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What is Dabbing?

March 19, 2020 4 min read

What is Dabbing?

Today it seems like everyone and their mom are switching over to dabbing. A huge draw to the 710 lifestyle is that with the introduction of dab pens and portable options, it is much easier to smoke dabs than ever before. Most pot smokers choose cannabis concentrates since they are often four times or more potent than bud. The sky-high potency levels make dabs a much more desirable way to get baked as fast as possible and a preferred method for smokers who have built up a high tolerance level. Obviously, dabbing is not for those new to cannabis and marijuana smoking (make sure you’re seated for your first dab). So what exactly is dabbing and how do you smoke dabs? 

How to dab

Unlike normal weed and the usual joint, dabbing is the process of smoking marijuana concentrates. Concentrates are extracted from the cannabis plant and flowers via CO2, butane, propane, or ethanol. To be consumed, these concentrates need to be heated to extreme temperatures, much hotter than flower, in order to vaporize. If you want to get into dabbing, there are two options to choose from: table top dab rigs which require a torch, or a more high-tech dab pen or e-rig, which has a built in heat source.

What is a dab rig? 

This type of water pipe is one of the first ways created used to conveniently smoke concentrates. A dab rig is a water bong similar to a normal bong except that in place of a bowl there is a nail. Nails are specially designed pieces that hold concentrates so you can heat them evenly at very high temperatures. The rest of the dab rig works exactly the same as a bong with a water chamber for filtration, a mouthpiece, splash guards, and even features like recyclers and percolators. Just like with normal bongs, these features help aerate, filter out contaminants, and cool down the smoke before it is inhaled. This may all seem overwhelming, but once you practice and get over the learning curve, you can show off your great tasting dabs to your friends.

What do I need for a dab rig?

  • Cannabis concentrate
  • Dab tool
  • Carb cap
  • Titanium, glass, or quartz nail
  • Butane torch

How to use a dab rig:

  1. Fill the base with water so that any percolators are just covered. If your dab rig has an ice catcher you can also fill it with ice cubes for colder vapor.
  2. Using a dab tool, prepare a tiny amount of your concentrate of choice. See below for help with dab dosing.
  3. Heat the nail directly with your butane torch until it turns cherry red and put on your carb cap. Allow titanium nails to cool for 10 seconds and quartz nails to cool for 45 seconds before adding your concentrate.
  4. After the nail has cooled, place your concentrate on the surface of the hot nail using your dab tool.
  5. That’s it, time to inhale! Remember to let the nail and other heated elements cool completely before touching them.

What is a dab pen?

Dab pens, portable dab rigs, and e-rigs are great for traveling and for avid dabbers who want precise control over the temperature of the nail. These products are made specifically for smoking concentrates and are essentially electronic versions of a normal dab rig. Smokers find dab pens to be less messy and much quicker to use since there is less cooling and reheating time needed. These smart rigs heat concentrates to the same temperature each time giving you the best tasting dabs possible every time. Dab pens are also less dangerous than dab rigs since there are no exposed heat elements or torch required. If you’re looking for a high-quality portable dab rig, the Puffco Peak and KandyPens Oura are popular choices. We’ve compared the two brands in our Portable Dab Rig Buying Guide.

Puffco Peak

Choosing a cannabis concentrate

There are countless types of concentrates out there and smokers usually have their go-to products. Concentrates are categorized by their extraction method and certain characteristics such as consistency. Each type tastes different and can be easier or harder to work with. Since there are dozens of concentrates to choose from, it can be difficult to wade through the options. Shatter, which looks like a glass shard, is well-known for being easy to use, so it’s a great choice for beginners to the 710 life. These are a few of the most common concentrates you’ll come across at the dispensary:

  • Butane hash oil (BHO)
  • Rick Simpson oil (RSO) - mainly for medicinal purposes
  • Shatter
  • Crumble
  • Wax
  • Sap
  • Budder
  • Kief or sift
  • Hash
  • Rosin

Dab dosing

It can be quite a challenge to dose each dab, particularly with waxes and crumbles which are harder to section. Portioning can be done by heating up your dab tool and slicing the concentrate like butter, though not all are that simple to work with. If you are just starting out, choose shatter which is easy to manipulate. For reference, most marijuana concentrates have between  60% and 90% THC. Read the label to get accurate information and try to portion your gram (or other quantity) accordingly. For example, if you have a gram that is 60% THC, try to portion it out into six equal pieces so you’ll have roughly 100mg portions. Then as a general guide, try to pull a piece the size of a single couscous or half a grain of rice for one dab. If you are only used to smoking bud, the effects of dabbing will be very jarring at first because of the potency, so start out slow (sitting down) and adjust dosage according to your tolerance level.

It’s time to get your dab on! For dab rigs, carb caps, dab tools, and other dabbing accessories, check out our affordable online headshop.


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