Beginner's Guide to Dab Rigs

beginner's guide to dab rigs
Even for the most seasoned bong-ripper, the world of
dab rigs can seem intimidating. While the simpler models can look like any old water pipe, dab rigs have their own totally separate set of tricks and features. Dab rigs rely on functions that are slightly different from a typical, basic dry herb bong.

Good Things Come In Small Packages

dab rig
To start, they’re usually smaller, and that’s for good reason. The hits off of dabs, which ideally are
vapor and not smoke, are much stronger than those from dry herbs. So don’t go expecting a foot long neck on a dab rig (although you’re still bound to run into a familiar beaker design). Standard rigs generally come in at about 8-11 inches depending on the design, but they get smaller than that. Nano rigs are becoming increasingly popular, but these under-8-inch pieces still pack a punch by often incorporating filtration technology features—like barrel percs or honeycombs—that are popular in taller rigs. Even cheaper rigs often come with at least a filtered downstem to help break down and cool the vapor coming in through the heated nail.

Recycling = Better Taste

Another popular design for a dab rig body is a recycler. A recycler has two chambers, the first of which has a filter or percolator in it and the second of which sits on top as a reservoir. The water and vapor travel together through both parts of the recycler to cool down the dab and create a smoother hit. In addition to looking cool, recycler dab rigs also have a number of functional benefits.

recycler breakdown

The second chamber lessens the likelihood of splashing water in your face no matter how hard you hit it (a plus, especially for low-temp dabbers), and using a multi-filtration system ensures that the vapor gets broken and cooled down before it reaches you. Because of how little air is let into the system, recyclers are known as one of the most efficient ways of consuming concentrates.

E-Rigs - They’re Electrifying!

There’s always the option of getting an e-rig.
E-rigs generally use a ceramic heating element connected to a power source (a battery for the portable ones, a wall plug for the tabletop kind) that heats a quartz element for the concentrate to go in. E-rigs take out the guesswork of getting the right temperature for your nail because of their pre-set temperature settings (either by degrees or a predetermined sets) and eradicate the need for a laser temperature gun. The nails on e-rigs heat up faster than traditional nails, even quartz ones, and are an ideal recourse for the precise dabber.

Can’t Dab Without a Nail

e-nailAnother crucial component of your dab rig is the kind of nail that you end up using. There’s a variety of options in this department too, meaning that you can find exactly the right kind of setup that works for you. The easiest selection, although it can get pricey, is an e-nail. E-nails work like e-rigs but without the body. They’re externally powered, so they heat up quickly and stay at the right temperature for longer than a typical nail.

Although they’re more convenient, plenty of folks want to keep their costs down and therefore go with typical nails, which are available in a surprising range of options. The material a nail is made of is crucial to the dabbing experience.dab nails

titanium nails have always been a popular choice for beginning dabbers, it’s generally frowned upon for its tendency to leave behind a metallic taste to the dab (suggesting that something is likely leaching into the concentrate from the nail). Glass and ceramic are other popular choices that don’t affect the taste of the dab as much, but both are prone to breaking. Quartz nails are no doubt the gold standard for dab nails, largely because of their physical resilience, their neutral taste, and their ability to maintain a steady heat.

banger nails Dab nails come in a surprising variety of designs. Quartz bucket nails, also known as bangers, are very popular for their durability and ability to evenly cook concentrate. They come in double-layered options known as thermal bangers, which are insulated and prevent concentrate from dripping into the joint of the piece. A similar design is used for honey buckets, which combine a regular banger with a built-in dome. If you’re looking for something simple, universal nails do the job with little required cleanup or effort. 

Not sure what nail suits you? Check out our Glossary of the Different Types of Nails.

Cap Off Your Dab Sesh with a Carb Cap

carb caps
Carb caps
and vapor domes are also important options for a dab rig setup. These help keep the airflow to your nail steady and limit the oxygen allowed to contact the concentrate. Each of these options has its own benefits and not all nails work with both or either. When it comes down to it domeless dabbing simply doesn’t offer as steady an experience—or hit—as covered dabs do. If you’re going to spring for a great dab rig body and nail, you’d be doing yourself a serious disservice not also picking up a carb cap.

Read more about why you should always cap your dabs.

Consider All Your Needs

While there are a lot of options available for dab rigs, a little knowledge under your belt will keep things from getting too overwhelming. Shopping for a rig should be fun, and when you enter the market as an informed consumer you’ll spend less time worrying and more time building the best dab setup you can think of.

dab rigs

If you want to just get your toes wet without committing a great deal of money, check out The Best Dab Rigs Under $75.

If you are completely lost on how to actually dab, take a look at our comprehensive guide.