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By Max Sargent


You may have heard of bongs and dab rigs; you’ve probably even seen pictures. Bar a few minor differences, they look more or less the same, right? So it’s fair enough to assume that they could be the same thing.

On the whole, they are basically the same—but each serves a unique purpose, and they're not necessarily interchangeable. Below we tell you everything you need to know about the difference between bongs and dab rigs.

Herb vs Concentrate

To understand the differences between dab rigs and bongs, it’s essential to understand the difference between herbs and concentrates.

Herb is the general name given to unprocessed cannabis—be it raw flower, kief, or hash. Basically, anything you would put in a spliff is probably herb.

Concentrates, on the other hand, are rarer, at least outside parts of the US, and require a more involved process to produce. To make concentrates, resin is extracted from the cannabis flower’s trichomes (where cannabinoids are produced and stored) and then, as the name suggests, concentrated into a product. Different concentrates look and behave differently, but they are often an off-white to yellow colour, and sticky or rock-hard.

In terms of potency, herb can reach up to about 30% THC at maximum. Concentrates, however, can get up to 80% THC or even more, so a much smaller amount is needed to get high.

Dab Rig vs Bong: Design

Dab rigs and bongs look and function similarly. In fact, they are fundamentally the same thing—tools that allow for water filtration—but with slight tweaks that allow them to handle different substances.

The bodies of dab rigs and bongs are essentially the same. Or at least, they can be. Each has a downstem descending into a water chamber. At any point, there may be one or more percolators to help with the cooling process. Then, there will be a neck, and a mouthpiece from which you will draw the smoke/vapor.

With bongs, the neck simply has an opening at the top, and you put your mouth there; dab rigs tend to have a little mouthpiece extension that comes out laterally.

Now, although their basic design is essentially the same, there are some common differences between the bodies. Dab rigs, on the whole, tend to be smaller than bongs. And bongs have a propensity to vary more in terms of shape, size, design, and internal components.

A bong may be beaker-shaped, it may have a rounded water chamber, and so on. Bongs also come in a wide range of materials—acrylic, borosilicate glass, enamel, and more—while dab rigs are most commonly made of borosilicate glass, as they are exposed to higher temperatures.

Another difference is that bongs tend to have more accessories. These can include ice catchers and a whole array of percolators and filtration systems. Dab rigs tend to have only one percolator, and will not have ice catchers.

So, what’s the real difference?

Dab Rig vs Bong: Design
  • Bowls vs Nails / Bangers

The true difference between a dab rig and a bong is to be found in the part where you actually burn or vaporize your cannabis product.

Bongs = Bowls

A bong has a bowl. A bowl is literally a metal (or glass) dish that you pack with cannabis. You then burn the weed and inhale from the mouthpiece, which draws smoke through the downstem, into the water, then into your lungs.

As mentioned, bowls are most often made from metal, and tend to use disposable gauze (fine metal mesh) on top of which your weed will sit. With a bowl, you use a conventional lighter to directly burn the cannabis.

They are simple and highly effective.

Bowls vs Nails / Bangers

Dab Rigs = Nails or Bangers

A dab rig, on the other hand, has a nail or “banger”. While these are basically the same, a nail is smaller and usually made of titanium, whereas a banger has a more traditional bowl-like shape and can be made from quartz, titanium, or glass.

A nail or banger will not use a gauze, as concentrates are placed directly onto its surface. Likewise, whereas with a bowl you apply the flame directly to the herb, with a dab rig, you heat up the nail/banger with a blowtorch until it is very hot, and then, using a dabber tool, place a little concentrate onto the heated surface and watch it vaporize as you inhale!

Bowls vs Nails / Bangers

Dab Rig vs Bong: Function

As mentioned, the two devices function slightly differently.

Essentially, with a bong, you combust the herb, which releases smoke to be inhaled.

With a dab rig, you vaporize the concentrate, as opposed to burning it, which means you’re inhaling mostly vapor.

In terms of functionality, that is the difference. As outlined above, the process varies between the two, but is ultimately quite similar. With dab rigs, however, there are now electric options that don’t require a blowtorch to heat. Though becoming more popular, they are also pricey.

Dab Rig vs Bong: Smoke / Vapor Quality

The quality of your hit will depend on a large number of factors. These include:

  • Quality of cannabis product
  • Quality of bong/dab rig (including accessories)
  • Cleanliness of equipment
  • Level of heat applied

The two most important factors are the quality of the herb or concentrate, and the quality of the bong or dab rig. A tiny device with no percolators is never going to taste great. Likewise, poor-quality flower or concentrate will never be delicious either.

But are herbs or concentrates superior?

  • Dried Herb vs Concentrates: Which Offers a Better Hit?

Making any outright claims here would be foolish. Ultimately, it comes down to personal taste. Great-quality weed and great-quality concentrates will both taste amazing when smoked with good equipment.

One thing to be aware of, though, is that concentrates, if made well, can be outrageously tasty. If all the terpenes are present, and they are vaporized at the optimal temperature, then you are in for a real treat. Likewise, because of the lack of vegetable matter, and the fact that they are vaporized rather than combusted, there tends to be no sullying of the flavours.

So, given that, some would say that concentrate vapor offers smoother hits than a bong ever can.

Herb vs Concentrate

Dab Rig vs Bong: Safety

It’s important to use these products safely, as shattered glass when you’re really blazed is not the one!

Good products will be well-made, and should be able to take a knock or two without breaking. Likewise, they should be heat-resistant—especially nails and bangers!

Some people like to put their borosilicate glass bong or rig in the freezer before using it, as this helps to cool the smoke even more. Very well-made ones should be able to handle extreme changes in heat, but there is always the possibility that they will shatter when you get to lighting up. So on the whole, we’d advise against this. If you really want super-cold smoke, get a bong with an ice catcher.

In terms of one versus the other, there's not a lot in it. Dab rigs have the potential to present more of a danger because they are exposed to higher temperatures, but if they are made well, they should be fine. Perhaps the greatest danger comes from the misuse of the blowtorch itself.

Dab Rig vs Bong: Price

The price of each device can vary significantly.

For those on a tight budget, you can pick up an acrylic bong for a very reasonable price—this makes them quite accessible. However, as you enhance the design and material, they can reach into the hundreds, if not thousands. Bongs offer the greatest range of choice, in terms of price.

Dab rigs start out a little more expensive than bongs, but you should still be able to find one for a decent price. Then, much like bongs, they can become very expensive.

Should You Get a Dab Rig or a Bong?

Of course, for many, the primary concern will be price.

But ignoring that, why not get both? In an ideal world, this is a great option. For most of us, though, another big consideration is what we actually have access to. A dab rig might be a great ornament, but do we have anywhere to buy concentrates? Do we have the resources to make our own? For some, concentrates will not really be an option, so in that case a bong will offer the most functionality.

But if you can buy or make concentrates, then they’re such a good experience that a dab rig is a worthy investment!

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