Cannabis Inhalation 101: What’s the Difference Between a Bubbler and a Bong?

Cannabis Inhalation 101: What’s the Difference Between a Bubbler and a Bong?

From an old-school joint to the perennial college favorite apple bong, people will never stop finding creative ways to smoke weed. While the debate of bubblers versus bongs might be among the most heated among comparisons of inhalation methods, it’s not a death match – bubblers and bongs work a little differently, smoke a little differently and shine a little differently depending on the situation at hand.

Bubblers Vs. Bongs: The Basics

The cannabis community is definitely not short on jargon, so let’s start from the ground up. Bubblers and bongs are both inhalation methods in the glass pipe family. A regular old glass pipe features a bowl at the end of a stem, oftentimes with a small hole known as a carb on the side of the bowl. To use it, you load your flower into the bowl, cover the carb with your thumb (if there is a carb), inhale on the stem’s mouthpiece as you ignite the herb, then lift your thumb to let out the smoke. 


A bong, on the other hand, is a water pipe. This upright glass device has a flared bottom chamber, a small-stemmed herb bowl — which can be moved up and down — protruding from the middle, and a long tube-like stem with a mouthpiece at the top. A bong may also feature a carb. The idea here is to build vapor in the bottom chamber, which you’ll inhale from the top mouthpiece. Compared to a dry pipe, that vapor is softened by the water, making for a smoother hit. 


Long story short, bubblers hybridize the basic dry pipe and the bong. Bubblers come in a wide and often wild variety of shapes and sizes, but typically they look like a stemmed glass pipe with an unusually long chamber below the bowl. What’s really happening here is that underneath the bowl a long tube known as a down-stem protrudes almost to the bottom of the chamber (you can usually see it through the glass). Water goes in the chamber below the down-stem and the smoke is sucked through the bowl, into the down-stem and through the water chamber before being inhaled through the stem, making for a portable method that’s similar to the bong experience.

How Do They Work?

When you’ve got one device that looks like a beaker or a sci-fi flower vase and another that looks more like a psychedelic glass Sherlock Holmes prop, you can be sure that each one works a little differently. Here’s how it breaks down:


  • Add clean water to the wide bottom chamber at the base of the device.
  • Pack the bowl with flower.
  • Simultaneously light the bowl as you inhale on the mouthpiece, covering the carb with your finger (if there is a carb).
  • Lift the bowl away from the chamber to clear the chamber of smoke.


  • Add a small amount of water to the chamber (enough to produce bubbles, but not enough to splash up against the mouthpiece).
  • Pack the bowl with flower.
  • Cover the carb, if there is one, with your finger and light the bowl as you inhale on the mouthpiece.
  • Lift your finger from the carb to release smoke.

Bubblers And Bongs In Comparison

Healthline points out, when you smoke from a bong (or a bubbler for that matter), the effect may indeed feel smoother, but you’re still pulling smoke into your lungs — which means that all the hype about water pipes being better for your lungs is simply a myth.

But these options do offer more experiential benefits. The shared benefit, and the core of the water pipe experience, is that as you inhale from the stem of either type of pipe, the smoke flows into the water and creates a whole bunch of tiny bubbles. In turn, the bubbles chill and filter the smoke, creating a characteristically cool, smooth pull. In either case, the quality of the pipe you invest in will enhance your experience — we recommend our Salem neighbors at
Witch DR Glass Blowing Studio for handmade, locally sourced pipe artworks. 

Stacking up the bubblers versus bongs, bubblers win the battle of convenience (and often discretion) due to their small, portable size. However, they can be more difficult to clean as their more compact form factor gets dirtier more quickly and they can’t usually be taken apart for cleaning. The bong’s size and thinner glass does make it a more fragile object, but the generous size of its water chamber also typically makes for a smoother pull. A bubbler still has that softness you want, but it’s more of a middle ground between a dry pipe and a bong.

Is there a de facto victor in the battle of bubblers versus bongs? Honestly, no. As
Herb Approach so eloquently puts it, “different tokes for different folks.” The choice really boils down to your personal preferences and priorities, but the good news is, both types of pipes are practical classics for a reason — so why not give both a shot and see where you land?

Dan Ketchum is an LA-based freelance lifestyle, fashion, health and food writer with more than a decade of diverse experience. He’s been fortunate enough to collaborate and publish with companies such as FOCL, Vitagenne, LIVESTRONG, Reign Together, Out East Rose, SFGate, Mistifi, The Seattle Times and many more.


Healthline –
Demystifying the Bong, One Myth at a Time

Weedmaps –

Herb Approach –
Bubbler vs. Bong – What’s the Difference?

Leafly –
Glass 101: Pipe, Bong, or Bubbler?

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