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How to pack and smoke a bowl of weed


There are many ways to smoke cannabis, but perhaps none are as well-known as smoking a bowl in a pipe. Learning how to pack and smoke a bowl is essential lesson for any session.

Whether you’re interested in packing a pipe for a personal smoking session or preparing a bowl for a party, understanding these fundamental principles will help optimize your smoking experience.

Parts of a cannabis pipe

Adapted from traditional pipes used for tobacco, the cannabis pipe shares the same key characteristics.

A pipe consists of:

  • Bowl: Round basin where cannabis is packed and lit
  • Chamber: The space between the bowl and the mouthpiece, where smoke travels
  • Mouthpiece: Where you draw smoke into your lungs
  • Carb (optional) : Hole in the side, usually by the bowl, that is covered and uncovered to regulate airflow when inhaling

Cannabis pipes today are most often made of borosilicate glass, as the medium is incredibly versatile, but they can also be made of out metal, wood, ceramics, and many other materials. They can also vary widely in shape and size, as well as in complexity, functionality, and availability.

A common, basic type of pipe is called a “spoon,” because of its shape. These are the best pipes to begin with if you are new to cannabis, as they are small, easy to use, and usually are inexpensive.

What you need to get started packing a bowl

In order to smoke weed out of a pipe, you’ll need a lighter or some other heating element in addition to your pipe.

Traditional butane lighters work well, though there are many non-butane heating elements out there, if you want to avoid a butane flavor in your bowl. The most effective lighters and heaters will allow for optimal heating control when combusting or vaporizing a bowl.

Some consumers prefer to light their bowls with hemp wick, a waxy piece of hemp string that ignites easily, maintains an even burn, and doesn’t give off an undesirable aftertaste.

Preparing cannabis for smoking a bowl is essential to maximize airflow through your device and deliver an even smoke. In order to do this, break down your herb, either with your hands into big chunks, or with a grinder, into a semi-fine consistency. Doing this creates a homogenous airflow through the bowl so smoke can pass through evenly.

How to pack and smoke a bowl or pipe: a step-by-step guide

  • Get your pipe, some weed, and a lighter; a grinder is optional.
  • Break up the weed with your hands or loosely grind it, making sure it’s evenly broken down but not too finely ground. 
  • Put the ground or broken up weed in your pipe. To help maximize airflow:
    • Use a nice-sized chunk to stuff at the bottom of your bowl to prevent pieces from passing though. You can also use a screen if you have one.
    • Pack your herb lightly at the bottom and slightly denser at the top for an even smoke. This allows the cannabis toward the top to maintain a burn—or cherry—while opening up airflow for easy inhalation without clogging.
  • Put a flame or other heating element to the bowl, inhale, and enjoy!

Etiquette for smoking a bowl in a group

We all started somewhere, so for everybody first learning how to smoke a pipe, there are a few pieces of etiquette to follow to ensure you have the best possible experience.

When engaging in a smoking session with others, make sure you pack a bowl that’s proportional to the number of people in your smoking circle.

When alone or with one other person, pack small, personal bowls, this way, you take turns smoking micro bowls meant to be consumed in a single hit.

For larger groups, heavier packed “party bowls” ensure each smoking buddy gets a fresh hit of green herb. Everyone should get a green hit.

Traditionally, the provider of the cannabis will determine who gets to light the first hit. To make sure everyone gets the same experience, make sure to corner your bowl by only lighting a fraction of the visible cannabis. This lets everyone get the same great flavor without leaving an ashy hit for somebody at the end.

If the bowl is already lit, feel free to pass it, but let your passing buddy know the bowl is cherried.

Lastly, never pocket a lighter. Everyone hates a lighter thief!


Patrick Bennett and Pat Goggins contributed to this article.