How To Buy A Water Pipe

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How To Buy A Water Pipe

For true smokers, the water pipe is a status symbol.  Haphazard hobbyists likely don’t own one, opting instead for papers, cigarillos, or hand pipes.  While these certainly have an appropriate place in the arsenal, nothing compares to the effortless inhalation of a well-designed water pipe.

If you’re considering making that quantum leap from unfiltered pipes or ‘rillos and papers, you’ll want to consider a few aspects of the investment.

What are the comparative benefits of a water pipe?

When it comes to air-related optimization, surface area is everything.  Our own lungs use the same principle for maximizing oxygen absorption, utilizing bronchioles to give us the superhuman potential of a Michael Phelps or an Usain Bolt.

The same principle is what separates water pipes from the rest of the pack.  By maximizing surface area, the smoke is cooled and cleaned before it reaches the throat and lungs.

The result is a smoother and tastier hit -- called a rip for good reason -- and purer delivery of all the good stuff with fewer of the undesirables hitting the aforementioned bronchioles.

So how do I pick the best water pipe?


Choosing a water pipe is absolutely a matter of personal preference.  They come in all sizes, big and small, straightforward and complex, scientific and heady, fancy and functional.  

Each type has an advantage and a drawback, so determining what’s important to you is a key first step.  For those who like minimalism and modern design, scientific glass is a thing of beauty. For those who prefer a trippy hippie vibe, heady glass is the 8th wonder of the world.  

Beyond personal preferences, the main functional aspect to consider is the number and types of percolators incorporated into the design.  The number and size of the bubbles will determine both the draw resistance and filtration/cooling of the pipe. 

More, smaller bubbles created by honeycomb, inline, tree, matrix, and disc percolators will do a better job of cooling and filtration than a simple downstem.  


Tied inextricably to design is durability.  The more ornamentation, the more possibilities for breakage.  

Staying focused on big-picture durability, there are 3 key elements to consider.  First and foremost is the thickness of the glass. The thinner it is, the more likely it’ll get broken at some point.  I know, I know, not rocket surgery.

The other 2 considerations are joints and base-to-height ratio.  Any point where 2 separate pieces of glass have been fused to create a joint is inherently a weak point, and the smaller it is, the more likely it’ll happen.  

Then the next most common glass-cident is knocking the damn thing over!  The first line of defense here is the comparative width of the base versus the total height of the pipe.  Beaker bottoms and other wide bases are great, as are designs that get narrower at the top. The lower the center of gravity, the less likely the piece will turn into Humpty Dumpty at some point.


One of the other key considerations when buying a water pipe is the bowl joint size and gender.  As far as size goes, the typical options are 14mm or 18mm, although you may occasionally run into a 10mm.   The most common is 14mm, so that’ll give you the most flexibility in choosing aftermarket attachments later.  In a pinch, a penny or dime make a great sizing reference point.

The gender of the bowl joint is also an important aspect to consider.  It might go without saying, but male joints have the narrow end on the outside, while female joints have the widest part facing outwards.  Female bowl joints and corresponding male bowls are the most common setup, but you may also be able to find an adapter if your pipe ends up identifying as the opposite.

Buying a Non-Glass Water Pipe

For a while, there was basically no need for this section.  But now, we have silicone. Yes, there are acrylic water pipes, but those are really just nostalgic artifacts for old-schoolers.  

But the silicone versus borosilicate glass debate is actually debatable.  The Achilles heel of glass is, of course, the fact that is breaks on impact.  Silicone, on the other hand, is more flubber than fracturing. You can crumple that sucker up and stuff it in a suitcase and it’ll just spring back to life after you unzip it.

For purists though, glass is sacred for its cleanliness both from a flavor and from a health perspective.  So, like democrats and republicans, this debate may never find resolution.  Pick a side, or both sides, we really couldn’t care less.  Just don’t kill our vibe, and all is well in the world.

Click here to see some badass water pipes!