On the simplest level, the two things to need to keep in mind are: what the bowl is made of and how large the bowl is.
Most of the pipes you can find today are made of glass or silicone-bodied with a bowl made of glass, but you can even find scores of ceramic, stone, and even crystal pipes with metal bowls.
Every smoking pipe material has its own list of pros and cons, although once you see past them, it truly comes down to the aesthetics and how it retains heat. The best way to find out what your preferred material is to try each one and see firsthand what the pluses and minuses are.
Some prefer stone and crystal pipes because of the durability – but the metal bowl can be challenging.
Glass is the most popular because of the temperature control, as glass pipes are cool to the touch (even while lit), cleans easy, and come in a wider variety of shapes, colours, and sizes. The cons are, of course, glass can shatter with rough use.
Spoon pipes and hand pipes
If glass is your preferred medium, spoon pipes (those standard bulbous-headed bowls) and hand pipes (wizard pipes, sherlock, and others) are the most ergonomically designed to fit right in your hand. Both of these have an area for dry herb to be packed (the bowl) as well as what’s known as a cab – an airflow hole that you cover with your finger while hitting the bowl in order to restrict the flow of air.
These pipes are small, portable, and best for taking on the road. Wizard pipes, which have a long, extended shaft, are more prone to breaking and best left at home. A big pro of bulbous-bowl pipes like these is the cherry: where you light a bowl once, and the ember continues to spread throughout the bowl without needing to continuously relight it. Great for passing around and provides a longer session than a one-hitter would. Judging from convenience alone, it is easy to see why these kinds of designs are so popular amongst pipe smokers.
Typically, the largest hand pipes are steamrollers, which are designed to be straight-thought tubes with a bong-style bowl on top with a carb on the front. Steamrollers provide a larger-volume hit than traditional pipe bowls and are not necessarily a recommended choice for a novice smoker. If you’re an experienced smoker looking for something similar to a dry bong hit, a steamroller would be a perfect choice. They are a great candidate for the best dry tabletop pipe because they provide an opportunity for a large hit without being too bulky or prone to tipping over like a bong would. Plus, they offer a unique look to the popular spoon pipe or sherlock.
Stepping away from dry pipes, the world of water-bearing pipes, from hammer-style bubblers that lay on the mouthpiece to stand-up bubblers with a similar look to mini bongs. These pipes add an element of filtration through water, creating an opportunity to hit with a thicker, cleaner, cooler smoke. However, these are the least portable, are prone to tipping over and breaking. If you’re hitting this one at home – it may be worth looking towards a bong instead! A bubbler would be a great choice when looking for something between a bong hit and a dry pipe.
While the number of pieces available might be overwhelming, once you can understand the basic categories to fit what you’re looking for best, you will have no trouble narrowing down your desired glass. There’s something for everyone’s taste; whether you’re someone brand new or a seasoned smoker moving from paper to glass (and saving product in the process).