If your tobacco is too moist, you can leave the container open slightly while monitoring it closely. If your tobacco has dried out, it is usually possible to revive it. (There is a point beyond which no amount of re-moistening is going to restore the flavor of a tobacco, but that time span is generally measured in months or years.) Some advocate placing a slice of apple or potato in the tobacco container. While that may introduce moisture, it will also introduce mold and other impurities. Unlike cheese, the flavor of tobacco is not improved by mold, and once your container has been so contaminated, it is almost impossible to completely rid it of the mold spores that will attempt to infest any tobacco placed in that container in the future.
A much safer method is to spray a tiny amount of distilled water into the container and reseal it for a day or two, or purchase a ceramic humidifying disk from your tobacconist and place it in the storage container. The process of "breaking in" a pipe serves two functions. First, any saps, resins, acids, stains, demons, or other nasty things that have remained in the briar are driven out. Second, and most importantly, a "cake"--the layer of charred residue that builds up inside the bowl as tobacco is smoked in it--is developed. This cake protects the bowl of the pipe from the heat of burning tobacco and prevents it from "burning out." It should be noted that most of the information in this section applies to briar pipes only. Most other pipes require no break in period, or at most a very brief one. Additionally, one should not allow a cake to build up in a meerschaum or clay, as this could cause the bowl to crack. It is important to smoke a new pipe slowly, to avoid damaging the naked briar.
Some recommend that a new pipe be filled only one-third to one-half full for the first several smokes, after which the bowl can be filled a little more with each smoke. To be honest, this procedure is not necessary, but I always recommend it--and usually practice it--because it is all too easy to damage a new pipe through carelessness. Don't try to rush the break-in period, and don't be overly concerned if a new pipe has a bitter taste. Some pipes break in easier than others, and it is not uncommon for a pipe that is very difficult to break in to mature into a great smoker. Some pipes are sold with a bowl coating designed to protect the briar until a cake is built up (sometimes such bowls are called "pre-carbonized"). While a "naked" bowl is not likely to be damaged so long as the pipe is smoked slowly, many people advocate preparing the bowl interior of a new pipe. Some recommend that the inside of the bowl be dampened with water to protect the briar, while others recommend honey, or a mixture of honey and water. Honey may help a cake form more quickly, but after trying all of these techniques I find that these days I tend to use nothing at all. Finally, try not to smoke a new pipe outdoors if you can possibly avoid it. Even a gentle breeze will cause the pipe to burn much hotter than it would indoors, which can irreparably damage a briar that is not protected by a cake. I've never had a problem smoking my pipes outdoors (after they've been broken in, of course), but if you're concerned about possible damage, you can purchase wind caps from your tobacconist which will shield the burning tobacco from the effects of wind. Fred Hanna has written an excellent article on this subject that we highly recommend called The Mysteries of the Briar Break-in Process. A pipe must be packed properly to ensure a good smoke; unfortunately, learning to do this takes time and practice. In fact, the art of packing a pipe is the most difficult task associated with pipe smoking, and this can be very frustrating for the beginner. I suspect that most people who have given up on trying to learn to smoke a pipe did so primarily because they couldn't master packing a bowl quickly enough to suit them. The most common technique for packing a pipe is the "three layer" method. The objective is to end up with a bowl that is evenly packed from top to bottom; this is done by packing each layer progressively tighter. Trickle tobacco into the bowl until it is slightly overfull, then press very lightly with your finger until the bowl appears half full. Fill the pipe again and press down until the pipe is 2/3 to 3/4 full. Finally, overfill the pipe and press the top layer down fairly firmly. When finished the tobacco should feel "springy" to the touch. If a touch leaves an indentation, it is packed too loosely. Finally, test the "draw" by sucking air through the unlit pipe; the resistance should be about like that felt when sipping a soft drink through a straw. If the draw doesn't feel right, then empty the bowl and start over. A slightly different touch must be used depending on the size of the bowl and the cut and moisture level of the tobacco, but this will become second nature with experience. In fact, you will undoubtedly develop your own packing techniques with time, and you will find yourself loading your pipe without even thinking about it. Frequently, the tiny smoke hole in the tobacco chamber may become clogged with tobacco, when filling and packing the bowl.
It is not necessary to empty the bowl to correct this problem. Just remove the tip, and then clear the smoke hole with the reamer tool, a thin steel rod.
If you find yourself frustrated by the fact that you simply can't get the feel for packing your pipe, you might want to try a method suggested by Mike Butera. Mike recommends chopping the tobacco, reducing the ribbons into rectangles or squares about 1/4" long. Some people have found that this method can make the task of packing a bowl much easier. This is also known as a "Cube Cut" in witch the tobacco is already sliced into the squares mentioned above. I have found that, although packing the pipe with a "Cube Cut" is easier and quicker, it can lead to tobacco flowing up the stem and into the users mouth, resulting in a rather unpleasant experience.