I can hear you thinking: “A whole article on hoses? It’s just a hose, for heaven’s sake!”
So, let me tell about all those times when I bought a cheap one off the shelf at my local big box garden center.
When, about the third time I turned it on, it split and soaked me, or started to leak like a sieve when I was in the midst of a big project, so I had to take my muddy, wet, dirty self back to the garden center to buy a new one.
Hoses matter, they really do. And I never realized it more than when I bit the bullet, spent the bucks, and bought a really good one.
It’s the first one I’ve ever had that has both lasted for years, and is super easy to use. It makes me as happy to have it around as the flowers it waters.
The fact is that not all hoses are created equal, which is why this guide is a must-read if you want the best one for your needs.
And a decent model doesn’t have to cost a lot. There are well-made models at every price point, and for every size or type of garden.
New materials and technology have even made it possible to create hoses that are virtually kink-free, while they’re still lighter and easier to maneuver than those old, heavy rubber versions of old.
Of course, those do still exist. And they have their place too, in situations where you might need something that tough. We recommend one made from the traditional rubber, in fact, as well as the best in class for other situations.
Let’s take a look at our seven favorite products!
Before you go shopping, we’ll also touch on a few more general points to keep in mind and other things you might want to know about garden hoses:
Our 7 Favorite Hoses
1. Flexilla: Best For Most People
Many people who have used a Flexilla garden hose swear it’s the greatest ever made. It also does well in expert testing, where it lives up to its kink-free claims.
Of course, as we must point out so no one thinks we’re guaranteeing this: no model is totally kink-free. But garden experts and homeowners say the Flexilla comes pretty darn close.
It’s made of a proprietary, flexible hybrid polymer that is engineered to eliminate kinks when filled with water.
Unlike many others, it does not try to retain its shape, which means it lies flat where you need it, rather than trying to roll itself back up into a coil when it’s filled with water, flipping your sprinkler in the process.
The manufacturer says the material is lead-free and drinking water safe, although it’s not tested or certified by any of the agencies that verify those claims. They also say it can withstand temperatures from -40 to 150°F, and owners attest that it holds up well in hot temperatures.
This model is a standard 5/8-inch diameter, and it comes in 3, 5, 10, 25, 50, 75, and 100-foot lengths. The 50, 75 and 100 foot sizesalso come in a larger, 3/4-inch diameter, if you need more water power.
The Flexilla is available in only one color, a bright, chartreuse green. We did see some complaints that it shows dirt too easily, especially if you store it outside. Flexilla offers a limited lifetime warranty.
2. Craftsman Premium Rubber: Best Heavy-Duty Choice
Need a tough garden hose for washing your car, for powering a pressure washer, or that can live outside during the worst winters? Then the Craftsman Premium offering should be at the top of your list.
This is a popular pick for landscape professionals and those who need something that can stand up to light commercial applications, such as mixing cement.
It’s made from a rubber vinyl compound that can withstand temperatures from -25 to 160°F. The coupling material is brass. However, it is not safe for drinking from, something the manufacturer points out in the product’s labeling.
This product is as durable as they come. One product review site has been using it for years and, while it definitely looks like it’s been well-used, their test model is reportedly still working as well as ever.
We also saw a number of comments from owners who ran theirs over with their car (accidentally, of course) and reported that the couplings didn’t crush, and the hose was oblivious.
Craftsman includes a lifetime warranty and that covers everything – including damage caused by running over it with a car or mower.
It’s not a pretty product by any means, plain black, with a rough texture that isn’t as comfortable to use as other models. The color can also rub off on your hands, so gloves should be worn for use.
The diameter of the Craftsman Premium is the standard 5/8 inch and it comes in 25, 50, and 100-foot lengths.
3. Water Right 400 Series: Best for Small Spaces
Light and flexible, the Water Right 400 Series is a top choice for the smaller yard or garden.
It’s lightweight enough to lug around at only 3 pounds per 50 feet, yet resists kinking. Owners report that when it does kink (again, none are completely kink-free), it’s easy to shake out without a lot of hassle.
Even gardeners with mobility issues say it’s very easy to wrangle in the yard, even around planters and containers.
At 7/16 of an inch, the Water Right is smaller in diameter than the standard 5/8 of an inch, which is why it is so lightweight.
It’s made of NSF and FDA-certified drinking water safe polyurethane, so it won’t harm anyone who wants to dash by for a quick drink during a game of tag, or to hydrate while doing yard work – assuming that your outdoor hookup is not gray water.
Water Right offers a choice of two fittings for this product: lead free, chrome-plated brass, or stainless steel.
It comes in four colors – cranberry, espresso, eggplant, and olive green – so you can match it up with your garden decor. It’s also available in 25, 50, 75, and 100-foot lengths.
The product comes with a 30-day money back guarantee if you’re dissatisfied for any reason, and a limited 5-year warranty. It’s made in the USA in Oregon.
4. Gatorhyde Coiled: Best Value for Small Spaces
The Water Right 400 Series is an awesome pick, but all of its great features mean it’s a bit on the pricey side as well.
If you’re looking for something that’s a little easier on the wallet, but still easy to wrangle in a small garden, we recommend the Gatorhyde Coiled Garden Hose.
It’s a standard-sized 5/8-inch, made from 50 percent recycled polyurethane. The material is FDA approved to be drinking water safe. The couplings are nickel plated. It only comes in brown.
The coiled construction makes it easy to store, but some say it’s hard to pull to its full 50-foot length. This makes it a better choice for smaller gardens without a lot of storage space. And it fits well in a decorative pot, which we cover in our separate review of hose reels.
This is a Burpee exclusive, and comes with a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee.
5. Hoselink Retractable with Hose Reel: Best All-In-One
The Hoselink Retractable with Reel bills itself as “the complete watering system,” and owners say it lives up to that claim.
This setup includes the reel, a 9/16-inch diameter, 82-foot hose with a seven function nozzle, and a 6.5-foot leader hose. Many owners like that 82-foot length, saying it’s a nice alternative to having to choose between that standard 50 or 100 feet.
The Hoselink is intended to be wall-mounted and, when mounted, the reel can swivel 180 degrees. You will need a drill for the installation, so keep that in mind.
Its “stop anywhere” technology locks it in place when you stop, so you don’t have to continue pulling.
Users say the reel is easy to install and use, and the hose retracts very easily with the automatic rewind. Many also note that they’ve had one for several years and it is holding up well. The whole setup weighs 30 pounds.
The hose and reel are made from PVC and polypropylene with brass couplers, and stainless steel and plastic fittings. It is not food grade, so it’s probably best to avoid filling the dog’s bowl with this one.
The hose in integral to the reel and cannot be replaced. One nice feature is that the reel keeps the hose protected even in extreme weather conditions.
It comes with a two-year warranty.
6. Melnor Flat: Best Soaker
While watering a lawn usually involves spraying, many plants don’t like to be sprayed too often. Damp foliage can help promote and spread disease.
Instead, a deep watering at the base of the plant is best, and the Melnor Flat Soaker Garden Hose is just the tool to do that with.
It’s a flat, flexible model that is easy to weave around plants and through planters, users say. It’s a very popular product among gardeners with straw bale gardens. This type of construction also makes it easy to fold and store.
The fitting size is a standard 3/4 inches. It comes in 25, 50 and 75-foot lengths, and you can remove the cap to connect multiple hoses.
You can bury it under a light layer of mulch for semi-permanent installation in the garden, but a covering that is too heavy will affect its performance.
It’s not as sturdy as a traditional mode;, and we did see some complaints of leakage and deterioration. However, the latter issue seemed to be more of a problem when the hose was left out continually, rather than rolling it up and storing it after each use.
This product is made from PVC, ABS plastic, and polyester. It comes with a two-year limited warranty.
7. Gilmour Vinyl: Best Sprinkler Hose
Ideal for watering delicate new grasses or long, narrow areas like the side of a house, the Gilmour Vinyl Sprinkler Hose is a very versatile choice that can also function as a soaker. Just position it with the white side up for sprinkling, and the white side down for soaking.
Made from recycled plastic, owners say this model is very sturdy and durable, although it’s stiffer to handle than the more flexible Melnor.
They also say that, at full power, it sprays about 4 to 5 feet on either side of the center in sprinkler mode.
The fittings are nickel plated. It measures the standard 5/8 inch in diameter. It only comes in a 50-foot length, but you can attach up to three hoses. Gilmour offers a lifetime warranty.
Garden Hose Features
Water hoses form the basis of irrigation for the home yard and garden. But did you know there are various styles that can make your life easier?
There are three basic types that include: spray, soaker, and sprinkler.
These are the most common, and this type is just a hose that attaches to a faucet.
Water streams out in a single flow – you generally use a nozzle with these, or attach them to a sprinkler.
These are ideal for using in planters, or vegetable gardens where things are planted in rows.
They’re also a good choice for plants that prefer deep watering to sprinkling. Roses are a good example of this, as spraying and getting the leaves wet leaves them susceptible to various diseases. They prefer a deep watering instead.
If you only have one or two rose bushes, a spray hose set on a low flow at the root of the plants is fine, but if you have a whole row, a dedicated soaker is practically a must.
These are less common, but can be very useful in certain situations. They operate like a sprinkler, but are longer, allowing for more coverage at one time.
These typically have a double row of small holes down the center, and when you attach the coupling to the faucet and turn it on, the water gently arches out to each side.
Sprinklers are a good choice for newly planted grass, and for narrow, lengthy garden spaces.
Hoses are made from a variety of materials, from inexpensive vinyl to tough rubber, to proprietary blends developed for specific purposes, such as resistance to kinks, lower weight, or durability.
Some are made from recycled or partly recycled materials.
The material you choose will in large part determine how long it will last. A cheap vinyl or rubber product will be lightweight, but it won’t hold up to heavy usage or the elements as well as a more expensive, heavier rubber model.
Materials can include:
- Stainless Steel (wrapped over another material)
- Polyvinyl Chloride (aka PVC or vinyl)
- Extruded Synthetic Rubber
One important consideration if you, other family members, or pets will be drinking from the hose:
It’s important to purchase NSF and FDA certified food grade products. These are guaranteed to be lead, BPA, and phthalate free.
Food grade means the flavor of the water won’t be affected either, so it will taste as clear as if it came straight from a tap.
Remember never to drink water that has been sitting in the hose in the hot sun (flush it out first) and only drink outdoor water if it comes from a safe, filtered tap. If gray water is available for use outdoors in your area, do not drink it!
A garden hose should be drained after use and allowed to be ran a bit prior to using for potable water, especially if you are going to be using it with a spray nozzle.
Allowing the water to stagnate between use can provide the habitat where both Legioneolla bacteria (responsible for Legionnaires’ disease or Pontiac fever) and free-living amoebae (FLA) love to develop.
When the spray nozzle is used, aerosols may be produced with droplets smaller than 10 μm and which can be inhaled by people or animals. If this water is stagnate and contains either Legioneolla or FLA, this can possibly cause disease transmission.
The couplings (also called fittings) are just that – the metal threads at the end of the hose that attach them to a water spigot, sprinkler or nozzle, or another hose.
These are almost always comprised of some type of metal, and only the cheapest examples have plastic couplings.
The most common metal used for couplings is brass, either true brass or chrome-plated. But aluminum, stainless, and other types of metal can be used as well, depending upon the hose’s intended use. Heavy duty models usually feature stainless couplings.
The best couplings are octagon-shaped, making them easier to grip and tighten. If the coupling gets stuck, an octagonal rather than round shape is also easier to grip with a pair of pliers. Smooth, round couplings are definitely harder to get a grip on.
And, again, be sure the couplings are certified lead free if you’ll be drinking from the hose. Or better yet, carry a water bottle with you when you’re working in the garden, or dash inside for a quick drink before you head back out.
The standard diameter for a residential garden model is 5/8 inch, but 1/2 and 3/4-inch sizes are also widely available.
There are even a few smaller, 7/16-inch choices out there. These are intended for use in the smaller garden, as they are very light and easy to maneuver.
Larger sizes, such as 3/4 inch, are generally used for commercial applications.
While a larger model will technically deliver more water faster, this doesn’t matter if it’s more (or less) flow than you need. If you have a small garden, or strength or mobility issues, buy a smaller, lighter model– you can still find well-made, long lasting products in those sizes.
If your needs are standard, buy a 5/8-inch size. And if you need to power wash your barn, you might want to move up to the 3/4-inch size.
There is no end to the vast variety of lengths available on the market, from tiny, 3-foot-long leader hoses to 100-foot options that can reach around a good-sized garden.
The most popular standard length is 50 feet, which is a happy medium for most people.
Since water pressure decreases with a longer model, the best length is one that will reach all around your yard without a lot of extra length.
Now matter how you irrigate your lawn or garden, having a quality equipment makes your chores easier and less frustating.
No More Water Worries
Taking some time to think about what type of hose you want and need, rather than just running to the local garden center and grabbing something cheap off the shelf, will pay off in the long run. I know from personal experience.
A product that kinks, is hard to attach and detach, or that disintegrates in the sun midway through a hot summer, is a frustration you don’t need.
After all, gardening is supposed to be fun and relaxing! So buy the right hose for your outdoor space, and save your sweat for planting more flowers.
As a kink-proof option that’s available in a variety of sizes, lengths, and colors, the Flexilla is our favorite option. Which one will you choose?
Are you a fan of a top product that we missed? Do you have a watering story to share? Tell us all about it in the comments below.
And be sure to check some of our other garden irrigation buying guides such as:
© Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Products photos courtesy of Flexzilla, Craftsman, Water Right, Gatorhyde, HoseLink USA, Melnor, and Gilmor. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.
About Kelly Burgess
Kelly Burgess is a product review specialist who loves food, kitchen gadgets, gardening, and writing. She was born and raised in Southern California, raised her kids in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and now lives in Spokane, Washington with her husband and three cats. When she’s not cooking, eating or writing, Kelly likes to read, hang out with friends, hike, and explore the great Northwest.