Navigate to our accessibility widget

Monday February 3, 2020

By Matthew Mongelia

View our Editorial Policy
This content contains third-party advertisements. Click here to view PotGuide's advertising policy
420 Culture

Far and away, glass is considered the preferred option for smoking cannabis. It is durable, can withstand high temperatures without degrading, and is easy to clean. Despite its popularity, in many states, it is still illegal to call a bong a bong. Instead, countless shelves across the land proudly display “water pipes” that are strictly “for tobacco use only,” leading to confusion among new and experienced smokers alike.

Well, just what is a “water pipe?” Is it different from a bong? Or a bubbler? Do I need a license to drive a steamroller? What else is out there? After so long in the shadows, many are unfamiliar with some of the most common glass smoking devices. Though there is an endless array of novel glass formations, we’ve collected the most popular and recognizable to everyday smokers.

Buying Glass Pipes for Cannabis Consumption

A quick note about acquiring some of these wonders of engineering: We hate to be the one to spill the beans, but the majority of glass on the market comes from the same select sources. A Roor is a Roor, whether you buy it at the head shop down the street or from a website. More than likely, most of what’s in your local shop came from the same websites you would buy from. Unless you’re a connoisseur seeking local art glass pieces, what you’re actually seeking out is a trusted glass dealer.

There are many different types of glass pipes used for cannabis consumption.

Do your research before dropping some serious coin on a glass piece. If you can, look for reviews and find out where pieces are being sourced from. Though it’s good to support local businesses, buying from a brick-and-mortar shop isn’t always ideal, or even possible, depending on the area. Some shops like to haggle prices, and selection is limited to what’s on the shelves. It’s tough to know whether or not you’re getting a good deal.

If you’re looking for something that your local shop doesn’t stock, just want to browse a wider array of offerings, or hunt out better pricing, modern consumers shouldn’t fear shopping online so long as the retailer is reputable. Sites like Vaporizer Chief provide a central location for many brands and products to sell their goods. Choosing from an online head shop like Vaporizer Chief allows consumers to see a wide variety of marijuana bongs, bubblers, chillums, dab rigs and other glass products all in one central location. Plus, you can find all these products at affordable prices, with all the quality assurances and purchase protection you’d find at any major online retailer.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most popular types of glass for cannabis consumption.

Different Types of Glass Pipes

What are Water Pipes?

“Water pipe” is the catchall term for many types of smoking accessories that filter smoke through water, and does not specifically refer to any one form factor or smoking use. Hookahs are water pipes, as are bongs and bubblers. The thing is exactly what the name implies: any pipe that integrates water as a smoke filter is a water pipe.  Aside from being a generic classification of pipes, it’s almost always employed in response to federal regulations against drug paraphernalia. It’s rarely something you’d hear from an experienced consumer.


Bongs have existed throughout modern human history. They are literally older than Jesus. In 2015, solid gold bongs were excavated in Russia dating back 2,400 years. Thus, it’s no surprise that most smokers know the bong style. A cylindrical tube closed off at the bottom is intersected by a down stem (basically a smaller tube) sticking out the side at an upward angle. Cannabis sits in a small detachable holder at the end of the smaller tube (the “bowl”).

Bongs can come in all shapes and sizes, from tall to short and big to little. photo credit

When ignited, the consumer inhales from the open end of the larger tube, smoke is drawn through a water reservoir in the larger tube to be delivered to the smoker. Finally, by removing the bowl, air can flow through the down stem and mix with the cannabis smoke to be inhaled. The water in a bong serves to cool the smoke and remove some impurities and particulate matter, though the filtration does slightly reduce THC content. Cannabis consumers have been happy to make this trade off, as the long tube and water-cooling allow the smoker to take large, smooth inhalations.

There are countless variations to the basic bong style, with all sorts of engineering to further cool and filter the smoke. Recyclers, ash catchers, and vortex elements are all common, but do the same essential task. Bongs may not be the most portable smoking devices, but they allow for large, smooth rips unlike any other, and have stood the test of time for thousands of years as an ideal smoking method. 


Bubblers are another form of water pipe, similar to a bong, but with a form factor closer to a traditional “spoon” pipe. Bubblers come in a range of shapes, from functional to flashy, but rarely sport the big angular tubes of a bong, and operate with a carburetor, instead of a slide. Because of the generally reduced chamber volume, bubblers often do not allow for the same large rips that bongs do, but are usually easier to transport and use.

Bubblers can sometimes be harder to clean than bongs. photo credit

The intricate inner workings of bubblers can sometimes be more difficult to clean, and near impossible to fix if broken, however considering their portability and smooth delivery are an attractive option for water-cooled consuming on the go.


To most smokers, there is no “spoon,” just a “pipe.” The shape is so widespread that even experienced cannabis consumers are often unfamiliar with the proper term for these pipes. A spoon pipe is what people typically mean when they say they smoke marijuana from a pipe, even though everything on this list is a form of pipe. The name comes from the shape of the pipe, a bowled end connected to a handle, looking like a spoon.

Example of a spoon pipe packed with cannabis flower. photo credit

The pipe is hollow, and has a small side opening to act as a carburetor. The consumer closes the carb opening to light the flower, then draws smoke into the pipe. When the carb is released, fresh air mixes with the smoke to cool it and make it palatable for inhaling, allowing it to flow into your lungs. Spoon pipes allow for small personal hits that can be adjusted to the smokers liking on the fly. They are portable and easy to use, but require frequent dumping and refilling.

The lack of water and short stem also make hits hotter and harsher than other glass. Still, they are classics for a reason. New smokers may fumble with the carb, but once you’ve been taught how to use it, the few things are as familiar in the world of cannabis.

Sherlocks and Wizards

An extended version of the spoon pipe, with a curved or flowing stem. The term “Sherlock” is purported to have come about from a popular pipe used in stage productions featuring the famous gumshoe. The name is broadly attached to any pipe with a large curved or flowing stem, and similarly, if the stem is long but straight, or only slightly curved, it’s often referred to a wizard’s pipe (made famous by Gandalf the Gray’s characteristic wooden accessory).

The smoke must travel a longer distance to the smoker, and will come in contact with more surface area (thus reducing the heat). However, the direct pull and lack of water filtration still has some heat deal with. These pipes have a fun aesthetic appeal, but are not always the most practical or portable.


There are a number of names for these small, straight pipes that only hold a pinch of pot, but all have the same concept. The one-hitter’s use is easily understood in the name (though they can often vary in size, and some can technically hold more than one hit). Regardless, with no carb, a short smoke path, and only a tiny opening to hold flower, small hot hits are all they’re good for.

One Hitter
One-hitters are great for personal consumption. photo credit

The one hitter is ideal for discreet personal hits. The miniscule size makes them easy to transport and to stash, and the small pinch of flower means it’s done in a flash. Consumers with lower tolerance or fans microdosing often prefer these pipes, but they are good for anyone looking to take the quickest of tokes.


In essence, steamrollers are slightly reworked spoon pipes. The carb is located at the end of the tube instead of on the side, allowing for a different ergonomic grip. Much like a spoon pipe, the short stem distance and unfiltered hit can be a bit harsh, but nothing most smokers aren’t used to. Steam rollers typically have larger chambers and openings than spoon pipes, ideally allowing for larger hits.

Dab rigs

Dab rigs are typically bubblers with special collection pieces on the end to vaporize concentrates. However, the end cap is really the only major difference in function. Many dab rigs have interchangeable flower and concentrate options. While rigs can be as simple or complex as other bongs and bubblers, they are essentially the same, with different levels of cooling and filtration.

The key feature in a dab rig is the dabbing element, allowing the consumers to vaporize concentrates. The standard today is a glass cup, but there are many variations to this basic design (inserts for example). If you’ve never dabbed before, or need some clarification, check out our video on dabbing.

Choosing the Right Glass

In the modern cannabis market, consumers can choose from endless varieties on these basic forms, it is best to choose one that suits your smoking needs. A one-hitter might not be satisfying to an advanced cannabis consumer, or a busy consumer might not care for the intricate cleaning required of a bubbler. Maybe you smoke more at home, and a bong is the way to go.

In the end, the perfect glass piece is one you enjoy using. Many cannabis consumers have different pieces for different occasions, and that's just fine too.

Again, using an online head shop like can help with browsing all the options out there and avoid being overwhelmed. You can even buy a few options and find what you like without breaking the bank, or find a good deal on a bigger investment.

What’s your go-to glass piece for cannabis use? What do you love about your favorite smoking device? Let us know in the comments!


Matthew Mongelia Matthew Mongelia

Matthew Mongelia is the Content Manager for He holds an MFA in Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a BFA in Creative Writing from CUNY Brooklyn College. He has worked in the industry in numerous roles for over 5 years while covering cannabis content from coast to coast. Like so many in the industry, he first became acquainted with cannabis as a medical patient, and has been a passionate advocate for the plant ever since. He is a writer for the comic Dark Beach, and has previously covered music and cultural content for SOL REPUBLIC.

More From This Author

Related Articles