Ganja Guides

Hookah vs Bong – What’s the Difference?

hookah and weed on table

Water pipes are a great choice for smokers looking to inhale smoother-tasting smoke. However, there isn’t just one type of pipe out there. Hookahs and bongs are some of the more popular water pipes used for smoking. However, they work a lot differently. Not only do hookahs and bongs vary in appearance, but they are also used to smoke different substances. Learning the differences between a hookah vs bong is important for anyone interested in pipes or those in the cannabis community.

Photo: Pexels

What is a Hookah?

A hookah pipe is a vessel that has been used for hundreds of years to smoke tobacco products. They originated in India and spread to the surrounding areas and then to the rest of the world. Now, hookah pipes can be found everywhere. They have recently become especially popular in the United States. For one, the pipe is great for social settings, as the hose attachment is long enough to pass across a table or couch.

hookah pipe
Hookahs like these can be easily put together and used at any social gathering (Source: Unsplash)

A hookah is a water pipe composed of several parts. The pipe itself is a vase-like chamber that fills with water. The base tapers upwards to connect with the stem of the pipe. On top of the pipe’s stem sits a large bowl that is filled with shisha tobacco, a pastelike smokeable. The bowl is covered with a hot plate. On top of the hot plate sits a pile of hot coals. With the heat emitted from the hot coals, the tobacco paste cooks and lets off smoke. You can then inhale the smoke from the hose that connects to the base of the hookah pipe, right above the waterline. Once you put together your hookah, fill the bowl with shisha, and get the coals hot, then you’ll be ready to inhale from the mouthpiece at the end of the hose.

What is a Bong? 

Compared to the complicated pieces and steps of setting up a hookah, setting up a bong is a much simpler process. A bong is a medium or large water pipe that is used to smoke cannabis or tobacco. Bongs are made of glass or silicone and have a base that connects to a long, thicker mouthpiece. At the side of the base is a downstem with a bowl piece that rests on top. Once the base of the bong is filled with water, you can simply ignite the weed inside your bowl and inhale the smoke from the top mouthpiece.

simple glass bong
Unlike hookahs, most bongs only have a few parts to them (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

If you want to learn even more about how a bong works, this article explores the ins and outs of everything you need to know about bongs. You can also browse our large selection of unique bongs, which come in a variety of price ranges. 

Similarities Between Hookahs Vs Bongs

There are a few similarities between these two vessels. First of all, hookahs and bongs are both water pipes that are popular amongst smokers everywhere. With both items, the water inside the base of the pipe filters the smoke for a smoother taste and better mouthfeel. In addition, both bongs and hookahs have bowls or chambers to hold tobacco or weed, connecting to a mouthpiece that you’ll inhale from. You can also purchase both types of pipes at any given smoke shop or head shop. Beyond that, though, you’ll find there are many more differences than similarities between a hookah and a bong. 

Differences Between Hookahs and Bongs

There are so many factors that separate the hookah and the bong, especially as they are typically used to smoke different plants. As described before, hookahs are more complex and have several detachable parts. On the other hand, a bong is typically comprised of a single unit except for the removable downstem and bowl. With a hookah, you’ll inhale the smoke from the hose mouthpiece, whereas with a bong you’ll inhale the smoke from the mouthpiece at the top of the bong itself. 

The two also are typically filled with varying smokeable plants that combust differently. With a bong, cannabis flower or dry tobacco burns inside a bowl in order to create smoke. On the other hand, a hookah is typically filled with shisha tobacco, a wet paste of tobacco mixed with molasses, glycerin, and sometimes honey or flavorings. The heat from the coals vaporizes the shisha tobacco. 

Using a Hookah vs Bong for Weed

In the end, a bong is the best choice for weed smokers, as a hookah is simply not made for smoking dry flower. Since hookahs require hot coals and wet shisha tobacco, this water pipe might not be the best purchase for a stoner who prefers weed instead of tobacco. While some people opt to mix a bit of ground cannabis into their shisha, the weed definitely doesn’t dominate the smoke in the tobacco mixture. Still, both make for an enjoyable experience.


About Olivia

Olivia, our Oakland-based cannabis guides writer, graduated from the University of California Berkeley with a Bachelor's degree in Interdisciplinary Studies. She's an independent writer, cannabis enthusiast and Sales Lead at her local dispensary. She's also a recent grad, history buff, and has a passion for animals. You can reach her at [email protected].