When you’re selecting a pipe, it’s okay to be shallow. Ask yourself first whether you like its appearance, its shape, its staining, and its sandblasting. If these matters don’t suffice, no amount of quality will matter: In your eyes—literally—the pipe will always be lackluster.
With that in mind, let’s say you’ve stumbled upon several pipes that look appealing to you. How should you make a decision? It’s time to consider the mechanics—how you prefer to smoke.
It’s an imperfect activity, smoking. It doesn’t always go smoothly, and each of us deals with our own occasional annoyances. If you smoke hot and sometimes burn your tongue, look for a pipe with a long stem. This gives the smoke more time to cool. (Think Sherlock Holmes.)
If you have sensitive hands, and your pipes often feel uncomfortably hot, go for a bowl with a wide outside diameter. Dublins are wide at the top; eggs in the middle; and volcanoes at the bottom. All these include a spot with thick walls—safe and comfortable to grab.
Consider also when, where, and why you like to smoke. Do you like to smoke while you read? While you relax? While working on your computer? If you’re a multi-tasker, we recommend a bent pipe, to keep the bowl out of sight. If you prefer to smoke as a singular activity, you may enjoy a straight pipe that is meant to be held in your hands while used.
Of course, budget factors into the equation as well. Which choices are practical, and which practical option—of which you should have several—is the most practical of all? Pay attention to bargains, prioritize your desires, and balance the pros and cons. Some pipes that sell around $30-40 can smoke quite well. Then again, a pipe that just feels right, even if it seems a little expensive, may simply be a must-have.
Make sure you clench and test any pipe before you buy it. Hold it in your mouth, not just your hand, and see how your jaw likes it. Think long and hard before spending a considerable amount of money, because a lot goes into these devices, more than it seems.