So You Want to Pack a PerfectBowl of Marijuana?
One of the easiest and most popular methods of smoking cannabis is to pack a bowl. This is the act of loading cannabis into a pipe to smoke. Simpler than rolling a joint, this method of consumption is efficient, easy, and takes only minutes to learn. People have been packing bowls around the world from India to America for centuries, and now it’s your turn to learn!
Pipes, One-hitters, Bongs Oh My!
Pipes, like stoners, come in all different sizes and styles. Let’s go over the most popular ones you’ll encounter in your quest for the perfect bowl.
The glass hand pipe – Sold by the hundreds at smoke shops around the world these are glass, colorful pipes that can be held in one hand. They consist of a bowl, a carb (which is a hole to control oxygen intake), and the stem that you smoke through. A stoner staple, it’s best for newbies to start here.
One-hitter AKA Chillum – This is a small pipe often around the length of a cigarette. Unlike hand pipes, chillums are a cylinder that you pack your cannabis into one end of. Think of it as a straw. Same concept. These are perfect for those who only need a quick hit or want to discreetly and efficiently consume cannabis in public. A great add-on to any collection.
Bong AKA Water Pipe – These are an iconic stoner item. They’re made of a beaker, bowl, and occasionally a carb too. Think of them as a tokable vase: same shape. The cannabis smoke is pulled through a small amount of water at the bottom, cooling it and providing for what some say is an increased cerebral high. I love a good bong, but they are a larger investment. I would recommend them for the more experienced smoker.
All of these bowls will be packed in the same way, just at different amounts. So choose whichever you think is best for you. If you’re purchasing in person go ahead and ask the store clerk for recommendations.
The Perfect Bowl: Choose Your Cannabis Wisely
As with any and every time you consume cannabis you want to make sure it’s clean, tested, and appropriate for your personal needs. If you want a nice calming session look for lower THC with a higher terpene profile (the stuff that makes cannabis taste and smell good). This will help you avoid anxiety. If you’re not affected in that manner by cannabis go for that high-THC strain to get you super lifted. I’ve got a nice piece on the differences in strains that you should check out.
The Perfect Bowl: Grinding Your Cannabis
Unlike rolling a joint, when you pack a bowl you can leave your cannabis a little coarser. You can use a single level grinder, or pick up one with a separate compartment for capturing your kief (the trichomes that fall off during grinding) which is high-THC and can be put on top of the bowl or inside of a joint. If you can afford it I would recommend investing in a stainless steel grinder, not plastic or aluminum. Steel lasts longer and has less toxic qualities.
Once you choose your grinder, pack a small amount, which you’ll have to eyeball depending on your choice of pipe. If you couldn’t budget in a grinder you can use scissors or break up your bud with your finger. As always remember: you can grind more, you can’t grind less! Ok now that we have our cannabis ready grab your pipe it’s time to get packing.
The Perfect Bowl: Time to Pack it Up
The key to getting a great bowl is for it to burn correctly. For this to happen you need to have an even distribution of oxygen meaning the cannabis must be evenly distributed. To make it less complex, you want your bowls to be level, packed down, but not so tightly they’re hard to pull oxygen through. Most people recommend packing it lighter at the bottom and a little denser at the top. This is a great method, but you don’t need to master it right away. Practice makes perfect and the perfect bowl takes practice! Just start with a pinch and stop when you get almost to the top of your bowl. Then give a gentle press with your finger and presto! A nice yummy bowl to devour.
The Perfect Bowl: Time to Light Up
Now that you’re ready to smoke your perfectly packed bowl let’s go over some tips and tricks. The first hit always has the best flavor, and is traditionally given to the guest of honor in your circle, or the person who packed the bowl. However, it’s polite to “corner” the bowl when lighting it. All this means is that you light a small portion of the green, not the whole top. It’s commonly considered the courteous thing to do, and ignoring this standard will get you some funny looks.
**If you’re not smoking in a circle this doesn’t matter as much, and if you’re smoking a snap or from a chillum then it doesn’t really matter at all. Still, it can be a way to stretch the flavor of your bowl when you’re lighting up alone.
The Perfect Bowl: Inhaling the Good
Inhale slowly and deeply, using the carb to control how hot and fast it burns in a hand pipe. With a bong you should be even more cautious on the inhale. Not only is there water now available to accidentally slurp up, but you have to “clear the chamber” i.e. smoke anything left in the bong before another hit or passing it on. The most careful you’ll need to be is with a one-hitter or chillum. Since these are straight cylinders it becomes very easy to inhale the burnt crumbs of your cannabis as you smoke it. So enjoy the slow burn.
When your bowl is done you will notice a lack of any substantial weed crumbs and a light ashiness to the whole thing. The taste will also turn from cannabis to just charred and smokey. Some people smoke until the very ash is gone, known as “cashing the bowl” but most smokers opt to risk missing that final hit in favor of good flavor.
The Perfect Bowl: Keep it Clean
Now that you’re burning down bowls you’ll need to clean your piece. With glass hand pipes soak in 90% isopropyl alcohol and then add coarse salt and shake gently. This will remove that extra resin buildup. This method also works on chillums. Depending on how often you use your piece/your personal preference you can be cleaning once a month or once a week. I know people who clean after each session!
For bongs there’s a little more upkeep involved. Since you’re smoking out of water there’s more potential for bacteria growth. Gross! So clean your water every session, and use the same method mentioned above as often as you can to maintain a clean smoking environment. It’s a small time investment that keeps each session bacteria-free and delicious.
The Perfect Bowl: The Rules of the Circle
Now that you’re a pro-bowl-packer maybe you want to show off to some of your friends. So you’re going to need to know some basic rules of the smoking circle. This rules can vary from place to place, and some people have so-called “house rules” which they’ll request you follow. But if you’re flying free here are a few rules of etiquette:
Pass to the right, get in a fight – This just means the circle goes in a counterclockwise direction. This little saying saves you from the awkward question of who gets the next hit.
Corner your bowl – We went over this one earlier. Just a reminder!
Contribute to the smokeout – If you’re there be fair and share. Not everyone is bud-rich.
The Perfect Bowl: Wasn’t that easy!?
With bowl packing down you might want to spruce up your cannabis routine. There’s all sorts of smoke shop accessories you can purchase to do this. Like the hemp wick, a long hemp rope that you light and then use to burn your cannabis. Or screens for the bottom of your bowl to catch crumbs. You can also get pokers to clear your bowl, and different cleaning agents too. I recommend Scrubber Duckys, an adorable way to keep your bong fresh. In the meantime, sit back, throw a pair of these Swiftwicks on and enjoy the ride!
You are now on your way to being a bowl packing master! Just keep burning and practicing and soon it’ll be second nature.
Mary Jane’s Almanac
Overwhelmed by all the info out there? Check out this article for an intro to marijuana.
Want to read more about the opioid crisis and how Mary Jane can help? Be sure to Subscribe For New Content Notifications when new articles are posted!
I am not a doctor and this is not to be taken, interpreted or construed as medical advice. Please talk with a licensed medical professional about this or any conditions you have or may believe you have. The information in this article is provided as an information resource only. These are just my own personal opinions and not a prescription or a diagnosis or any form of health care whatsoever.
Last update on 2019-08-18 / I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.” / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API