May 31, 2021
For those that smoke recreationally, water pipe designs have been functional throughout the years, but the majority have never really felt well-designed. When I think of water pipes, it's the cheap, plastic water pipes that litter the windows of every head shop that pop into mind. They come in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes, but at the end of the day, it feels like they always lacked a certain sense of maturity in design.
I'm in a few slack communities focused on design, and one of the members posted a link to a new water pipe from a company called Heir, saying "if Apple made a bong, this would be it". With a description like that, I'm always going to be a little curious, so I sent them an email asking if I could take a closer look at their flagship product.
Heir was founded in 2017 by an Industrial design graduate from Western Washington University named Paul Kalousek. In a world of battery-powered vaporized and disposable products, their ethos goes back to uniting flower with flame with highly crafted products, using modern manufacturing methods.
Heir offers a few products in their basic lineup including a pipe, waterpipe, and accessories, and it's refreshing to see all them look so much more thoughtfully designed than other products in this space. I'm always looking for products that elevate out of the norm in any industry, and these are no exception.
Unfortunately, it looked like Ace Ventura delivered the package to my apartment, which resulted in a not-so-photogenic box that I've left out of this review. The good news is that the product inside was packaged well enough that there wasn't any damage.
Inside the box, you're greeted with all the parts to assemble the water pipe, as well as a cloth cozy, instruction manual, and cleaning tools.
The instructions include everything you'd expect like how to put things together, how to clean it after use, and the ideal amount of water to use inside.
The cleaning tools are a nice touch as well. It comes with a 14mm adapter for additional accessories, a simple pipe cleaner, and a small smoke tool to help tamp down bowls, or scoop away any left over residue.
The bowl itself is a really nice piece of hardware. It's machined out of a solid piece of metal, has grooved edges that make it easy to grip, as well as small black band that provides a gentle point of contact with the pipe itself.
The head of the unit has a little bit of heft as well. You can tell they've thought about the little details like the angle differences between the bowl, and the mouthpiece. I wouldn't have picked up on this without reading it on their site, but the mouthpiece is deep and wide enough to use as a storage for a lighter as well.
Flipping it over, you'll find a small port that connects to the stem, and the fairly deep thread providing a secure connection to the base.
For the sake of this review, I grabbed a package of this herbal smoking blend (not marijuana) from enlite, so I can run this through through it's paces. The bowl is big enough to prevent spilling, and has a 7-hole design to keep airflow running smooth.
As with any waterpipe, getting the right water level is always going to be key. Too much and you risk inhaling the nasty water, and too little will not provide enough water for the air to flow through. While it's pretty straight forward to put the right amount of water in, I like how my hookah from Shishabucks has a line over their logo, clearly indicating exactly where to fill it up with water.
Once you've added the water, you just screw the top on until it's tight, and you're good to go.
It really does look like a nice piece of kit when it's all assembled. They didn't include loud branding on the product beyond a small logo on the mouthpiece, which I always appreciate. When the water pipe first arrived, I quickly assembled it just to get an idea of what it feels like, but was a bit concerned that the unit was a little bit too top heavy. I then realized the weight was perfectly balanced out towards the bottom as soon as I filled it with the recommended amount of water. Nice touch.
The bowl itself drops right into the mouthpiece, and can hold a fair bit of product. The ribbed sides are a nice design choice to allow you to easily lift it out of place when needed.
The draw through the simple diffuser on the stem is nice and even, and the mouthpiece is nicely rounded.
Heir also offers a cloth coozie that slides over the glass base. This will keep your hands a bit warmer (if you've opted to fill the base up with ice), as well as provide a little bit more protection in case you manage to knock it over.
It simply slides over the top, all the way to the bottom of the base.
Keeping with the minimal branding, there is only a small black tag on the coozie with a simple Heir logomark.
While I think it looks great without it, I might prefer it with. Something about that grey and black color combination with that simple chrome highlight is appealing to me.
Products like these are why I love design. You can take a tried and true functional design, but offer an improved version by providing more thought into each step of the process. Good design isn't cheap, but in this case, it does feel like you get what you pay for.
If you're looking for a more mature, design-forward water pipe with a consumer friendly modular approach, I don't think there is anything out there that tops this.