The perfect water pipe is truly in the eye of the beholder. For some people, this can mean a 20 inch tower of percolation power. For some it's just a small bubbler with some funky, colorful glass. No matter your style, there are some things you should be looking for in your new water pipe, and this is particularly huge for newbies that are just getting into the game. So, without further adieu, let's get to it:
Yep, it's a basic concept, for sure, but it can make a difference. The larger your water pipe, the more smoke it can hold, which can lead to some truly monster hits.
On the other hand, something smaller and portable can be handy to have around, and frankly, can be far more discreet. Not everyone wants to have their pipe out at all times, and the ability to stow a smaller piece (like 14" and under) is far, far easier than a larger piece. The fact is, in some closets, a pipe larger than 16" can be incredibly difficult to place on a shelf.
It's all about your taste. While a shorter (12" and under) can work well as a handheld pipe, a 16" double honeycomb'd beauty like this probably won't be a one hander.
A final note on height revolves around ash catchers: do you have one, and if so, a pipe under 10" could make it very tough to use. Some ash catchers are 6-8" tall, so a shorter pipe may not have the clearance. Keep this in mind when you buy, as using an ashcatcher is a great bonus which can not only keep your pipe super-clean, but it can also add some sweet, sweet diffusion.
Does it make a difference what kind of mouthpiece a water pipe has in terms of usability? Not incredibly so. But some people just like different things. So you probably should determine which kind of mouthpiece you like, one with a thick mouthpiece (and neck), or a thinner mouthpiece.
One of the bonuses of a thick mouthpiece and water pipe neck is that you can add some nice extras, like an ice pinch, as an example. This 14" water pipe has just that, and has your classic straight neck.
People love the thick neck because it's just so damn ol' skool. It's a classic design that anyone can get behind.
Thin Can Be Beautiful
Yep, when it comes to neck size and mouthpiece, there's no need to go big. This Klein Incycler, as an example, is an absolute vision, and has a bent neck and much smaller mouthpiece than the one above. Same with this 9" bent neck water pipe. Both, as you can see, are quite attractive. It's simply a matter of what you prefer.
Seeing as we're talking size, it's time we talk about something that is absolutely critical to your buying decision: joint size.
Your Choices: 10, 14 and 18mm
For some people, joint size may not mean a lot. You may be just a casual glass buyer looking for a pipe, and you'll probably never buy another. Not so fast: remember that 14mm and 18mm are basically industry standards when it comes to waterpipes. 10mm, less so.
This is important when you're talking about glass, because yes, it does break. Even the monstrously thick glass water pipes from Thick Ass Glass are not indestructible. So you can imagine just how breakable the smaller, detachable pipe accessories are.
Male or Female
It's a bigger decision than you think to choose between a male or female joint, but we'll sum it up. Typically, people looking to use their water pipes for legal concentrates tend to use male ends, simply because most nails and domeless nails are female. Meanwhile, legal herb smokers tend to like female ends, which helps both with ash catchers and the slide.
If you use a slide with your water pipe, you will definitely need to know its size. This is because these items come in all sorts of shapes and sizes (which works with whatever esthetic you have), and also because they are typically the first thing to break. These can be dropped quite easily (despite TAG's handy handle built in to most of its slides), and when it breaks, you're going to need to know how to replace it. Obviously, a 18mm slide is not going to fit a 10mm pipe.
Do you absolutely, positively need an ash catcher for your water pipe? Well, no. But if you don't get one, you're probably going to be putting a lot of maintenance into keeping your pipe clean. What's more, if you have percolators in your pipe, it's going to be even tougher to clean. This is why an ash catcher, especially for a frequent user, is almost a must: you want your glass to be as beautiful as the day you bought it, and an ash catcher helps keep it that way.
Now, when it comes to choosing an ash catcher for your pipe, remember that 18mm catchers are your most common, followed by 14mm, and then finally, with not a ton of options available, the 10mm.
It all breaks down to this: understand that if you want the most options and potential accessories for your pipe, you're going to need an 18mm joint. These are just standard, and also allow for the best experience overall.
Oils Or Legal Herbs - What's Your Usage?
If you plan to focus most of your smoking on legal concentrates, obviously you're going to want to go with something along the lines of an oil rig. Our dab rigs page is here.
These rigs tend to feature male joints, as most concentrate accessories tend to be female, meaning they fit over the joint. The need for an ash catcher is less with concentrates as well, as they do not leave much in the way of ash or residue (they tend to vaporize with heat). So if this is what you're looking for, a rig with a male end is where you want to go.
With legal herbs, however, a female end is almost always recommended. And while you can use most oil rigs with legal herbs, typically it's not recommended without an ashcatcher, especially if it's equipped with percolators.
Female joints tend to be most for legal herbs, and the ability to accessorize is the absolute boss. This double honeycomb ash catcher, as an example, is a bomb way to add a ton of percolation and diffusion to your pipe without breaking the bank. Obviously, there are many additions to consider, and each can make your smoking experience better.
Our percolation page is here. This is something many people don't even consider when buying a water pipe, but oh how it changes the experience. Let's not repeat the whole article, but sum up the key points. An important point you should remember is that percolators with massive diffusion can create "drag", or basically make it harder to suck the smoke from the pipe. Drag is not a major concern with most TAG pipes, but it can make a difference. So here are our fave percs:
The Fritted Disc
Easily the MASTER perc in our opinion, this perc consists of thousands of shards of glass glued together to create pathways for the smoke to go through. More pathways equal more diffusion. Just a genius pick, but may feature drag.
These tend to be pretty standard for all manufacturers, although TAG has taken to changing the dynamic a bit by using a hex hole honeycomb perc in this pipe. These are basically discs with about 100ish holes in them that diffuse the smoke. Easier to clean, less drag, but also less diffusion than a Fritted.
Multi-Arm Tree Percs
Another classic style, TAG's water pipes with tree percs are available with anywhere from 6 to 24 arms! Each arm typically features a few slits along the bottom to increase diffusion. These can also create drag, but it's typically similar to that of a honeycomb.
Showerhead percs gain their name because they typically look like a showerhead. For many of TAG's pipes, this often looks like an inverted cup with slits along the bottom. Again, this is a mid-range kind of perc that is not very limiting either drag or in your ability to clean your piece. What's more, this kind of perc is typically combined with another, such as this beautiful 12" Interior Showerhead to Honeycomb pipe. Just a classic medium neck design, and frankly one of our faves. Definitely recommended for people dipping their toes into the percolation arena.
The Choice Is Yours
If you're a water pipe newbie, hopefully the article above was helpful. Meanwhile, if you're an experienced smoker, we hope this helped you hone in on exactly what you're looking for. Choosing a water pipe online is very simple to do, but because you can't touch the pipes, there are things you should always be thinking about before you make a decision.
Although many of these things may seem like a "given", it's always surprising how many of us forget how the little things can strongly shape the smoking experience. So, now that you're armed with this knowledge, check out our waterpipe page!