The Great Debate - Beakers vs. Straight Tubes
There are plenty of arguments among bong smokers when it comes to deciding what the ultimate design is. Extravagantly large bong or a small simple rig? Scientific glass or silicone? External ashcatcher or internal percolators?
If you want to throw your hat in the ring during these conversations, you gotta at least know the basics. What’s more basic than bong shapes? Plenty of base designs pop up every year with recyclers and dab rigs changing the game. But when it comes down to a simple ol’ water pipe, there are two designs that have been around from the beginning: beaker bongs and straight tubes. What’s the benefit of each and which one should you get for your setup? We explore the differences.
The Benefits of Beaker Bongs
Beaker bongs are based on the design of a lab beaker: the familiar flared out base that tapers into a (usually) straight neck. Beaker bongs combat the tendency of big bongs to fall over with a wide base and low center of gravity. This might be extra helpful for people looking to add ashcatchers to their setups since too much weight on the front of a straight tube bong can make it fall over.
An added benefit of beaker bongs is that because the base narrows towards the neck, it’s less likely for water to splash up into your mouth if you take a hard hit. Ice catchers are a common element incorporated into the necks of beaker bongs, making it all the more important for there to be a means of controlling how much water flies up at your face.
Because the bodies of these kinds of bongs are large they can fill up with plenty of dense smoke, meaning you don’t need to purchase a huge bong to get a big hit. If you’re looking for something relatively small that will still pack a big punch, beaker bongs are your best bet. Even the small ones can fit lots of water, so you can be sure that they do the job when it comes to filtering smoke emerging from the downstem. The Nucleus “Basics” 8” Full Color Beaker Bong is a great example.
The Case for Straight Tube Bongs
Straight tube bongs are exactly what they sound like: bongs that are straight cylinders.
You’d think that beakers would be an obvious choice for people looking for a water pipe stacked with percolators because of the extra space, but surprisingly not that many beaker bongs actually take advantage of that opportunity for filtration. Because of this, it makes more sense to go with a straight tube bong if you’re seeking one that really uses every level of the water pipe as an internal filtration device.
Percs of all sorts can fit into straight tube bongs, from removable downstems that sit near the base of the bong to honeycomb discs that can function as separators for the chambers in a bong’s body. UFO percs? Stick ‘em in. Showerheads? Sure. These not only work to block water from coming up at you, a common failing of plain straight tube bongs, they also create dense smoke in a small space and reduce the general drag within the piece. This means you don’t have to pull as hard on these kinds of bongs to get a big hit, which might make up for the space you’re missing out on by going with a straight tube bong over a beaker bong.
Some bong makers have figured out ways to avoid ice melt issues in straight tube bongs by using condenser coils as the neck. These glycerin-filled coils are freezable and allow smoke to pass through the cold pipes without creating the issue commonly plaguing ice-loving bonghitters: too much melted water. Ice catchers, while available in straight tubes, often end up overflowing the water chamber and resulting either in spills or splashback.
Read more about glycerin coils here.
So what’s better, beaker bongs or straight tube bongs? It’s hard to make a definitive decision considering that each performs better in different categories. As a rule, if you’re looking to build up your setup with ashcatchers, a beaker bong is the most stable choice. But if you’re hankering for internal filtration within the body of a water pipe, straight tube bongs can generally provide the best solution.
Scientific bongs now frequently meld the two options together. Modern designs have favored hybrid-style bodies that flare slightly into a larger cylindrical base, increasing the space and airflow within the bong without creating a too large or unwieldy base. Whether you’re going with one of these combinations or with either of the two originals, there are enough options available in all of these designs to make you feel comfortable with whatever choice you end up making.