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The Zen Leaf Guide to Bongs

By Danyal Swan August 26, 2022
Zen Leaf Guide to Bongs

Methods of cannabis use are constantly evolving, and as the legality of medicinal and recreational marijuana becomes more widespread, these innovations are bound to only increase. For some, edibles are the best method for consuming cannabis, but for others, smoking is the best option. Vaporizers, joints, and bowls are all commonly used for smoking cannabis, but none are more iconic than the bong.

Used in movies and TV as iconic cannabis-related imagery, bongs are a great option for all cannabis users who prefer smoking cannabis. We can walk you through the different attributes, styles, and features that make using bongs the perfect cannabis experience.

What Are the Parts of a Bong?

For some cannabis users, bongs may seem intimidating and only suitable for seasoned cannabis users, but the complexity relies on the design. Even the most seasoned smokers not accustomed to bong use might be deterred by the design, which is a bit more complicated than packing a bowl or rolling a joint. Like a new car, getting used to the functions and features necessary for its use is part of the learning curve, and after learning what each function does, it becomes second nature.

Not all bongs are built the same, but they do have a shared list of common features, including:  

Bong mouthpiece


The mouthpiece of the bong, located at the very top of the bong, is the main point of inhalation for the smoke. Typical mouthpieces are a bit wider than the neck of the bong and have a rounded edge to help make each hit comfortable.

Bong Neck


The neck of the bong is located directly under the mouthpiece and is the central shaft of the piece that helps deliver the smoke to you. Bong necks can range in length, shape, and width, giving you a wide range of options to choose from when searching for the perfect piece. The longer the neck, the longer the smoke has time to cool, thereby providing a smoother hit.

Bong Chamber


Also known as the water chamber, this central part of the bong is used as the main cavity for water, which helps cool the smoke and create a smoother hit. When pulling a hit with a bong, the chamber is what fills with smoke, and “clearing the chamber” is the act of removing the bowl to take the hit and inhale the smoke.

Bong Base


The base, which encompasses the chamber, downstem, and bowl, is the bottom part of the bong. Just like the neck of the bong can come in various styles and shapes, the base of the bong can range from wider, bowl-shaped chambers to smaller, more cylindrical bottoms.


The downstem is one of the most important pieces of the bong. It’s what helps smoke travel into the chamber of the bong from the bowl. With one end holding the bowl and the other in the water at the base of the bong, the downstem helps create the pressure needed to fill the chamber with smoke for a hit.

Bong Bowl


The bowl is the piece of a bong that holds your flower, essential for the use of the bong. Bowls are removable from the downstem, and once sparked, the suction created by inhaling from the mouthpiece helps pull the smoke into the chamber of the bong from the bowl – removing the bowl from the downstem is the action of clearing the chamber to inhale the cannabis smoke.

Bongs vary in size, shape, and design, but each has the same foundational structural components. As with any larger piece, the elaborate designs can make using a bong seem intimidating or too complicated, but as a baseline, the necessary components of a bong are all the same. Recognizing each part of the bong and its function is the best way to feel more confident using bongs, and overall, helps you find new ways to use cannabis.

Preparing Bong to Smoke

How to Smoke a Bong

Now that we’ve gone over the different parts of a bong, the method for using them will seem a bit easier to go over. Starting with the prep work, you will need water, ground cannabis, a lighter, and your bong. To begin, using the neck of the bong, pour cool or cold water into your bong until the internal part of the downstem is completely covered in water. This is essential for the bong to properly work.

Adding too much or too little water to the chamber can completely change your experience, so finding the right balance is crucial – too much water can make taking a hit extra strenuous on your lungs and perhaps bring water into the precious cannabis flower, whereas too little water can make your hit too dry. After filling the chamber, pack your bowl with your desired flower and insert the bottom of the bowl into the downstem.

To smoke out of the bong, bring the mouthpiece to your mouth and light the flower in the bowl, concentrating the flame in a singular spot around the edge of the piece. By doing so, you can control the burn of the flower and reduce the amount of packing and repacking needed to get a clean hit. After the cannabis is lit, begin inhaling with your mouth still over the mouthpiece until the chamber is filled with smoke.

Afterward, slide the bowl piece out of the downstem, making sure that the lit part of the bowl is facing upward, and breathe in. Taking out the bowl piece allows air to come into the chamber of the bong, pushing the smoke up through the neck and into your mouth. After your initial hit, wait until you begin feeling the effects of that hit before going in for another, both to give your lungs a break and let the full effects of your flower set in.

Common Bong Design Features

Every bong is unique, and with different design attachments, they can be completely customizable. Beyond aesthetic value, the different shapes and design features built into your bong can change the way you use it, as well as alter the smoke delivery and capacity of your bong. The biggest bong features that can affect the each hit include:

Bong Ice Pinch

Ice Catchers

For some, breathing in the hot smoke generated by a bong hit can be strenuous on the lungs and throat, which can cause general discomfort, coughing, and sometimes pain. One solution to this problem is using ice cubes in the neck of your bong to cool the smoke as it reaches the mouthpiece. Ice catchers, sometimes referred to as an ice pinch, are nodules on the inside of the bong neck that help hold ice cubes in the neck during a hit, ensuring the smoke leaving the piece is cooler and generates an all-around smoother hit.

Bong neck shapes

Neck Shapes

Although seemingly for aesthetic value, the neck shape is a crucial design of a bong that can completely change its function. The length of the neck, as well as the diameter, can increase the cooling time of the smoke in the chamber, as well as the amount of smoke generated from each hit. For example, bongs with longer necks allow the smoke to have more surface area to cool during each hit. Smaller, shorter necks have less space to help cool down the smoke, though they do provide faster delivery than longer-necked bongs with each hit.

Bong chamber size

Chamber Size

Along with neck shape, the chamber size is key to determining the amount of smoke you can generate in each hit. Larger chambers have a higher internal volume, allowing for longer drags and bigger hits for maximum effect. Smaller chambered bongs, on the other hand, don’t have the same internal capacity, generating smaller hits than their larger counterparts. The surface area in the chamber of the bong also affects its cooling capabilities, with an increase in surface area leading to cooler smoke than a direct hit.

Bong carb hole

Carb Hole

Depending on whether the downstem and bowl are detachable from your bong, a carburetor, or carb hole, can be built into the side of the chamber to help facilitate the smoking process. Much like a handheld glass pipe, covering the carb hole during a hit helps create the suction needed to generate smoke. Once you take a hit, uncovering the carb hole allows for the necessary airflow to push the smoke out of the chamber and up into the neck for a hit.

Bong percolator


One of the best ways to create more aeration in a bong hit is by increasing the smoke’s contact with water and glass inside of the bong. Percolators, a small filter that resembles a honeycomb, increase the surface area of the smoke by creating small bubbles with each hit, cooling the smoke off and creating a smoother hit. Much like ice catchers, these features are usually built into your piece when you buy them, but accessory forms can be purchased as add-ons to bongs as well.

Bong Screen

Bowl Accessories

From screens to adapters, changing the ways your bowl works can open new pathways for utilizing your bong. For those that stick to using flower, bowl screens can be used in the bottom of your bowl to help keep loose leaves from ending up in the chamber, keeping your bong water free of debris. On the other hand, those who enjoy vapes in addition to flower can purchase silicone bowl adaptors that you insert your vape mouthpiece into instead of flower, which creates a dab-like experience with your vape.

The options for customization are endless, and finding the right setup that works for your bong is completely up to you. Whether you prefer smaller, more convenient bongs or larger pieces with extra accessories, the features you choose for your bong are endless. One of the perks of using a bong as opposed to other handheld pipes or pieces is the ability to swap out different parts and add in accessories that change the function of the piece without requiring a whole different rig. Every cannabis user has a preference for how they like to use cannabis, and when it comes to bongs, the specific features of each rig play a large part in distinguishing these experiences.

What Are Bongs Made Of?

As with most smoking rigs, bongs can come in a variety of different materials, each with different key characteristics and favorable attributes. Price range, size, durability, and amount of use all go into the reasons why certain materials work best for certain cannabis users.

The complete range of materials used to make bongs is very wide, but two of the most common include:

jerome baker bong


Glass is the most common substance used to make smoking pieces, especially bongs. The transparency of the glass allows for you to have a better hand on the resin buildup in the chamber and downstem, making cleaning cues easier to spot than those with more opaque bases. For some, using pieces with materials like silicone or ceramic can impart a particular flavor on the smoke, but the low porosity of glass prevents this, helping you get the cleanest hit each time.

Plastic Bong

Plastic or Silicone

For a more affordable option, plastic and silicone bongs are a great alternative to traditional glass pieces. Silicone bongs are easy to clean, and in addition to being more durable, are great for smokers looking for a less-fragile, cost-effective piece. Although some smokers might be deterred by the possibility of taste changes caused by the material, plastic and silicone bongs are ideal for those looking for cheaper, stronger pieces. Because of their ease of use and price point, silicone and plastic bongs are a great entry point for those beginning to explore these pieces.

Why Choose a Bong?

Bongs are an age-old method of enjoying cannabis, and the experience is completely different than alternative methods of cannabis consumption. From the overall design of the piece to the act of smoking, bongs are a smoking method like no other. Whether you’re looking for a smoother, cleaner hit or just want to broaden your horizons when it comes to cannabis use, recreational and medical alike, bongs are a great option.


  1. Kelly, B. C. (2012). Bongs and blunts: notes from a suburban marijuana subculture. In The cultural/subcultural contexts of marijuana use at the turn of the twenty-first century (pp. 89-106). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203051610
  2. Cannabis Training University. (2022). Choosing the Best Bong Material: Glass, Silicone, Ceramic Or Acrylic Bongs? Cannabis Training University. Retrieved June 13, 2022, from https://cannabistraininguniversity.com/cannabis-101/choosing-the-best-bong-material-glass-silicone-ceramic-or-acrylic-bongs/
  3. Schauer, G. L., King, B. A., Bunnell, R. E., Promoff, G., & McAfee, T. A. (2016). Toking, vaping, and eating for health or fun: marijuana use patterns in adults, US, 2014. American journal of preventive medicine, 50(1), 1-8. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2015.05.027

Digital Content Manager for MÜV Florida and Zen Leaf Dispensaries. A cannabis connoisseur with a passion for explaining the miraculous possibility of the plant, Swan began her journey with cannabis as a recreational user and quickly realized its positive impact on her depression and severe anxiety. She joined the cannabis industry as Receptionist and MedTender and witnessed first-hand the immense potential of the plant for a wide variety of ailments, deepening her passion for alternative medicine. Swan is dedicated to self-education on the plant and sharing its potential with all. She holds a Journalism degree from the University of Iowa.

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