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What Happened to the Bong?

This year's 4/20 will usher countless new stoners into the hazy world of legal cannabis, given the ever-expanding number of states with recreational weed laws on the books. But one thing you're not likely to see amid the ecstatic smokeouts and clouds of stoner jokes is any mention of the humble bong.

Even as pot culture went mainstream over the last decade, bongs remain a symbol of its seedy, black-market past. They're a delivery method that can't help but look outdated and/or needlessly elaborate compared to intuitive technology like vape pens, but also weak and collegiate compared to dab rigs (the crack pipes of weed).

Bongs became synonymous with cannabis in the 1960s and '70s, gradually adapted as they were during the counterculture boom, and encouraged by depictions that presented them as the ultimate avenue to getting high. Like beer bongs (or keg stands, or shotgunning cans of beer, or any number of stunts that rarely seem as cool in hindsight) they're both spectacle and endurance test, a sign of one's tolerance but also sense of adventure. I remember visiting my cousin on Long Island one summer in the late '90s and watching him extract a 6-foot glass bong from the ceiling vent in his bedroom, which struck me as an improbable but ingenious clown-car of a hiding spot. The fact that I coughed for five straight minutes after hitting it (he needed to spark it for me, given the distance between my mouth and the bowl) did little to diminish my awe.

Bongs have more personality than pipes, pens, or edibles. Yes, some people are prone to naming their possessions no matter what they are, and the stunning variety of hand-made, carefully crafted weed paraphernalia these days frequently deserves nicknames like Gandalf or The Green Goblin. But unless you're South Park's Towelie (who prefers joints, of course) you're not going to wring a whole lot of personality from a smokeable USB stick.

Dab rig

A pipe designed for vaporizing cannabis concentrates, sometimes referred to as an oil rig, vapor rig, or concentrate pipe. Similarly to a bong, a dab rig filters concentrate vapor through water at the base. In addition to the central piece, dab rigs include a glass, quartz, ceramic, or titanium platform (called a nail or banger) to hold the concentrate or “dab”. Consumers also use a long, slender tool to apply a dab to the nail and a butane or propane torch lighter to heat the nail before the dab is applied.

I prefer using a quartz nail with my dab rig.

Dab rigs or oil rigs require flash-heating, so be sure to use a butane torch.

What are dab rigs?

A dab rig is the chamber of a glass pipe, connected to a nail or banger, used for dabbing, in the place of a traditional bowl typically found on a bong. New dabbers may be overwhelmed at the technique, upfront cost, and number of accessories required to use dab rigs and pipes. But they may also appreciate the strong, streamlined effects and heavy terpene flavors that concentrates and dab rigs provide.

Once you get the dabbing process down, using a dab rig can be easy and efficient. The key steps are simple: heating the nail with a torch, placing a dab of concentrate in the nail, and inhaling the resulting vapor.

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