How to pack and smoke a bowl of weed

Published on January 10, 2022 · Last updated May 9, 2024

There are many ways to smoke cannabis, but smoking a bowl in a pipe is perhaps the most well-known. Learning how to pack and smoke a bowl is essential for any session.

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 smoking experience.

Parts of a cannabis pipe

Adapted from traditional pipes used for tobacco, the cannabis pipe shares the same key characteristics. A pipe consists of:

  • Bowl: Round basin where cannabis is packed and lit
  • Chamber: The space between the bowl and the mouthpiece, where smoke travels
  • Mouthpiece: Where you draw smoke into your lungs
  • Carb (optional): Hole in the side, usually by the bowl, that is covered and uncovered to regulate airflow when inhaling

Cannabis pipes today are most often made of borosilicate glass, as the medium is incredibly versatile, but they can also be made out of metal, wood, ceramics, and many other materials. They can also vary widely in shape and size, as well as in complexity, functionality, and availability.

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 usually are inexpensive.

What you need to get started packing a bowl

In order to smoke weed out of a pipe, you’ll need a lighter or some other heating element in addition to your pipe.

Traditional butane lighters work well, though there are many non-butane heating elements out there, 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.

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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.

Preparing cannabis for smoking a bowl is essential to maximize airflow through your device and deliver an even smoke. In order to do this, break down your herb, either with your hands into big chunks, or with a grinder, into a semi-fine consistency. Doing this creates a homogenous airflow through the bowl so smoke can pass through evenly.

How to pack and smoke a bowl or pipe: a step-by-step guide

  • Get your pipe, some weed, and a lighter; a grinder is optional.
  • Break up the weed with your hands or loosely grind it, making sure it’s evenly broken down but not too finely ground. 
  • Put the ground or broken up weed in your pipe. To help maximize airflow:
    • Use a nice-sized chunk to stuff at the bottom of your bowl to prevent pieces from passing though. You can also use a screen if you have one.
    • Pack your herb lightly at the bottom and slightly denser at the top for an even smoke. This allows the cannabis toward the top to maintain a burn—or cherry—while opening up airflow for easy inhalation without clogging.
  • Put a flame or other heating element to the bowl, inhale, and enjoy!

How to light and smoke a bowl

Butane lighters are the go-to for most weed smokers. The ubiquitous BIC lighter can be found in practically any grocery or corner store.

Some smokers will use hemp wick to light a bowl, which has more of a natural taste and doesn’t add a butane flavor to your hit of weed like a lighter does.

Matches can be used as well, but they will have a strong sulfur flavor, even stronger than the taste of butane.

For other ways to light a bowl, check out our article on lighter alternatives.

Cornering a bowl

“Cornering” means lighting only a small section of a bowl to prolong the number of green hits. When smoking a bowl in a big group, cornering ensures everyone in the smoking circle can get a green, flavorful hit. Nobody wants a charred, ashy hit. Cornering when smoking by yourself or with a friend will also prolong the amount of greens you get.

Cornering can be done for all bowls—pipes and bongs. To corner a bowl, angle it down slightly and hold the flame to the edge of the bowl, instead of directly on top of it. Slowly inhale, bringing the flame lightly onto the weed, and try to burn as little of the green as possible.

Cheeried bowls

If the bowl is still smoking after you take a hit, it is cherried, because the burning weed looks like a red cherry. If you’re smoking with a friend, pass the bowl and let them know it’s cherried so as not to waste any smoke. Puffing on the pipe or bong with short, quick inhales will keep the cherry going.

How to put out a bowl

Most smokers won’t put a bowl out and will keep passing it until the cherry goes out on its own. If you do want to put out the bowl, you can cup your hand over it and close the holes of the pipe, but be careful you don’t burn yourself.

You can also tamp down the burning bowl with the bottom of your lighter or another device, but some don’t like doing this because it will create more ash in your bowl.

Etiquette for smoking a bowl in a group

We all started somewhere, so for everybody first learning how to smoke a pipe, there are a few pieces of etiquette to follow to ensure you have the best smoking experience.

When engaging in a smoking session with others, make sure you pack a bowl that’s big enough for everyone in your smoking circle.

When alone or with other person, pack small, personal bowls, this way, you take turns smoking micro bowls meant to be consumed in a single hit.

For larger groups, heavier packed “party bowls” ensure each smoking buddy gets a fresh hit of green herb. Everyone should get a green hit.

Traditionally, the provider of the cannabis will determine who gets to light the first hit. Make sure to corner the bowl, so everyone gets the same tasty experience.

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. Everyone hates a lighter thief!

Patrick Bennett and Pat Goggins contributed to this article.

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