How to pack a bowl
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- What is a bowl?
- What you need to pack a bowl
- Step-by-step instructions for packing a bowl
- Why people like smoking from glass bowls
- Why people hate smoking from glass bowls
- Bottom line
Smoking a bowl is a classic method for smoking marijuana. Bowls are mainstays in cannabis culture. Here’s everything you need to know about packing and smoking a bowl.
What is a bowl?
A bowl is one of the main components of a pipe or bong. Specifically, a bowl is the rounded-out part into which you pack your marijuana. The name of this component comes from an obvious source—a bowl is basically a small dish or basin designed for holding cannabis.
When you ignite the marijuana and give your pipe or bong a drag, the smoke travels through the bowl, down the hole, into the pipe, and from there, into your lungs. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
The bowl is attached to the body of your pipe or bong. At the bottom of your bowl, there will be a hole leading to the body of the pipe. When you ignite the marijuana and give your pipe or bong a drag, the smoke travels through the bowl, down the hole, into the pipe, and from there, into your lungs.
Bowls look and function a little bit differently depending on if they’re used in a regular pipe or in a bong. Bowls on the end of a pipe typically have a hole on the side called a carb. The carb plays a key role in controlling airflow, so you can let the pipe fill with smoke and then clear it when you’re ready to take a hit. On the other hand, bowls used with a bong usually do not have a carb. Instead, you control airflow by sliding the bowl in and out of your bong’s downstem.
What you need to pack a bowl
To pack and smoke a bowl, you will need:
- A grinder
- A pipe with a bowl on the end. The simplest kind is called a “spoon pipe,” but there are also variations, such as bubblers which include a small water chamber in addition to the bowl and body.
- Depending on your smoking preferences, you may need a bong with a downstem and bowl.
- A lighter or hemp wick to combust your marijuana
- As an extra option, you can use a tamping tool to more evenly pack the marijuana into the bowl.
Step-by-step instructions for packing a bowl
Option 1: Packing a bowl on a regular pipe
1. Grind your weed. If you’re using a spoon pipe, or some variation of a spoon pipe, you will begin by grinding your marijuana. The goal is to get a consistent grind so that all the little pieces of marijuana are more or less the same size.
The best way to accomplish this is with a grinder. If you have a grinder, place a medium-sized nug into the chamber where the grinding teeth are located. Put the cap back on and twist it back and forth until the nug is completely ground. If you do not have a grinder, you can use a pair of clean, sharp scissors or your hands to break your nug into small, evenly-sized pieces.
Place a medium-sized nug into the chamber where the grinding teeth are located. Put the cap back on and twist it back and forth until the nug is completely ground. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
2. Pack your bowl. Once you’ve ground your marijuana, carefully pick up a pinch of weed between your fingertips. Place the weed into the bowl and gently tamp it down with your finger, the flat end of a lighter, or a tamping tool. Don’t pack it too tightly, otherwise you’ll have difficulty pulling the smoke through the bowl and into the pipe.
Tip: Place your pipe over a plate or tray while you’re packing it so you can easily gather up any pieces of weed that happen to fall out of the bowl during the process.
Once you’ve ground your marijuana, carefully pick up a pinch of weed between your fingertips and pack the weed into the bowl. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
3. Smoke your pipe. Hold the bowl in one hand with your thumb covering the carb hole. Place the pipe to your lips. With your other hand, use a lighter or hemp wick to light a corner of the bowl. Once the weed sparks, pull the flame away and begin dragging in with your lungs. When you’re ready to inhale, remove your thumb from the carb and give a big drag. All the smoke that has built up inside the pipe will now rush into your lungs.
Hold the bowl in one hand with your thumb covering the carb hole. Place the pipe to your lips. With your other hand, light a corner of the bowl. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
4. Ash your bowl. When the marijuana has all been burned, dump out the ash so your bowl is ready to be re-packed for your next session.
Option 2: Packing a bowl in a bong
1. Grind your weed. As with a regular spoon pipe, the goal here is to get a consistent grind so that all the little pieces of marijuana are more or less the same size.
The best way to accomplish this is with a grinder. If you have a grinder, place a medium-sized nug into the chamber where the grinding teeth are located. Put the cap on and twist it back and forth until the nug is completely ground. If you do not have a grinder, you can use a pair of clean, sharp scissors or your hands to break your nug into small, evenly-sized pieces.
2. Pack your bowl. Once you’ve ground your marijuana, carefully pick up a pinch of weed between your fingertips. Place the weed into the bowl and gently tamp it down with your finger, the flat end of a lighter, or a tamping tool. Don’t pack it down too tightly, otherwise you’ll have difficulty pulling the smoke through the bowl and into the bong.
Tip: Set your bong on top of a plate or tray while you’re packing the bowl so you can easily gather up any pieces of weed that happen to fall out of the bowl during the process.
3. Smoke your bong. Slide your weed-packed bowl into the downstem of your bong. When it’s in place, use a lighter or hemp wick to ignite the weed. As you do this, put your mouth to the mouthpiece and start pulling in with your lungs. You will see the smoke travel from the bowl, flow through the downstem, and begin bubbling up through the water in the base of your bong. When you’re ready to take a hit, continue pulling in with your lungs and slide the bowl out of the downstem. This will create an open flow of air, allowing you to clear the chamber and inhale all the smoke.
Slide your weed-packed bowl into the downstem of your bong. When it’s in place, use a lighter or hemp wick to ignite the weed. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
4. Ash your bowl. When you’re finished and you’ve fully combusted all the marijuana in your bowl, dump out the ash so your bowl is ready to re-pack for your next session.
Why people like smoking from glass bowls
If you’re packing and smoking a bowl, odds are that you’re using a glass smoking device. Glass is known for providing a simple, straightforward, and clean way to smoke cannabis. Specifically, because glass is an inert substance, it can be heated without leaching residual odors, flavors, or contaminants into the smoke. As such, many smokers enjoy glass pieces because they can be used over and over again without detracting from marijuana’s natural tastes and smells. Additionally, when a glass bowl or pipe becomes dirty or gunked up with sticky resin, the material can easily be cleaned and returned to like-new condition.
Why people hate smoking from glass bowls
There are a few reasons some cannabis smokers don’t like smoking from glass. Glass can shatter, chip, and break, especially if you drop your piece or ash in too aggressively.
In rare cases, poorly-made glass can shatter under intense heat, which could be dangerous.
Glass pieces are not as mobile or discreet as other methods of smoking. Even small glass pipes like chillums get dirty and smelly after a few uses, thanks to the sticky resin that coats the bowl or pipe after smoking. This makes glass hard to carry with you or use for on-the-go smoking.
Some smokers simply prefer the experience of rolling and smoking a joint, spliff, or blunt, as opposed to packing and smoking a bowl.
With a few basic cannabis supplies, such as a grinder, packing and smoking a bowl is easy to achieve, especially if you’re using one made of glass.
How to pack a bowl Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents What is a bowl? What you need to pack a bowl Step-by-step instructions for packing a
Is There a Safer Way to Smoke Cannabis? How the Methods Stack Up
If you’re looking for the healthiest way to smoke cannabis, keep in mind that there’s no totally safe way to do so — even with the purest, most pesticide-free bud. Cannabis smoke contains most of the same toxins and carcinogens that make tobacco smoke harmful to your health.
There are, however, methods that may be slightly less harmful than others. Here’s a look at how different methods compare, plus some smoke-free alternatives to consider.
The dangers of smoke inhalation are well known, so it’s not surprising that a lot of folks assume vaping is the healthier alternative to smoking. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
There’s mounting evidence that vaping can have serious health effects. Much of the concern comes from inhaling vitamin E acetate, a chemical additive found in many vaping products containing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.
However, this risk seems to apply only to vaping concentrates, not flower. A 2006 study suggests that vaping actual cannabis, not concentrate, is less harmful to your respiratory system than smoking. Still, research on vaping cannabis is pretty limited.
Lung health aside, there’s also a matter of potency. People who vape cannabis report experiencing stronger effects — regardless of the amount of THC in the product — than they do when smoking. This means a higher chance of overdoing it, or greening out, when vaping.
Maybe a teeny, tiny bit, but nowhere near enough to make a difference.
Bongs offer a smoother toke because you don’t get the dry heat from smoking cannabis rolled in paper. Though it feels less harsh when you inhale, your lungs don’t know the difference.
Well, both still involve inhaling smoke, so there’s that. But if you had to choose the lesser of two evils, joints are probably the better option. This is because blunts are made with hollowed-out cigars, and cigars and their wrappers are highly toxic.
Even after removing all the tobacco from a cigar, cancer-causing toxins, such as nitrosamines, can remain. Plus, cigar wrappers are more porous than rolling papers, so the burning is less complete. This results in smoke with high concentrations of toxins.
Then there’s the matter of size. Blunts are a lot bigger than joints, and they hold way more pot. Smoking an entire blunt is like smoking roughly six joints.
Dabbing is supposed to give you a “cleaner” high, but what does that actually mean? Not much.
Budder — another name for dabs or marijuana concentrate — delivers a lot more THC than other weed products, often as much as 80 percent more.
Dabbing is still pretty new, so experts still don’t know the full impact.
There’s evidence that exposure to high THC may lead to long-term mental health effects, like psychosis. The risk of misuse and addiction is also higher when using high-THC products, especially for young people.
Plus, unless you have high-tech lab equipment and are trained in extraction, your dabs may be far from pure. Research shows that dabs can contain contaminants and residual solvents that can to neurotoxicity and cardiotoxicity.
Dabbing also has respiratory effects, even though you’re not technically “smoking.” There have been cases of people developing lung damage from dabbing.
The bad news? There’s no safe way to smoke cannabis. The good news? There are plenty of other ways to consume it.
Here are your main options:
- Edibles. Unlike smoking and vaping, ingesting cannabis won’t harm your lung health. The downside for some is that edibles take longer to kick in because they need to clear your digestive system before getting into your bloodstream. The upside is that the effects also hang around longer. You also have an endless variety to choose from, with everything from gummies to baked goods to cannabutter.
- Sublinguals. These are usually lumped together with edibles, but they’re not quite the same. Unlike edibles, you don’t actually swallow sublingual forms of cannabis, which include things like tinctures, films, and dissolvable tablets. Sublingual cannabis is placed under the tongue for absorption, and is absorbed through your mouth’s mucus membranes, so the effects are felt faster.
- Tinctures. Tinctures are made of alcohol-based cannabis extracts that come in bottles with droppers. You can add tinctures to drinks, but you can also get the effects faster by placing a few drops — depending on your desired dose — under your tongue.
- Topicals. Cannabis topicals are for people looking for the therapeutic benefits of cannabis without the cerebral effects. Creams, balms, and patches can be applied to the skin to relieve inflammation and pain. There’s also cannabis lubricant made for, well, sexy time.
- Suppositories. The idea of shoving cannabis up your butt (or vagina, depending on the product) may make you clench, but it’s definitely a thing. Most of the suppositories on the market are CBD-infused and used for therapeutic reasons, like pain or nausea relief, but some brands have upped their THC content for added effects.
If you’d still rather smoke your weed despite the risks, consider these harm-reduction tips to help make it a little safer:
- Don’t hold the inhale. Inhaling deeply and holding it in exposes your lungs to more tar per breath. Don’t be greedy; exhaling faster is better for you.
- Use rolling papers approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Rolling papers may seem like NBD, but some contain chemicals and flavorings that can be toxic.
- Stick to glass bongs and pipes. Plastic bongs can contain chemicals like BPA and phthalates, which have been linked to serious health effects, including cancer.
- Keep your stuff clean. Keep your bongs and pipes clean, and don’t roll your weed on dirty surfaces.
- Don’t share mouthpieces or pass joints. Sharing your stash is fine, but not your pipes, bongs, or joints. When you share these, you’re basically swapping spit with that person and putting yourself at risk for infections.
No matter how you dice it, there’s really no safe way to smoke cannabis, whether you prefer to roll one up or are partial to bongs. As cannabis becomes more popular, so do products that allow you to indulge without the smoke.
That said, if you’re partial to puffing and passing, a vaporizer that allows you to use flower, not concentrates, may be a less harmful option.
Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddleboard.
You can smoke cannabis in a variety of ways, but is one safer or healthier than others?