Beginners Guide to Dabbing

Compared to puffing on a joint, dabbing seems like rocket science. The art of dabbing has more components to it than merely flicking a lighter and pulling on a pipe. Still, if you’re a serious “connoisseur,” then you must get around to trying a dab at some point.

Dabbing is great, it’s an entirely new THC delivery system – well, sort of anyway. You’re still breathing in smoke, but instead of using flowers, you’re smoking extracts like wax and shatter instead. Handling and dabbing extracts require a few more pieces of equipment than you’re used to using.

Nails, rigs, carb caps, torches – we’ll unpack everything you need to know about the dabbing essentials required to get you high. So, put down that overpriced vape cart, and read through these dabbing essentials.

The Rig

Your dabbing rig is the centerpiece of your equipment, and all the other essentials form around this key piece. A dab rig is a modified water pipe, similar to a bong. However, a rig might have certain other aspects to it that you won’t see on other water pipes.

You might find a percolator attached to the internal pipeline, providing a smoother hit. The neck will typically also feature a bend, allowing you to keep the rig level as you take a hit. The bowl is where you’ll notice the most significant design difference on your rig.

Instead of using a typical glass bowl connector as you use on your bong, you get a female or male joint made from glass. This joint holds the “nail,” which we’ll get into in a moment.

Choosing the right rig for you is about matching your smoking habits and your smoking situation. You get platforms that are huge pieces designed for occasional use, as well as daily drivers that are smaller and more convenient to handle.

We recommend you go with a quality glass model. You can find plenty of dab rigs under $100, and we recommend looking at a cheaper platform. Rigs are glass, and glass breaks. If you’re one of those guys or gals that breaks bongs regularly, then look for more affordable dab rigs under 50.

The Nail

The nail sits on the male or female joint of the rig, and it’s the part that you heat to vaporize the concentrate. The two best types of nails available are titanium and quartz, otherwise referred to as “bangers.” Make sure you avoid nails made with borosilicate glass nails. These nails shatter under the intense heat of the torch, especially with prolonged heating times.

The dabbing community is at loggerheads to decide whether the titanium or quartz nail is the best option. Consensus shows that most dabbers believe the quartz version offers the best performance. However, most people can use them interchangeably without really noticing any difference in performance. There is some speculation around titanium oxidation at high temperatures, and the metal also tends to degrade with improper handling.

Titanium is sturdy and resilient to drops, whereas quartz might break on impact with the floor. Some manufacturers also offer composite combination quartz and titanium nails to give you the best of both worlds. Quartz is also somewhat more expensive, with a nail costing an average of between $150 to $200. Titanium versions are around $50 to $150, depending on the brand.

For those tech enthusiasts out there, investigate an “E-Nail.” This nail allows for variable temperature selection using an electric heating element. It’s a good choice for dabbers that want more flavor out of the hit. However, e-nails can be expensive, with some models costing as much as $300 to $500.

The Carb Cap and Dabber

A dabber is a tool that places your dab into the nail for evaporation. Back in the day, people would use all types of steel tools as a dabber, from dentistry equipment to sculpting tools. Today’s modern dabbers have dual-use ends.

The one end features a spoon, which is ideal for picking up loose dabs that don’t stick to the dabber. The other side features a point, making it the better choice for picking up soft bits like shatter and budder.

The carb cap is another instrumental piece of equipment for the dabbing experience. After heating the nail, it might be sitting at around 900+ degrees. Suckling down that hot vapor into your lungs is not a great idea. It’s better to cover the nail with the carb cap and let the heat drop a bit before you take your first hit.

The carb cap allows you to dab at lower temperatures, maximizing the flavor from the terpenes. The carb cap also acts as a clutch, allowing you to build more heat in the nail as it starts to dissipate.


Unlike a bong where you can hit it with a lighter, a dab rig needs you to use a torch to heat the nail. Heating a pipe with a torch might conjure up some intimidating images of using hard drugs – but we sure know that it’s not anything like the same experience.

The torch helps the quartz or titanium nail reach the temperature necessary to vaporize the extract. Trying to do that with a lighter will take hours. With a torch, you have a sizzling hot nail ready to go in under a minute.

Depending on the utility and size of the torch, you could pay $30 to $100. Remember to pick up some extra butane gas when buying your torch.

Dab Mat

Dabbing can be a messy affair. You have hot extracts, and they can end up on the surface around the base of the dab rig. To avoid turning your coffee table into a sticky mess, we recommend you invest in a dab mat to keep things clean.

A silicone baking sheet makes an affordable dab mat that’s easy to clean. Keep some isopropyl alcohol under the kitchen sink to help you remove the sticky oil from the mat when cleaning.

Get Your Gear and Get Dabbing!

Visit our shop and have a look at the range of dab rigs, nails, and accessories they have on display. Dabbing doesn’t have to cost you a fortune, and there are plenty of dab rigs under $50 to help you start your dabbing adventures.

Experiment with different nails and rigs until you find a setup that brings you the best dabbing experience. First-timers must also seek advice on selecting the right dabs. Your budtender will give you some pointers on the best dabs to start with to meet your tolerance and cannabis needs.

Dabbing produces a deeper high than the traditional method of smoking flowers in joints or bongs. Start slow and build into it as you get a feel for your dabbing platform.

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