Like lots of people, I wondered what’s up with these expandable garden hoses popping up everywhere. I remember first seeing them on TV a few years ago, but never checked them out.
It’s probably a good thing. Like most new technologies, it had some kinks to work out, and lots of cheap fly-by-night manufacturers to be found out.
It’s way better now. But first, here’s why people like them better than regular garden hoses: they’re easy.
- They weigh almost nothing, so no more hauling around heavy lengths of hose.
- They don’t kink or twist, so no more annoying knots and no more fights with hoses that want to twist the wrong way.
- They self-shrink to about a third of their expanded length, so they’re easy to store and don’t need to be rolled up.
- They are self-emptying, so no more hassling with getting all the water out when storing for the winter.
How they work
Here’s a quick explanation of how expandable hoses work. They have 2 basic parts instead of one: a thin inner hose made of expandable latex that stretches 2 to 3 times its length when filled with water, and an outer protective cover that expands and shrinks with the hose, typically made of wear-resistant fabrics.
High-pressure fittings on either end ensure a tighter, less leak-prone fit than regular hose fittings.
That’s quite a technical leap when compared to the garden hose—almost nothing could be simpler.
And that was the problem for lots of early (and some current) expandable hoses, which suffer from the most expected shortcomings: too-thin latex tubes prone to rupturing, low-quality fittings (some are plastic!) that leaked under pressure, and cheap outer covers that snagged, tore or wore out too easily on rough surfaces like concrete.
Growing pains worked out
The good news is that some of the major lawn and garden manufacturers have stepped up their games. Nowadays, several expandable hoses are a good quality choice for the money. You can easily find 50- to 100-foot hoses in the $25-$50 range—not much different from old-fashioned hoses.
So one fine afternoon after an embarrassing and infuriating wrestling match with my old rubber hose, I decided to do some research and find out what’s what about expandable hoses. After reading everyone’s pros and cons, I boiled it down to these 5 main criteria:
Most important factors
- Inner tube material and thickness. 2- and 3-layer latex tubes are the way to go. Anything less seems to often develop pinpricks or ruptures after a few uses.
- Brass fittings are a must. Slight differences in the ways they are attached to hoses make a difference in preventing leaks.
- Outer layer. The outer layer must contract and expand, so it’s essentially a woven fabric. That means it can snag on sharp objects like corners. Dragging it on rough surfaces like concrete can also wear it out—the best ones have a considerably more abrasion-proof, durable shell.
- Warranty. With all the early problems expandable garden hoses encountered, I looked for the best warranties. They varied greatly.
- Performs as advertised. Some brands seem to lose pressure in longer hose lengths.
Found one that stood out
I netted out on the VicTsing 50-ft model (pictured here, Amazon ad below). In short, it had the quality parts, the better reviews, and not least, the 12-month warranty I wanted. The price was right, though price is not much of a differentiator in this category. You can choose from several good expandable hoses in the $25-40 range—and several crummy ones for twice that.
Simply easier to use
I’ve had it all spring and summer and so far, so good. Works as advertised, imagine that! It’s super-lightweight so hauling around is easy.
It doesn’t kink or twist—hallelujah! That’s a big deal. I spent so much time in the past with knots and twisted hoses. It also expands—and contracts—easily, and sprays with all the pressure I had before.
Time will tell of course, but to get back to my original recommendation … get one because they’re easy. I don’t miss my old-fashioned hose or those wrestling matches one little bit, especially the winding it on the reel part. You probably won’t, either.
A couple of notes on differences in care you should know: most expandable hoses shouldn’t be stored in direct sunlight and shouldn’t be exposed to extreme cold. Other than that, for my money, they really ‘hose’ the old way.
Here’s a link to some of Amazon’s most popular expandable hoses for comparison purposes.
Happy hosing. Hope this helps!