Coke’s Illustrated Equipment Review: Reconsidering the Crack Pipe

Coke's Illustrated

Reconsidering the Crack Pipe

Conventional wisdom suggests that any pipe will get you high. Is there really a difference between bargain basement crack pipes and costlier prestige brands?

Among most cocaine enthusiasts the subject of smoking crack can often be a source of embarrassment—after all, you may as well compare a Parisian baguette to a slice of Wonder Bread. But we all have guilty pleasures and, for quite a few of us, that includes the occasional bowl of crack, cocaine's cheaper and more casual cousin. Whether you like melting ice cubes at a posh business function or in a urine-soaked back alley, chances are you light up in a dime store pipe—the kind you find in every grandmother's cupboard.

The basic everyday crack pipe traces its roots to neighborhoods around Detroit, Michigan in the early-to-mid 1970's. At the time, enterprising drug lords had hoped to market crack as a more affordable alternative to upmarket cocaine. But with no street pipes to spark up, dealers found few tokers—that is, until they began including simple glass pipes free with each purchase. Often lifted from high school chemistry labs, these early pipes had remained largely unchanged—until now. With manufacturers ranging from Oxo to KitchenAid, crack pipes are hotter than ever. New engineering and innovative designs promise stronger and faster doses of white sugar, but do they really warrant their higher price tags?

Chasing the Dragon
We began by selecting six crack pipes commonly available at major name head shops, plus one that we found in a dumpster behind the office, for a total of seven. Ranging in price from free (the dumpster) to $129.99 for an All-Clad fully anodized horn, we were careful to suck all rocks from the same batch of base to ensure consistency.

Lighting up from the dumpster-scavenged pipe proved difficult—simply setting off the fireworks required several frustrating flicks of the lighter, making it difficult to sneak a quick hit in the bathroom, for example. Once lit, the freebie pipe gave off more heat than smoke, requiring longer and deeper drags to get truly fracked up.

Testing the pipes in an abandoned house prowled by rabid dogs, the free pipe often slipped from our hands, which tended to tremble from both fear and withdrawal. In contrast, we were impressed with the ergonomics of Oxo's "Good Grips" crack pipe. Reasonably priced at $9.99, the Oxo features a thick rubberized handle so that even seizure-induced shakes are unlikely to set off a tragic and deadly fire.

You can spend upwards of $20 for Farberware's non-stick crack pipe, whose Teflon coating reduced buildup of freebase residue from inside the shaft. Likewise, ash is easily wiped out from the bowl without any scrubbing. Unfortunately, the Farberware's tapered shape came up short in delivering the right amount of heat to properly melt the rocks, requiring an extra-long warm-up period during which you are not getting high.

Most modern crack pipes utilize a tubular design which draws the drug-laced smoke away from the heat source. Too short a tube and the smoke may still be uncomfortably hot when reaching your mouth, leading some testers to describe the smoke from compact pipes as "scorching", although by the second or third hit they could no longer feel pain anyway. Too long and the smoke cools excessively, taking on an unpleasant mouth feel which testers described as "bitter" and "chalky".

Two pipes depart from the traditional uzi design—Salton's bubble-shaped smoker, among the cheapest we tested, and Kuhn Rikon's double-barreled stainless steel unit, among the most expensive. While the $4.99 Salton is essentially a round beaker with a bowl glued on, its generous smoke chamber makes up for its short tube, delivering a respectable hit. At $109.99, the Kuhn Rikon stainless pipe continued to gleam like new no matter how filthy a mattress we passed out on, and the U-shaped design lets two people share a hit at one time. While certainly innovative, the average crackhead is more likely to stab you with a rusty spoon than offer a blow of his junk.

Recreational user or habitual addict
Undoubtedly, any crack pipe will indeed get you high but the road taken can vary considerably. If, like me, you save breaking bad as an indulgence for special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, and Valentine's Day, the polycarbonate Salton is cheap and durable. Chronic addicts who jack up two or three times a day would be better served investing in a steel-tubed pipe like the KitchenAid or Kuhn Rikon, both of which deliver strong, quick hits and should easily last the rest of your short life. Fortunately, pipes this well made can be passed down for generations.

Most crack users stash their pipes in a secret hiding place, but if you prefer to keep it in on display, you can't do better than All-Clad's anodized smoker. The most expensive crack pipe tested, the All-Clad managed only average performance due to its overly long and extra-wide tube but its sleek, high-end looks will impress even the most brain-addled junkie.


rating key We rounded up six junkies to test pipes found at major Boston-area head shops. Testers hit each pipe as hard as possible until blacking out and foaming at the mouth.

Appearance: Is this a pipe you would be proud to be seen with when the cops bust in?

Egonomics: A well-balanced pipe easy to grip is less likely to slip and set your mattress on fire.

Sucking power: Chronic users have limited lung capacity, resulting in better scores for pipes that deliver strong plumes.

Smoke flavor: A good pipe should produce smoke that is "sweet" and "cracky" rather than "bitter" or "burnt".

OXO Good Grips Crack Pipe
Price: $9.99
Composition: Polycarbonate with rubberized handle
Appearance: **
Ergonomics: ***
Sucking power: *
Testers loved the "comfortable" and "grippy" handle but lamented an "off" smoke flavor "like raisins" and "fermented elderberry."
FARBERWARE Non-stick Crack Pipe
Price: $20
Composition: Teflon-coated aluminum
Appearance: **
Ergonomics: *
Sucking power: **
Teflon coating "easy to clean" but resulted in "cold" smoke which some found "coated the palate."
KITCHENAID Model 10 Crack Pipe
Price: $49.99
Composition: Aluminum shaft with stainless steel bowl
Appearance: **
Ergonomics: **
Sucking power: **
A "solid" performer that testers praised for "compact" design easy to hide in pocket, but soft aluminum handle "easily dinged."
SALTON Bubble Pipe
Price: $4.99
Composition: Polycarbonate
Appearance: **
Ergonomics: *
Sucking power: ***
Produced "well-rounded" hit with "balanced" smoke flavor, but globe shape "an accident waiting to happen."
KUHN RIKON Double-Barrel Crack Pipe
Price: $109.99
Composition: All stainless steel
Appearance: ***
Ergonomics: *
Sucking power: ***
"Wow" said one tester before his eyes rolled back in his head. "Nggh" said another who did not survive to complete his evaluation.
ALL-CLAD Classic Anodized Crack Pipe
Price: $129.99
Composition: Anodized 18/10 stainless steel
Appearance: ***
Ergonomics: *
Sucking power: *
Testers praised the "elegant" looks but were disappointed in "weak" crack strength and a "grassy" finish.
GENERIC PIPE Found in dumpster
Price: Free
Composition: Junk
Appearance: none
Ergonomics: none
Sucking power: none
Smelled "like ass" and tasted "like old ass."


4 Responses to “Coke’s Illustrated Equipment Review: Reconsidering the Crack Pipe”

  1. Coke's Illustrated reviews brand name crack pipes - Forums on February 8th, 2009 5:45 pm

    [...] Coke’s Illustrated reviews brand name crack pipes Reconsidering the Crack Pipe: Conventional wisdom suggests that any pipe will get you high. Is there really a difference between bargain basement crack pipes and costlier prestige brands? Coke’s Illustrated investigates… [...]

  2. Parody - Coke's Illustrated reviews brand name crack pipes on February 8th, 2009 6:59 pm

    [...] Parody – Coke’s Illustrated reviews brand name crack pipes Reconsidering the Crack Pipe Conventional wisdom suggests that any pipe will get you high. Is there really a difference between bargain basement crack pipes and costlier prestige brands? Coke’s Illustrated investigates… Coke?s Illustrated Equipment Review: Reconsidering the Crack Pipe : [...]

  3. perry kalkbrenner on March 14th, 2010 11:10 pm

    How can I purchase a nice crackpipe? I need better crack hits. Thanks

  4. perry walter kalkbrenner on August 4th, 2010 3:15 pm

    I love to smoke crack! Wouldn’t spending that much money on a pipe take away the amount of crack I can buy? I think I’ll have to pass and use the free dumpster pipe.

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