12-tip guide to dabbing for the first time
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There are few moments more intimidating and exciting as a weed smoker than taking a dab for the first time. The use of torches, concentrates, and weird glassware makes it feel like a science experiment. In turn, while the elaborate nature makes dabbing enticing, it can also make one nervous if they’ve never done it before.
We’re here to tell you, however, that it’s not nearly as hard as it looks. The few extra steps required will start to feel natural with some practice. So, to help you quickly master the art of dabbing cannabis, we’ve put together some wise tips for you to keep in mind.
12 TIPS FOR THE FIRST-TIME DABBER
Now, while it isn’t complicated, we want to emphasise that dabbing concentrates isn’t as clear-cut as smoking a bowl of flower. There are some similar parts, sure, and the core of what’s happening is the same. The order of certain steps is switched around, though, and the process looks quite different within those steps as well.
All that considered, we have tips for you to keep in mind before, during, and after dabbing.
We know you're probably eager to get on with taking your first dab, but it's important to first consider these tips.
WATCH AN EXPERT
Of course, you won’t be able to picture what taking a dab looks like unless you see an expert do one in front of you. We’ll discuss the process below, but watching it play out in person will help you fully take in what we tell you.
It’s one thing for us to say “measure out a dab”, but it’s another to watch someone actually do so. The same goes with the processes of heating up the rig, taking the dab, and cleaning off your equipment. Watch your friend do these things, though, and you’ll have a far better understanding from the start. Don’t have a friend to take a dab in front of you? Watching someone on YouTube should work almost as well.
KEEP THINGS CLEAN AND USE A MAT
Now, unlike smoking, dabbing doesn’t involve ash, roaches, or filters, so the process is far cleaner in some respects. That said, the fact that you’re using oily, waxy concentrates means things can get dirty and sticky if you’re not careful.
If you want to avoid any sticky situations from the get-go, we suggest placing a silicone mat over the surface you keep your dabbing equipment on.
Placing your freshly used dab tool right on the table would normally lead to a scratch or stain, but keeping a mat over your surface makes that a non-issue. Even if you spill your wax or oil, most dab mats make it far easier to "save" your product.
SET UP A TIMER
One of the biggest mistakes people make when dabbing for the first time is heating the nail for either not long enough or a bit too long. Not going long enough is okay, as you can still take dabs this way (as we’ll explain in a bit), but it’s definitely inconvenient in some scenarios. Going too long, however, can lead to extra-hot vapor—essentially smoke—that irritates your throat and lungs going down.
To avoid this, time how long an expert takes to heat up the rig and let it cool. Then, when taking your own dab, use a timer to make sure you recreate the temperature perfectly.
TRY "COLD START" OR REVERSE DABS
Seeing people cough after taking hot dabs may make you hesitant to try it at all, but there’s a way to avoid the issue entirely. Instead of heating the nail before putting your dab in, try a “cold start” dab, aka a reverse dab.
To do this, simply put the oil in the nail before heating, place the carb cap over the opening, and begin heating the dab. Inhale as it begins to evaporate, and you’ll find the vapor to be far cooler than any weed smoke or high-temp vapor.
Cold-starts can be tricky to get used to if you’ve only hot-dabbed before, but you’ll get the hang of the method far quicker if it’s how you take your first dabs. You’ll be fine with either method, and, indeed, standard dabbing is a good bit easier.
Keeping all of that in mind, it’s finally time to take your first dab! Consider these tips as you take your first steps into this new world.
START WITH SMALL DABS
Since weed concentrates typically contain 65–85% THC, you won’t need very much to get high. To start out with something easy, measure out a dab around ½–¾ the size of a grain of rice. If you find that’s not a challenge for you to enjoy, you can make your next one a bit bigger.
Don’t get cocky, though, as taking overly large dabs can not only hurt your throat/lungs, but get you way too high as well. There’s nothing wrong with getting really high (when it’s not irresponsible to do so), but you’ll be better off taking repeated, smaller hits instead of one big dab.
Also, this is more of a side-issue, but smaller dabs are easier to balance on dab tools, and thus are less likely to fall off or spill. Even if it does spill, taking smaller dabs means you won’t lose as much at once.
This goes in line with the timing tip we gave you earlier, but we can’t stress enough that overheating your dab can ruin not only your night, but your perception of dabbing overall.
Rather than using a timer, working off visual cues is the best way to avoid overheating your dab. Specifically, you should heat the underside of the nail until the surface is red-hot, let it cool until it’s not red at all, wait about 5–10 seconds more, then dab away.
Even beyond that, doing a reverse dab, as we mentioned, sidesteps the issue of overheating completely.
DON'T MISS THE BOWL!
Thankfully, this shouldn't happen often, but it’ll be annoying when it does (“when”, not “if”; it happens to the best of us). Namely, we’re talking about making sure your dab ends up inside the heated nail.
This is mainly an issue because of how our depth perception is altered when taking a dab. Since your mouth has to be over the mouthpiece (to inhale from once the dab’s in the bowl), you can’t look into the bowl as you’re dropping the dab in. Instead, your perspective is limited to the side. In turn, take the actual dabbing motion slowly, ensuring you don’t hit the side or miss completely.
After taking your dab, even if you do a cold start, we imagine you feel like having a cold glass of water. Make sure you follow that instinct!
Staying hydrated is a key part of having a good time while dabbing, as is the case with traditional smoking. Really, it’s wise to stay hydrated while using any drug, whether it be alcohol, weed, or some sort of psychedelic.
Along with keeping your throat cooled down, staying hydrated will ensure your brain and body are ready to enjoy being high. After all, without a basic need like thirst met, you end up being more worried about that than your dabbing experience.
DON'T BURN YOUR HANDS ON YOUR DAB RIG
Since you’ll regularly be using a butane torch when dabbing, it’ll be wise for you to keep in mind that every tool involved can be very hot after use.
The torch being hot goes without saying, of course, but many don’t consider the dab tool as a potential burn source, even though it touches the heated-up nail. The nail itself, however, is the main culprit when it comes to dab-related burns.
See, torch flames are hot, but you can turn them off quickly, and the flame doesn’t heat up the torch itself (except the very tip). The nail, however, can stay incredibly hot for minutes after you’ve taken your last dab. It also has a much wider surface area than the dabber or torch tip, and will likely be sitting around arm-level on your table.
Therefore, you’re best off keeping your eyes on it and letting it cool down out of your way.
Congratulations, you just took your first dab! After you’re done patting yourself on the back (and drinking some water), make sure you keep these key tips in mind.
CLEAN YOUR NAIL AND DAB RIG
You’ll be regularly dropping concentrates into your nail and inhaling them through your rig, so seeing some residual oil should come as no surprise. Cleaning the nail, thankfully, is as easy as heating it up with nothing inside. Let it get red-hot and keep it going, making sure you heat up the sides as well. It won’t get perfectly clean again, but getting all the black residue off will make a world of difference.
As far as the rig itself, you’ll have to let that sit in rubbing alcohol, or otherwise get a special dab rig cleaner. Those cleaners can get expensive, but they’re very effective and not nearly as intense odour-wise. Either way, you can also use it on your (cold) nail to make it cleaner.
TAKE A BREAK BETWEEN DABBING SESSIONS
Just as you’d pace yourself when smoking regularly, you should make a point to pace yourself with dabs. To start, all that heated-up vapor hitting your throat will begin to hurt after some time. Even if you’re doing cold start dabs, the irritation can add up after a while.
Speaking of things adding up, you might be surprised at how much THC you're taking in. Whether you have a high tolerance or not, that’s ~75% THC; you could find yourself slumped over before you notice.
An irritated throat and an inability to function can both be very annoying, so taking a break between each dab, along with taking breaks between sessions, is in your best interest.
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
Going along with what we mentioned earlier, those breaks are also in the interest of your health and relationship with weed. Stepping back, it’s not hard to see why repeatedly inhaling hot vapor for days or weeks on end could be physically harmful. The effects might not show up instantly, but constant coughing and throat irritation can lead to all sorts of health issues.
In turn, getting too used to dabs can mean they don’t hit as hard over time. You may want to take more as a result, and that could easily lead to the aforementioned issues. Avoiding all that, however, is as easy as staying hydrated and controlling your dabbing dose and frequency.
GO ON AND DAB CONFIDENTLY!
We hope you keep all of this advice in mind as you start taking dabs. Though these tips are mainly directed towards beginners, it’s all worth remembering as you become one of those “experts” you started off watching.
Beyond that, we just hope you enjoy your dabs safely and in moderation!