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Learn about the homegrown roots of the old-school gravity bong, and how a new version can raise your smoking experience to new heights.

The New Gravity Bong

Not long ago, cannabis consumption was something to keep behind closed doors. Glass shops were sparse, smoking options limited, and any “respectable” person would keep their hobby to themselves for fear of judgment.

Today, fortunately, cannabis is undergoing a radical perception shift. As it has come out of the shadows and been legalized in state after state, new products have made marijuana and its accessories something to be proud of and show off, rather than hide when company comes over.

This is the story of the gravity bong, and how it went from a homemade aesthetic mess to a sophisticated and attractive piece of glass art.

What is a Gravity Bong?

Although they sound high-tech, in reality gravity bongs are some of the simplest smoking contraptions there are. They take advantage of gravity and create a vacuum that gently pushes large clouds of smoke into your lungs. 

These simple devices require two independent parts—a larger vessel like a bucket or deep bowl, and a smaller container, usually bottle-shaped, with an open bottom and a mouthpiece. This smaller part will also have a bowl for the dry herb.

The bucket is partially filled with water, and the smaller vessel placed inside. When the user lights their flower, it will start to fill the smaller container with smoke. As the cannabis burns, the user can partially lift the smaller container to create a larger void inside, thus filling it up with more smoke. When they’re ready to inhale, they will remove the bowl and lower the smaller container down into the water. By reducing its inner volume, the smoke has nowhere to go, except into the smoker’s lungs.

A Smokey History

The first intrepid forays into the gravity bong have unfortunately been lost to history. But it’s not ancient history. This smoking method hit the scene in the 1990s, perhaps as a reaction to and rejection of the decade’s ubiquitous “war on drugs” and anti-marijuana propaganda. 

What better way to stick it to the man than to invent a way of getting even more high?

The first gravity bongs were homemade, and many still are. These contraptions were often called bucket bongs, since they were made of nothing more than a bucket, a 2-liter plastic bottle with the bottom cut off, and an aluminum foil-wrapped bottle cap.

While these homemade bongs were functional, they weren’t the type of home decor that you’d want to leave lying around. Plus, hot smoke in a plastic bottle can release hazardous chemicals that users would then inhale. While the impacts of this exposure aren’t clear, smoking out of plastic is probably not the best health choice.

A better gravity bong was in order.

Enter the Gravitron.

A New Way to Smoke

At a kitchen table in Austin, Texas in 2004, Dave Daily was working on scaling up his version of the gravity bong. He’d started making them in college, and after a few soul-sucking years in subprime home mortgages, he decided to turn his invention into a true business venture.

It was called the Gravitron. Made entirely from glass, it was a cleaner, more “grown up” alternative to the homemade gravity bong—even though technically, it was still homemade at the time. This was a new smoking device that you wouldn’t be embarrassed to have out on the kitchen counter. It was assembled from a glass bottle with the bottom removed, a vase to hold the water, and a glass bowl for the cannabis. 

His new company was called GRAV Labs (now just GRAV). The Gravitron was the flagship product in what would become a catalog of over 300 products—mostly glass-based pipes, bongs, and bubblers with a clean, modern aesthetic.

The Gravitron’s Sweet Seventeen

This year, the Gravitron has received a facelift in honor of its 17th birthday. While the appearance has stayed sleek, these upgrades make for a more pleasant smoking experience.

The GRAV team started by increasing the thickness of the borosilicate glass by a factor of five. It’s heavier and less fragile now—a good thing, since this type of water bong is popular at parties. The bottle also has an updated platinum cured silicone grommet. It’s silky smooth and makes a nice tight seal against the bottom of the vase.

A flange atop the bottle makes the glass mouthpiece more comfortable for inhaling, and provides a lip to grip when you lift the bottle out of the water. With a 14mm female ground joint on the medium size and a 19mm joint on the large, these are compatible with any 14mm or 19mm male bowl. (But if you don’t have one, don’t worry—it comes with one as well.)

It was already the first glass gravity bong. Now it’s the best gravity bong, too.

As cannabis use becomes more and more widespread, the innovations in this space will only continue. It will be exciting to see what GRAV and other glass pipe manufacturers come up with next.

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