The desire to conserve energy — that is, laziness — may impel you to tamp with a finger. Try to resist the temptation.
Don’t tamp and drive.
The longer I smoke the more I appreciate the need to pack loose and tamp gently. I find that these are two keys to a pleasant experience. Newer pipe smokers seem to pack too tight and to maintain the tight pack by tamping with too much force. I think that’s why so many beginners give up before giving the hobby a chance.
Smokers use several packing methods. You can find many tips by Googling or by watching YouTube videos. I’ll discuss some methods eventually, but for now I simply want to emphasize the importance of packing loose. I’ve gotten to the point where I want no resistance in the draw. Some smokers say the resistance should be like drawing soda through a straw — they all say avoid anything like the resistance you get from a milkshake. But I find even soda resistance too much. I basically want none at all.
If I pack too tight I will find myself puffing with too much effort. This is no fun because pipe smoking is about relaxing. I will also have trouble keeping the pipe lit — also no fun.
It follows from this that I don’t tamp too much or too hard. All I want to do by tamping is to lower the ash back in touch with the unburnt tobacco after it has risen. I try not to use any more force than what gravity provides. Let nature do the work. I also let gravity do most of the work when I pack.
Remember, you can always tamp, but it’s hard to untamp. Err on the gentle side.
Give this a try — you’ll know if you’ve packed too loose — and see what you think.