By Smoke Cartel Crew on Mar 17, 2014

That’s the world’s first smoker’s choice, water pipe or hand pipe. Why? Because water pipes have been around about as long as regular hand pipes have. These tools both date back more than 10,000 years with archeological evidence to back that up.

But which is better? Wet or dry pipe?

Well, as with everything, it depends on need and personal preference. However, with advances in smoking technology and ramped-up production of glass smokeware in the last decade since (re)legalization began, the list of differences between water pipe and dry pipe is getting smaller.

Global smoke shop supply

One of the best things about seeing legalization come to life is the innovation that has come with it, both in the leafed and leafless sides. Today there are global suppliers of quality glass smoking gear, with cheap Chinese labor keeping prices competitive.

That’s not the only thing to change.

Back in the 1980s, walking into a dispensary to choose between dozens of expertly-grown strains was only a dream. Also in the 1980s headshops, cheap borosilicate glass smokeware was not a thing.

The best we could do in the darkest days of prohibition was pretty crappy inventory (cheap glass water pipes that shattered when they broke, or cheap acrylic bongs with aluminum bowls and downstems), no at-home delivery, and very limited selection. Steel, stone, aluminum or plastic; those were the best options.

Most of the manufacturing was done in small batches in the United States and supply chain was weak. Law enforcement spent countless manpower hours and millions of taxpayer dollars to try and harass, intimidate and shut down head shops.

Growth of glass happened fast

Today the story is completely different. Cheaply produced, high end glass delivered right to your door means a variety of new possibilities in both bongs and pipes. Artists can finally make beautifully decorative and highly functional pieces at the same time.

Yes, China will pirate that material and sell it at prisoner wage rates, but innovation has changed nearly every smoking tool for the better.

This renaissance in American glass artistry producing high end smoking gear hit at the end of the 1980s. This new enlightenment finally brought together great heat handling and incredibly durable, cheap glass. Borosilicate was great for pipes as well as kitchen wares!

The growth in the leafless cannabis space (paraphernalia) coincided with computer-aided supply chain management of the late 80s and early 90s too. With the exodus of North American manufacturing in the 90s, the way became clear for cheap Chinese imports.

Artistry and powerful production

Artists kept developing new ways to produce colorful boro glass art that coincided with growth in the leafless space. This meant new styles, designs, bowls, nails, downstems, and especially percs, in all size pipes.

In the Bong corner, weighing in at anywhere from a lightweight pound to weightlifting proportions, we have straight tubes, bent necks, pass-through, faberge, swiss perc,

Many pipes can now cross the line between wet and dry pipe. Some can do either! Concentrates too!!

There are new styles like fancy faberge egg shapes, designed for swirling smoke, cooling it while interior percs channel tight stream of water, “percolating” bubbles and condensing smoke into tighter hits.

Prices were down and innovation was up.

Computers had boomed, people actually came together, rallied for legalization (which is now sweeping the world, changing it once again) and high competition and glass artistry resulted in beautiful smoke shops and dispensaries in broad daylight! You could actually say the word, “Bong!” with an an exclamation point!! Two even!!! And not get caught by the thought police!

water pipes and hand pipes to rival any rig. If you want, you can have a water pipe discreetly nearby at any given time.

Dry smoking pipes, though, are what most connoisseurs prefer.

So once heat handling and durability were brought together in smoking paraphernalia, borosilicate glass artistry prompted even greater innovation by American artists. This became possible because borosilicate could also deliver startling colors and effects.

Worked boro glass

So glass smoking goods rose greatly in quality and quantity in as fairly short time frame. For about a decade, these imports flooded the market killing most American glass manufacturers except for the artists.

People are really attracted to the look of boro glass, but what does that have to do with the difference between dry pipes and water pipes? Well, as I stated up front, the differences are growing smaller all the time.

Now you can have very small pipes, like hand pipes, that are clearly designed with a water chamber. You can also have a water pipe with built in accoutrements like ashcatching screens and portable, self-standing designs.

In short, the main difference between a water pipe and a pipe for dry herb is the filtration. Water naturally filters out ash from bud burnt with combustion, keeping debris from ever entering your mouth. Some feel the smoke is also filtered somewhat although there is little evidence this is true. Still, water also cools smoke and condenses the particles making it easier to choke down a huge hit.

Likewise, some pipes can also have built in percs which cool smoke before being inhaled. Some hand pipes can even have water chambers for filtration. There is the argument that any filtration takes away from flavor, so some smokers who consider themselves purists, light their dry pipe bowls with hemp wick and prefer dry smoke for the flavor.

So the differences between water pipe and hand pipe are getting fewer. Still, the question is, how portable do you want to be, and how much filtration do your want? It comes down to personal choice.


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About the Author

Smoke Cartel - Online Headshop

Smoke Cartel Crew

Written by the staff here at Smoke Cartel. Our passionate team of headshop professionals are dedicated to educating people on products in the online headshop industry, from glass, to vaporizes, and all the consumption devices and accessories in between.

We believe that knowing how your products are made, what they were originally designed for, and how to properly use them - is essential to keeping our customers happy. If you have any questions at all, don't hesitate to reach out to us!

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