dissipates in the water. This means that you need to inhale as quickly as possible, and that’s why most dapping devices tend to be smaller. Most part of the vapour is absorbed within 3 to 5 seconds, so adding percolators and huge tubes wouldn’t provide the best result in this case.
What’s more, if you want your bong to produce a softer and fresher smoke, choose one with an ice catcher. With this accessory, you can introduce some ice cubes in the neck of the bong so the smoke is cooler before inhalation.
Yes, you can! If you want to smoke dry flowers, use a bowl with your bong; and if you want to smoke concentrates, just add a dab nail! Nonetheless, we would recommend separate devices (one for flowers and one for extracts) because the flavour you get from the dry flowers is completely different from the one you get from concentrates. Mixing both often results in an unpleasant taste, which can spoil the whole smoking experience.
The use of different devices also makes their cleaning much easier. Dab rigs don’t get as dirty as bongs because they don’t involve any combustion or plant matter.
Finally, please keep in mind that this information is to help you make the most of what you smoke, but everything ultimately comes down to your personal preference. Some users prefer smoking flowers in big bongs, whilst others like using small rigs. In the end, you must choose according to your circumstances, but the best way to do it is by using the most suitable dab rig or bong.