We spend a lot of time thinking about our smoking pipes. We compare briar grain and debate the merits of different tobacco blends. What doesn’t always receive as much attention are the accessories that go with our favorite smokers. As we prepare for our Virtual Pipe Club Meeting with Rik Ruff next week, we spent more than the usual amount of time focused on tobacco pipe accessories and how they enhance the experience of smoking a pipe.
Like school kids comparing the contents of our lunch boxes, we spent the week comparing the accessories that fill our pipe kits with friends all over the pipe smoking community.
Read on to find out what we think are must-haves for your pipe kit and what you can do without.
What goes in a pipe kit
Your pipe kit should include all the essential things you need to enjoy a great smoke. A few of these are constants, no one will have any fun without a favorite pipe tobacco and something to to light it with. However, beyond the simple requirement of pipe tobacco and fire, their are a host of possibilities.
We think that every basic pipe kit should include at least three things in addition your favorite pipe: a lighter, a sturdy 3-in-1 tool and plenty of pipe cleaners. Here’s how to choose the right accessories for your needs:
Choosing a pipe lighter
Much has already been written about whether a pipe lighter is necessary.
We’re not going to rehash that here.
Matches and/or a basic bic-style lighter will get the job done--but with a few serious drawbacks. If you’re just starting out, use one of these. However, if you are building a collection of pipes and spend a fair bit of time smoking them we think the investment in a good-quality lighter is a sound one.
A reliable lighter will run in the same price range as a Peterson pipe--in the neighborhood of $100. Just like your favorite pipes, the more artisan accents and stylish customization, the higher the price will be. A perfect choice for lighters that are both beautiful and functional are Kirbi lighters. Made specifically for pipe smokers, these lighters will work even outside on a breezy day.
Finding the right pipe tools
A basic Czech tool will get you through and the four dollar price point is hard to beat. We have these laying all
over the office...and the car…and the house. The downside is their durability. You will have to spend that four dollars more than once.
Just like a lighter, a good-quality 3-in-1 tool is a small investment that can substantially enhance your enjoyment. A pipe-shaped Peterson 3-in-1 Tool costs less than lunch and will be in your collection forever.
Whatever type of 3-in-1 tool you choose, look for these signs of quality and durability:
- Strong metal construction - Steel or other durable metals will last longer than aluminum or other cheaper materials.
- Well-made joints - The most likely place, at least in our experience, for a 3-in-1 to break is at the joints. Look for smooth movement back-and-forth and sturdy construction here.
- Simple construction - a few adornments, like the Peterson etching on the side of the pipe-shaped tool, might add enjoyment. However, we recommend staying away from tools with lots of decoration that are just likely to break and/or show wear. Remember, a good tool is meant to be functional. If you want a fun additional element, spring for a handmade tamper, like the ones by Ruff Works and keep your 3-in-1 simple and functional.
Once you choose a good lighter and a functional 3-in-1 tool, make sure your pipe kit always has a ready supply of the pipe smoker’s most disposable tool: pipe cleaners.
Stock up on pipe cleaners
Pipe cleaners are both inexpensive and meant to be disposable, so set yourself free to try many different kinds and see what works best for you. In general, we recommend keeping a stock of these three kinds on hand:
- B.J. Long Extra Long Pipe Cleaners - These slightly-longer-than-average cleaners will work for almost any type of pipe and are perfect for both mid-smoke drying moments and storage.
- Falcon Extra-Thin Pipe Cleaners - Specifically designed for the unique Falcon System Pipes, these thin, short cleaners will work for pocket-sized pipes or those with a smaller draft hole than average.
- Dill’s Weekly Pipe Cleaners - Perfect for breaking up things traditional pipe cleaners miss, these are a must-have when it’s time to deep clean your pipes or just as a weekly maintenance plan for your favorite smokers.
Other pipe accessories
From tampers to polishing clothes, there are plenty of other optional accessories you can add to your pipe kit. We like to keep things simple, but there are two optional tools we think anyone with a little extra cash should add to their stock: a fancy tamper and a Savinelli Magic Cloth.
A fun pipe tamper or two can be an affordable way to enhance your pipe collection and showcase your personality. Have one custom designed, create your own or choose one already in production. Regardless, you’re almost guaranteed to smile every time you pick it up. Your 3-in-1 tool will get the job done, but an artistic tamper will do it in style for far less than a new pipe.
If a tamper is all about personality, a Savinelli Magic Cloth is all about function. We use one of these hundreds of times each day while photographing pipes and so have a unique perspective on their function. For just under $22 you can keep your collection looking like new with this innovative two-part cleaning and shining cloth.
Choosing a pipe pouch
Once you put your pipe kit together, you will need something to hold it all that is convenient for travel, compact and maybe a little bit stylish. At home you may have a large pipe cabinet or a humble tackle box for storing your tools, pipes and tobaccos. However, when you’re on the go you’ll want something that you can hold in your hand without dropping your whisky.
For function and affordability we like the Peterson Classic 2 Pipe Pouch. It’s simple and holds two pipes, the tools we just covered, and a stash of pipe tobacco comfortably. If you’re saving your extra cash for a new pipe, we think this pouch perfectly brings together affordability and convenience.
If you want your pouch to have as much stylish flair as your pipe collection, then consider upgrading to an eye-catching leather Savinelli Pouch. Although slightly higher price points, these are beautifully designed leather cases (the red one is a favorite). Properly cared for, a Savinelli pipe pouch will be a part of your collection for as long as your favorite smoking pipes.
A pipe smoker's Mise en place
No matter what accessories you choose, using a little time and money to build a pipe kit that will help you enjoy every bowl smoked just a little bit more.
Just like a chef preparing her Mise en place, it’s much easier to create a memorable experience when everything you need to coax the flavor from your bowl is easy to find and already at hand.
Ready to put your pipe kit together?