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.
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. You can also find them online, at cannabis events, and even in high-end glass art museums.
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.
How to pack and smoke a bowl or pipe: a step-by-step guide
- Get your pipe, some weed, and a grinder if you have one.
- Loosely grind up your weed—make sure it’s evenly broken down but not too finely ground. Hand pulling your herb is the most basic way to do this, but grinders make this process much easier.
- Put the ground or broken up weed in your pipe. Some pro tips to help maximize airflow:
- Use a stem and/or nice-sized intact calyx to stuff at the very 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 it and enjoy!
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 possible experience. When engaging in a smoking session with others, make sure you pack a bowl that’s proportional to the size of the number of people in your smoking circle.
For an intimate session, pack a personal bowl or a “snap” when alone or with one other person. This way, you take turns lighting personally packed micro bowls meant to be consumed in one 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. To make sure everyone gets the same experience, make sure to corner your bowl by only lighting a fraction of the visible cannabis. This lets everyone get the same great flavor without leaving an ashy hit for somebody at the end.
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!
With these tips in mind, smoking a bowl should be a walk in the park. Always remember to use proper etiquette when packing a bowl for friends, and make sure you are consuming cannabis in a safe and legal place. Pack a fat one, call some friends, and have at it!
This post was originally published on October 27, 2016. It was most recently updated on April 8, 2020.