Difference Between Bongs And Dab Rigs
5 min

What’s The Difference Between Bongs And Dab Rigs?

5 min

Bongs and dab rigs might look the same on the surface; they're both water pipes, right? But there are some key factors that set them apart. While both offer a great means to enjoy cannabis, they actually cater for different preferences. Let's take a look at what makes them unique from one another.

To the uninitiated, the terms “bong” and “dab rig” may seem interchangeable. However, several differences define them. But don't worry if you're a smoking novice; we all start somewhere! So, even if you have no idea of what distinguishes a bong bowl from a dab nail, or why one device requires a larger torch than the other, keep reading as we break it all down.

By the end, you’ll be clued up on your stoner paraphernalia to the extent that you can make a well-informed purchase, we assure you.

The differences between bongs and dab rigs

The differences between bongs and dab rigs

Traditionally constructed from glass, bongs and dab rigs are utilised to streamline the process of smoking and/or vaporizing cannabis (more on this distinction later). The most significant difference between the two is the kind of substance they are intended for.

Bongs are traditionally used to smoke dried flower, whereas dab rigs, sometimes called oil rigs, are used to vaporize concentrates—affectionately known as dabs. Dabs come in the form of oils, waxes, and other often-sticky substances. Moreover, dabs don’t sit in a conventional bowl, but rather in a heat-resistant holder known as a dab nail.

While both types of water pipes may look similar at first glance, the differences can be found in areas including design, function, use, potency, and more. With that in mind, let's take a look at how these devices vary.

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Herb vs concentrates: a note on potency

Herb vs concentrates: a note on potency

Before we explore the specific differences between bongs and dab rigs, it’s important to establish a clear distinction in potency between dry herb and concentrates. As the latter’s name suggests, concentrates are concentrated cannabis products containing significantly more cannabinoids by volume.

For comparison, a potent strain of herb will measure in at around 25% THC, whereas the average concentrate hits about 80% THC. So that’s one major distinction between bongs and oil rigs, even if it doesn’t have to do with the devices themselves.


Difference Between Bongs And Dab Rigs: Design

As mentioned, both bongs and oil rigs are typically made from glass, but this isn't the usual type you'd find in glassware. A temperature and shatter-resistant glass called borosilicate is favoured as the main material, and has proven to be highly reliable over the years.

Other materials, such as silicone, are used to manufacture bongs and oil rigs, but glass is by far the most sought-after choice.


Bongs tend to be comparatively larger than dab rigs, and feature one key component you will never find on an oil rig, and that's the bowl.

Bongs are also available in a wide variety of styles, such as straight, beaker, and round base. Although they vary in design, the fundamentals of their functions remain largely the same.

Bong anatomy

Dab rig

Traditionally, dab rigs are smaller in size than bongs. Not only does this offer greater portability, but due to the potency of dabs, a huge chamber isn’t required to achieve hefty hits. Instead, all of the necessary components are tightly contained inside the water chamber. On the outside, a dab nail (alternatively, a “banger”) is used to hold waxes and other concentrates. Inside the dab rig, you'll very likely find a percolator to cool the vapor produced.

Although the terms are often used interchangeably, the main difference between a dab nail and a banger is that the former is usually smaller in surface area and made of titanium, while the latter is larger in surface area and made of glass, quartz, titanium, or other materials. Bangers also tend to have more variation in price point.

Dab rig anatomy

Furthermore, it's not just glass dab rigs you can use; electronic versions—“e-rigs” or “e-nails”—are available too. They are battery-powered and don't require a torch to heat. They also allow users to choose a temperature setting, which is perfect for more delicate concentrates.

How they work

Difference Between Bongs And Dab Rigs: How they work

Both dab rigs and bongs rely on water to cool the smoke or vapor produced. Yet, whereas a bong relies on the combustion of dry herbs to produce smoke, a dab rig creates vapor by vaporizing concentrates on a heated nail.


Bongs are extremely simple to use. All that's needed is some finely milled dry herb, a little water, a conventional lighter, and you're good to go.

Start by filling the chamber with just enough water to barely submerge the downstem. Now, take your ground cannabis and tightly pack the bowl. Once packed in, light the herb and take small hits from the mouthpiece to get the smoke moving inside of the bong. You'll see the chamber filling with cloudy smoke that has passed through the downstem and water. The result is a smooth, cool pull that is packed with flavour.

Some bongs come with ice-catchers, allowing you to place cubes in the neck of the water pipe to further cool the smoke as it rises to the mouthpiece. It is this simplicity that makes bongs a hugely popular choice among cannabis consumers. Quick to set up and effortless to enjoy.

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Dab rig

Dab rigs work slightly differently. As mentioned, both utilise water as a means to provide cooler hits. Yet, an oil rig uses concentrates as opposed to herb. These concentrates can be produced at home using the collected kief from buds, or purchased from dispensaries, depending on your location.

To use a dab rig, fill it with a little water so the percolator is submerged. Now, take your dab torch and heat the nail until it’s red-hot. Dab rigs require a higher-powered flame than a traditional lighter (one you would use for a bong) can provide. Otherwise, heating up the nail would be very inefficient. Once red-hot, wait for the nail to cool for a few seconds and retain some of its original colour.

Next, locate your dabber tool. This is a necessary accessory that allows you to pick up small amounts of sticky concentrate to place on your dab nail, without getting it all over your fingers or something else. Using your dabber, transfer some concentrate from its container to the nail, and, with your mouth on the mouthpiece, inhale as the concentrate is quickly vaporized.

Like with a bong, the vapor travels through the cooling water before reaching your lungs, making for a smoother hit.

Smoke or vapor quality

Difference Between Bongs And Dab Rigs: Smoke or vapor quality

As bongs produce smoke, the hits are likely to be slightly harsher than those from a dab rig. Though the latter subjects concentrates to high heat, the lack of direct combustion produces vapor as opposed to smoke. Because of this, the hits can feel a bit smoother on the throat, though not always.


Although bongs produce smoke, the water in the chamber cools it, so it's not as harsh when it reaches the mouthpiece. Although specifically used with dry herbs, the type of strain and the overall quality of the flower will affect the quality of the smoke as well. Furthermore, bongs containing ice notches will enhance this cooling effect further, so you may not feel much discomfort on your lungs at all.

Dab rig

Dab rigs are equipped to deal with many types of concentrates. As soon as the wax or shatter makes contact with the hot nail, the product is melted and vapor is produced. In order to prevent heat and vapor from escaping the nail, some dab nails come with a carb cap, also known as dome. This allows you to experience optimal convection heating of your dabs for the highest-quality vapor.


Difference Between Bongs And Dab Rigs: Price

As with most things in life, price and budget will undoubtedly play a role in your purchase decision. Fortunately, many manufacturers of water pipes have recognised this and opted to produce products that cater for all price points. Of course, you can go extravagant and find an ornate gold-plated bong or high-tech e-nail, but cheaper glass models will more than do the trick. It really depends on what you're looking for from your experience.


With bongs made from ceramic, metal, silicone, glass, acrylic, and other materials, they can vary widely in price. For example, acrylic or silicone will be cheaper than a borosilicate glass bong. Not to mention, certain bongs contain many more features and add-ons than your average bong, such as multiple percolators, multiple chambers, and ice-catchers, giving them a significantly higher price point.

Dab rig

Glass dab rigs carry a similar price point to glass bongs, and can also vary in materials, style, and extra features. There are plenty of viable options out there for different budgets, but most long-term dabbers go for a sturdy glass model that can take the heat, so to speak. That said, these days, e-rigs and/or e-nails are becoming popular, as they allow you to take dabs on the go without a dab torch by your side. But as a result, these devices can be quite pricey.

Dab rig or bong: which should you choose?

Dab rig or bong: which should you choose?

So, which one do you go for? Well, only you can decide that. However, regardless of what you're looking to dip into, it's essential to set a budget and find a bong or dab rig that delivers what you're after. Whether you're just starting out or looking to switch up your smoking routine, there's something for everyone.

Fortunately, you don't have to travel far to get your pick of the finest water pipes around. Simply head over to the Zamnesia Headshop to take a look through our selection and get paired up with a device that won't let you down.

Adam Parsons
Adam Parsons
Professional cannabis journalist, copywriter, and author Adam Parsons is a long-time staff member of Zamnesia. Tasked with covering a wide range of topics from CBD to psychedelics and everything in between, Adam creates blog posts, guides, and explores an ever-growing range of products.
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