What is a dab rig?

What Are Dab Rigs?

You’ve heard of cannabis concentrates. You may also have heard of dab rigs. But did you know the two are related? Dab rigs are used to vaporize cannabis concentrates for inhalation. The concentrate, be it BHO, honey oil, cherry oil, rosin, or shatter, is ‘dabbed’ using a ‘dabber’ onto the dab rig. 


For folks who’ve been casually toking cannabis buds and hash for some time, this all sounds understandably odd. Don’t worry, this article will break down dab rigs for you. 

We’ll start by talking about concentrates and why they’re popular. Then we’ll get into dab rig basics to make the overall concept intuitive and approachable for further exploration. 

What Is a Dab Rig Used For?

Dab rigs, also called oil rigs, are relatively new to cannabis culture. The wave of cannabis legalization has made it viable to produce and market sophisticated equipment. 

Dab rigs are made to optimize vaping dabs of concentrates at controlled temperatures. They also allow for more traditional combustion-based heating methods.

Why Dab Concentrates?

Concentrates are nothing new, as hash or kief has been around as long as the herb has. For more information about the history of concentrates, check out our article “What is Butane Hash Oil (BHO)?”. 

You might be wondering what the draw of cannabis concentrates is in the first place? After all, cannabis sativa buds are excellent all by themselves.

More Cannabinoids and Terpenes with Dabbing

Concentrates like RSO (Rick Simpson Oil) deliver very high concentrations of THC and other cannabinoids. They are particularly renowned for their high terpene concentration. This results in an extremely flavorful experience that is impossible to get from pure cannabis flowers. 

While cannabis buds have cannabinoid ranges around 20%, give or take, concentrates used in dab rigs can approach 100%. All this makes for a markedly different experience.

Dabbing Concentrate Delivers a Powerful High

Cannabis flowers can have a strong onset, but will slowly mellow out and require further inhalations to maintain a high. This is ideal for novices and cannabis fans who get all the enjoyment they expect from flowers. 

Concentrates are for those looking for a more intense high from cannabis. Most importantly, cannabis concentrates offer fast, consistent relief and higher efficiency for medical users. 

Dabs for Medical Use

Neuropathic pain, seizures, PTSD, and many other complicated, multi-systemic health issues can be quickly soothed with concentrates. Although Cannabis flowers are often sufficient for treating these health issues, in more severe cases they may not.

For more information about how cannabinoids, specifically CBD and THC combined, can address chronic pain, check out our article “CBD for Pain: How It Works”.

Ok, but Seriously, What’s a Dab Rig?

A dab rig is designed to facilitate and optimize concentrate use. The design is simple and familiar. A dab rig is like a bong or water bubbler with a nail instead of a bowl. 

Dab rigs are designed to be smaller than bongs so that the vapor hits your lungs sooner. 

What Is a Nail?

A nail is a heated platform made of titanium, ceramic, glass, or quartz. You will often hear nails referred to as the ‘male part’ to the dab rig’s ‘female part’.  

If gendering your rig’s bits feels a bit outdated, just think of the nail as the smaller, interchangeable piece that fits into the main event. 

Many nails can be fitted with a dome that traps the vapor, resulting in bigger hits with zero-waste. This also means you can control how much vapor you toke from the rig without feeling pressure to inhale all of it.

A dab of concentrate is dropped onto the nail using a dabber. The dabber is an instrument that allows you to measure and safely handle the sticky concentrate so it can be applied to the heated nail. 

The dabber also ensures that all of the concentrate is used up efficiently and evenly. The heated nail will cause the concentrate to turn to a liquid and boil, releasing vapor that you inhale. 

Using a Dab Rig to Combust or Vape Concentrate

When you’re looking into purchasing a dab rig for concentrates, keep it simple and invest for the future. Curtailing exposure to combusted inhaled products is a major deciding factor for concentrate users who want to protect their lungs. 

With dab rigs, finding a high-quality rig that accommodates multiple attachments will allow you to experiment with the same rig for years to come. Do your research and find the right rig for you. Users can get confused about dab rigs because of the variety of attachments available and the results they produce. 

Combusting Concentrates With a Micro-Torch and Regular Nail

A regular nail or banger attachment will require a micro-torch to heat it. Trial and error or an infrared thermometer can help produce optimal temperatures for vaping concentrates. 

But this takes time, leaving the nail to cool for 30-60 seconds after heating it, repeatedly checking if that temperature has been reached, and so on.  

Most importantly, combusted concentrates don’t taste good.  

Vaping Concentrates With an Electronic Nail

Here at SacredMeds, we are advocates for vaping. Vaping reduces harm to your lungs and maximizes the value and enjoyment of your product. 

If vaping concentrate is your preference, you’ll want to get a dab rig that accommodates an e-nail or electronic nail. 

An e-nail or electronic nail allows you to conveniently heat your nail to a specific temperature. This level of control is what allows you to vape concentrates. 

The temperature of the room and open environment will lead to heat displacement that you can easily take into consideration. You won’t need to wait for the e-nail to reach an optimal temperature. 

Good Dab Rigs Have Water Chambers

Concentrates require higher temperatures to become gaseous than cannabis buds. These high temperatures lead to hot vapor, which can be tough on the lungs. Therefore, a good dab rig should have a water chamber to cool the vapor. Many dab rigs have many chambers and percolators to further freshen the dab.

The water compartment will cool the vapor. As concentrates are far more concentrated in cannabinoids and terpenes than cannabis flowers, the vapor will be thicker and heavier on the lungs. 

Start Low and Go Slow

For this reason, along with the intense high, beginning dabbers are cautioned, as usual to “start low and go slow”. You shouldn’t start your cannabis journey with concentrates, but rather build up to them. Vaporizing buds is the best way to start to gain an understanding of how cannabis affects you overall. For users with a higher tolerance or greater need for deep, therapeutic pain relief, cannabis concentrates are the next step. 

Stay tuned for more upcoming blogs about dabbing and concentrates!


Krauss, M., Sowles, S. and Mylvaganam, S. (2015) “Displays of dabbing marijuana extracts on YouTube,” PMC US National Library of Medicine, [online] Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26347408/ (Accessed 4 April 2021).

Meacham, M., Roh, S. and Chang, J. S. (2020) “Frequently Asked Questions about Dabbing Concentrates in Online Cannabis Community Discussion Forums,” PMC US National Library of Medicine, [online] Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6893129/ (Accessed 4 April 2021).

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