How to Pack a Bowl (Smoking for Dummies)

Posted by Dr. Dan Kush on

So, you want to smoke some flower. But, you don’t know what the hell you’re doing, and you’ll get bullied for asking somebody.

Have no fear. Every stoner remembers their first sesh. It can be a beautiful thing, when executed correctly. This how-to guide will walk you through the entire process start to finish. For the purposes of this article, we’re going to assume you just landed here from an alien planet and have no clue how to even begin. We’re also going to assume you are smoking CBD flower with no THC, as that is the only thing you can legally smoke with any of our products in the great state of Georgia where we are based.


Hand Pipe

First thing you’ll need is a hand pipe.

Hand pipes (also referred to as bowls or spoons) are dry pipes that are the simplest of all smoking vehicles. The design is very straightforward, and always utilizes the same internal structure— even if the outward build of the pipe is different.

It works using three holes and a bowl (also the name of my favorite Pornhub video). The first hole is at the base of the bowl. The second hole is at the end of the mouthpiece. The third hole is usually on the left side, and it’s called a “carb.” These three holes regulate the airflow of combusted herb into your mouth.

For this reason, pretty much anything can be a hand pipe. That’s why you see people smoking out of things like apples, potatoes, and carrots. It may be incredibly unpleasant to do so, but it is possible thanks to the simplicity of the engineering.

When the herb is ignited in a bowl, breathing in through the mouthpiece like a straw will begin the flow of smoke into your mouth.

The carb hole is a little trickier— as you begin inhaling, place your thumb over the carb, then release it as it burns. Continue covering and uncovering the carb with your thumb to aid the flow of air and combustion of the herb. Once you get an idea of how the air is flowing through practice, you will begin to intuitively use the carb without even thinking about it.

There is more than one style of pipe. For a comprehensive rundown, check out this video.


Next thing you’ll need is a grinder.

A grinder is how you take the nugs of herb and break them down into optimal particles for smoking. Ideally, you want a medium grind.

Herb is loaded into the first level of the device. It will have protrusions and holes, like a big strainer. As the lid is twisted, the herb is broken down and filters into the second level once it’s the ideal grind. The second level is the chamber which holds the smokeable particles. That will be your reservoir for loading the bowl.

Some grinders have a final level which strains the even finer particles— a sand-like dust called “kief.” Kief is just a little treat that accumulates slowly through multiple grinds and is extremely potent, as it is a collection of some of the most potent trichomes of the herb.

Many people simply sprinkle it on top of their loaded bowl like parmesan cheese on a plate of spaghetti. But you do a whole bunch of other sh*t with kief that would be a completely different article.


Pretty simple. Or is it?

It can be difficult, especially at first, to get over the fear of getting burned when you light the bowl. Luckily, there are plenty of lighters out there that make the actual act of igniting dry herb much more comfortable.

Just, whatever you do, don’t get a white lighter. There is a strong superstition in the world of smoking against white lighters. 


STEP 1: Open the lid of your grinder and place a nug or two inside. Close the lid. Make sure it closes completely.

STEP 2: Twist the grinder. To be thorough, you can begin making several full rotations clockwise, then reverse and start making rotations the opposite direction. You’ll be able to feel the resistance as the grinding process runs its course.

Once you feel that you’re not getting any more resistance, open up the top chamber and check on the status. If there’s no herb left, you’re done. If there is, reposition the lid, and continue grinding.

STEP 3: Open the second layer of your grinder. Contrary to the top level, this one screws into place like a bottle cap. Unscrew it, and you should see a reservoir of ground herb.

STEP 4: Load the ground dry herb into the bowl. You want to pack the bowl a bit shy of the brim. Don’t pack it too tightly, as that will restrict airflow.

STEP 5: Light the bowl. If you're using a standard Bic lighter, invert the lighter at a diagonal angle. Make sure you are inhaling as the lighter is lit so that flame is constantly pulled downwards away from your finger. Keeping it diagonal, steadily inhaling, and holding the flame downwind should prevent it from licking your finger. Don't keep the lighter lit for too long, otherwise the metal bit will get too hot.

Don’t torch the entire thing from the center as hard as you can. Start by just licking the edges with the flame.

As you light the herb, hold your finger over the carb and inhale gently. As you inhale, release the carb, then cover it and re-cover it as airflow dictates.

STEP 6: The biggest reason people have underwhelming or ineffective seshes when they’re first starting out is because they do not properly inhale the smoke. Here’s a good trick:

Once you feel you have inhaled a full hit, before exhaling, inhale again for a second time. The smoke needs to reach and fill your lungs. If it doesn’t, nothing is going to happen. Many people smoke for the first time and find that it was ineffective as the smoke never actually got past their mouth and throat.

If you’ve never smoked before, you will most definitely cough. Dry herb smoke can be very harsh even for seasoned veterans. Rest assured this and some dryness in your throat and chest following the hit is completely normal.

For this reason, know that a bigger hit isn’t necessarily better, and could cause you to have a very difficult time physically. Take it very slow and steady. A tiny hit that actually reaches your lungs is always better than a huge hit that you immediately cough out.

STEP 7: Repeat STEPS 5-7 until you have smoked yourself out to your satisfaction or the bowl is “cashed” (all plant matter has been fully combusted). Combusted plant matter is usually gray ash.

Like I said, take it slow. For first timers who inhale correctly, it may be very powerful, if not overwhelming. As with anything you put in your body, start small, see how you react, and if you feel comfortable, gradually move up.

Remember: you can always have more, but there’s no going back once you have too much.

STEP 8: If you didn’t smoke the whole bowl, save it for later. If you did, empty out the ash.

Eventually, you’ll have to clean your pipe— here’s a guide for how to do that.


Here are some troubleshooting questions to ask if you have an unsuccessful sesh.

  • Did you inhale properly?

  • Was your herb finely ground enough?

  • Was your bowl packed too tightly?

  • Is your pipe too dirty?

  • Are any holes clogged?

  • Did you ignite enough material?


Here's a guide for that, too.


It sure is. Welcome to the club.

Watch Next

Continue Reading

How to Roll a Joint

Up Next

How to Roll a Joint

By Smoke Cartel

6 Minute Read

Previous Article

What is a "510 Threaded" Vape Battery?

By Dr. Dan Kush

3 Minute Read