Even for the most seasoned of cannabis consumers, walking into smoke shops and seeing countless pipes can be overwhelming.
Sure, all of them get you high with weed and a lighter, but depending on your smoking habits and your ideal smoking experience, it’s helpful to understand the plentiful cannabis pipe options on the market today.
We’ve broken down the main factors you should take into consideration: what weed pipes are and how to use them, some of your other cannabis-consuming options, the different types of pipes and the materials you’ll run into.
What is a weed pipe, and how do I use one?
Most pipes consist of a bowl, mouthpiece, chamber or stem and sometimes an air hole to clear the smoke, often called a “carb” or “carburetor.” You’ll use the bowl to pack in your flower and light on fire; of course, you’ll put your mouth against the mouthpiece, and the smoke will fill the chamber or stem when you light the flower and inhale.
Cover the carb with your finger as you inhale, and remove your finger when you’ve pulled long enough for an ideal hit.
Once a carb is opened, the smoke in the chamber travels through the mouthpiece, into your mouth and lungs. A carb simply lets you empty the smoke from the pipe, which some prefer, but it’s by no means a requirement.
Other Ways to Smoke Weed
Bongs, gravity bongs, water pipes, dab rigs and even rolling papers and joints have many of the same components a pipe does, though they might go by other names. Each has an area to light the flower, or vaporize concentrate and a mouthpiece. Some also have methods to release the smoke as a carb on a pipe does.
Exploring the individual pieces of a cannabis pipe might have some asking if the trip to the head shop is even necessary, with the question, “Can you smoke weed out of a tobacco pipe?”
The answer is yes, with an asterisk. Tobacco pipes don’t generally have carbs, so you may find that you cannot clear every hit. Weed doesn’t burn in the same way as tobacco, and marijuana pipes are explicitly made for that purpose; tobacco pipes are made explicitly for tobacco.
You’ll find that is alarmingly true when sitting down to clean your tobacco pipe if you use it for smoking cannabis. Tobacco pipes are generally not built for the leftover cannabis resin that can quickly block the chamber.
Types of Pipes
Chillums are similar to one-hitters, in that it is a straight piece with a bowl on one side, a mouthpiece on the other and no carb. They are larger than one hitters, allowing for more cannabis and typically a bit more artistic flair on the part of the creator.
Chillums are another ideal first weed pipe — they’re easy to load, light, inhale (just ensure you light at an upward angle to avoid dumping herb on the ground), and they’re perfect for one-person smoking sessions.
Chillums are generally made from glass or metal, though they can be made from wood.
These easily concealed and simple weed pipes, as the name suggests, are built for a single hit at a time. One hitters are popular because they are good for stealth smoking and easy to use above all. Generally, a one hitter is simply a skinny tube with a bowl on one end, leading to the open chamber and mouthpiece on the other end. If you’ve smoked a cigarette or joint, it’s generally the same idea.
One hitters are a great beginners’ weed pipe for folks who might not want to smoke too much or aren’t looking for anything too fancy, and they are made from a variety of materials.
Glass blunts are designed to replace rolling papers or hemp wraps. Most have an outer and inner tube, held in place by a rubber casing. You don’t have to be a pro at rolling — you can load as much as you want, and the glass offers a smooth hit and durability that you might not find in a joint or blunt, especially if it isn’t rolled and packed properly.
Glass blunts are not a monolith: Some have a slide mechanism or extending mouthpiece that can be removed to load weed, then reinserted and pushed forward as it burns to ditch the ash. You might also find glass blunts with a twisted, rotatable structure to twist and empty as you smoke.
Other glass blunts are simple glass tubes meant to be smoked like a normal joint or blunt, simply tap it every few hits to ash.
This variety is surely the most widely known, and spoon pipes are often considered the best pipe for smoking weed. Along with all the typical pieces (with bowls ranging from shallow to monstrous), these pipes have a carb.
As mentioned, carbs improve the airflow within the hand pipe and often product fresher smoke than the aforementioned smoking pipes without them. This variety is often made from glass, though they can be made from most other materials.
A spoon pipe can be super simple, but you can easily also find different shapes and beautifully accented spoon pieces in your local head shop.
These weed pipes are famously named after the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, with the unique structure of a large bowl and a long stem curving downward, then upward, into a mouthpiece, providing users a very stylish and sophisticated option. There’s also Gandalf pipes variety, which features an even more elongated steam.
This type of dry pipe has a long path for the smoke to travel, which creates a smoother hit, and the bottom of the bowl is generally flattened to allow Sherlock pipes to stand freely when you aren’t smoking. Some Sherlocks have carbs, and some don’t, so be sure to double check depending on what you’re looking for.
A word of caution: Given the often delicate stems and structure of these pipes, they are often much larger and more delicate than other hand pipes. Most smokers will keep this one at home to avoid breaking it.
Steamrollers look a bit like chillums, but they are very different cannabis pipes. They are generally a cylinder shape, with a mouthpiece on one side, a bowl indented into the top and a carb, both on the opposite end. You’ll generally use this pipe as you would any other with a carb: lighting the flower, inhaling while pressing down on the opposite side and removing your finger to usher the smoke from the chamber into your lungs.
The difference here is that steamrollers are known to deliver heavier hits and be much harder hitting than your standard dry herb pipe. That said, it’s a great option if you are looking to get very high very quickly, but we do not recommend these pieces to new smokers.
Weed Pipe Materials
As if there aren’t enough options to consider, cannabis pipes are crafted from a variety materials, which often lend themselves to a distinct smoking experience.
While it’s famously one of the easier materials to shatter (an occupational hazard for stoners that has happened to the best to us; check your lap before you stand up!), glass pieces are some of the most common pipes.
The art of glassblowing dates back to some of the earlier human civilizations, though it was only in the 1960s that glass pipes emerged. Glassblower Bob Snodgrass is credited with developing the glass-pipe-making technique used worldwide today, famously using his technique throughout the world while touring with Grateful Dead in the ‘70s and ‘80s.
Glass is non-porous, so all of the smoke will stay inside the pipe, meaning better flavor. Glass can easily handle high temperatures, and it reduces build-up within the pipe, so there is less risk for leftover bacteria. The color and structure options for glass pipes are also endless, so finding a glass piece might be the best option if you are looking for something to match your personal style or just want to add an artistic option to your smoking collection.
Buyer beware: Typically, the more elaborate the piece, the higher the price tag on glass pipes.
Cleaning glass hand pipes is also fairly simple, by either boiling for up to 10 minutes or using isopropyl alcohol, typically at least a minimum of 91 percent concentration, for a soak. A good 10 minutes with some Q-tip touchups should get your glass pipe spick and span.
Wood is one of the original materials used for smoking, and it remains a durable and popular option. The wood pipe generally adds a bit to the flavor of the cannabis you’re smoking out of it, which many consumers love but some don’t.
Beware, if the pipe isn’t properly manufactured, you might find that the wood burns too much, and you’ll inhale wood carbon in addition to the cannabis smoke. Also note, wooden marijuana pipes must be evenly burned on the inside of the bowl to create a layer of charcoal before use.
The cleaning process on wooden pipes is more involved. If the wooden pipe allows, you’ll need to take it apart and use a pipe cleaner tool to remove any smoking debris. If this isn’t an option, you can put isopropyl alcohol directly into the stem and clean with a pipe cleaner, though you won’t be soaking or boiling this material.
For the clumsier smokers looking for durability first, a metal pipe is pretty much the most sturdy material you’ll find. The downside with a metal pipe is the risk of adding metallic undertones to the flavor of your cannabis.
Price varies, though a one hitter or smaller piece will be far more cost effective compared to larger pieces with more complex parts.
Cleaning metal pipes is also fairly simple with boiling or an alcohol soak, though it needs a bit longer. Expect at least 15 minutes of boiling or soaking to get your metal piece fully clean.
The main benefits of stone as a pipe material are durability and flavor. Folks engaged in metaphysical practices might also find more value in embracing a stone they resonate with or that fits into their practice.
Unlike metal or wood, stone will not alter the flavor of your cannabis, and it’s generally very sturdy. Most stone pipes are made from soft stones including soapstone, catiline, alabaster, limestone and marbled cast stone.
A corncob pipe can be a cheap, easily-disposable alternative to gumming up a wooden pipe with cannabis resin, and add a uniquely sweet flavor to your smoke.
Corncob pipes can be purchased at various stores and online shops, but be wary of cheaply made pieces that could be crafted from low-quality materials; remember, what goes into the pipe will ultimately end up in your lungs as well, making things such as pesticides best avoided.
The cannabis industry is immense. As easy as it is to get lost in the world of cannabis, strains, terpenes and cannabinoids, the world of pipes, and other pieces we use to smoke weed, can be just as easy to endlessly traverse.
While many smokers might go for something simple and eye-catching and have a totally ideal experience, just a little extra knowledge before you start smoking can go a long way as you’re picking out a new piece at the smoke shop.
So if you’re in the market, use your newfound knowledge, snag a sweet new pipe and enjoy!