Difference Between A Dab Rig and a Bong

This article was made possible thanks to my friends over at DopeBoo.com, where you can shop 100s of glass bongs.

Bongs have been around for decades, but dab rigs are a bit of a newer innovation. To many people, they look like the same thing, and in some ways they are, but there are some important differences between the two.

The primary difference between a bong and a rig is what you smoke out of them. A bong is for dry herb, and a dab rig is for concentrates, but these aren’t the only differences. In this article, I’ll explain the difference between nails vs bowls, size of water pipes, unique functions of each, and using bongs and dab rigs interchangeably.

Nail VS Bowl

Of all the differences, this one is the most important. Whether a piece has a nail or bowl is truly the defining aspect as to whether it’s a dab rig or bong. For those who aren’t sure what I’m talking about, I’ve included some photos below.

A nail is heated up with a butane torch and concentrates are lowered on top of it. With a bowl, you pack it full of herb and ignite it with a regular lighter.

Also, expect to pay a bit more for a dab nail than you would for a bowl. Nails are made out of quartz glass, titanium, or ceramics which cost more and are more difficult to produce than your typical borosilicate glass bowls.


Size matters – or does it? I guess that’s for you to decide. Traditionally, dab rigs are smaller than bongs, and there are reasons for this.

A dab rig does not have a carb, and you can’t slide out the bowl like you can on a glass on glass bong. This means you have to clear the chamber by pulling air through the nail. This is a lot harder to do on a big bong than on a small rig.

Also, the flavor profiles of concentrates are kind of delicate. This is one reason why low temp dabbing has become popular. Many people like the flavor off a small rig, because it keeps the smoke (technically vapor) from clouding up too much and going stale. 


Some dab rigs and bongs are going to share the same functions, but there are some commonly used ones for each.

The recycling function a very popular option used almost exclusively on dab rigs – in this case, known as recyclers. Essentially, these rigs have two chambers that the water flows between. This allows your smoke to be constantly water cooled for smoother hits. It also usually works as a splashguard to keep you from taking a drink on your next hit. Here’s a picture of a recycler:

Percs (short for percolators) are something that are less often found on dab rigs, but are often found on bongs. They basically created an extra chamber within your water pipe to help filter the smoke.

Why don’t we often see as many dab rigs with percs? First, perc take up room so to add percs you have to increase the size of the pipe, which we already talked about. Secondly, most people do not want to over-filter their concentrates because you risk losing out on part of your flavor profile. Here’s a photo of a perc:

Can You Use a Dab Rig as a Bong and Vice Versa?

If you already own one type of water pipe then it’s understandable why you might want to be able to use it for both concentrates and herb. A dab rig can certainly be used as a bong, and a bong can also be used as a dab rig, but there are a few things you may want to consider.

First, you are going to need to change out the bowl for a nail or vice versa. If it’s not cleaned in between then you are probably going to get resin on your nail and reclaim on your bowl. Not a huge deal, but it is going to require a bit of extra cleaning in the end.

Also, If you only use a pipe for concentrates then you can pretty easily collect the reclaim. If you switch between concentrates and herb then you’re going to ruin the reclaim with resin. For this reason, I like to have separate pipes for each.

Thanks for reading! If you’re looking for smoking accessories don’t forget to check out dab rigs from the DopeBoo online head shop.

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