The 9 Best Expandable Garden Hoses
Just Turn On The Water And Watch It Grow
When you think of water causing something to expand, you may be reminded of the expandable water monsters marketed at kids since the 1970s. You just dropped these super absorbent polymer shapes into a bowl of water and they'd grow many times their original size, much to the fascination of anyone under a certain age.
The expandable hoses we're looking at here don't have quite as much pull with the youngsters compared to those little monstrosities, but for adults they are a life saver.
These hoses aren't just some magic material that expands and contracts so well. They're actually made from two layers of very specific material. The first layer, the one that you see, is a woven, expandable fabric that helps protect the inner layer from exposure to the elements. That inner layer is a rubber hose whose diameter expands in response to water pressure, pushing on the outer fabric layer and creating the longer, more functional hose.
The resulting hose is virtually kink-proof, and if you do squeeze it together with all your might, you'll still have water flowing through it. The material of the inner hose also has self-healing properties, making it more resistant to tears, holes, and leaks.
Be careful, though. These hoses can't withstand water pressures too far above 200 p.s.i. Of course, the average household pumps out anywhere between 40 and 80 p.s.i. at full throttle, so it isn't going to be a big problem for many of us. On the converse side, if you leave the spigot too closed off, and your pressure dips below 40 p.s.i., a lot of these hoses will begin to shrink, costing you some length.
Length Isn't The Only Variable
When it comes to imitated products out on the market, there are few that compare to the expandable hose. Now, not all imitations are lesser versions. There's nothing to say that another company can't come along and improve upon some aspect of a design.
I will say this, though. If you're having a difficult time discerning the difference between one hose and another, and it seems like they're identical in every possible way except for the price, you may have to bite the bullet and spend a little extra, just to guard against corners cut by imitators.
That said, there are some very important things to watch out for, specifically the construction of the couplings.
In my life, I've probably had two hoses that have sprung leaks, most often from being left out too deeply into the winter cold. The part of your hose that is most likely to fail you is the coupling at either end. If it's made of plastic, you'll have to buy a new hose very soon. Look for brass whenever possible.
It should be noted that one of the hoses on our list isn't of the standard expandable type that's come to dominate the market, but rather is more akin to those curly elastic shoelaces I once tried out as a fashion statement. The hose works a lot better than the laces did, and the hose certainly won't get you shoved in a locker.
The idea behind both the laces and the hose is pretty much the same: that a tighter coil keeps its shape. That means no kinks in your hose and no knots on your shoes.
The Hose Through History
There is something magical about the way water tastes coming out of a garden hose. I liken it to all things summery and free, to that brief pause in childhood play for a quick outdoor drink. Nowadays, I also liken it to whatever carcinogenic materials I ingested along with the ground water flowing through a tube of unregulated rubbers and polymers. But that's why products evolve, people.
It was the Greeks that first tore out the intestines of an ox and used them in conjunction with the animal's bladder to create a crude hose system capable of putting out what must have been incredibly small fires. The intestine was prone to tearing and degrading, of course, so these weren't particularly viable options for their fire department.
In fact, some Greek art depicts such hoses actually being used as flame throwers during battle, the bladders having been filled with an accelerant.
Over time, the hose developed into something closer to what we use today, with a flexible variant eventually coming to us from a Dutch artist and inventor named Jan van der Heyden in the 1600s. Like a lot of contemporary hoses, this one was cumbersome and prone to damage, as it was made from stitched together leather.
The materials changed from there, as manufacturers used everything from silks, to canvass, to rubber, and sailcloth to make their hoses.
Then Michael Berardi came along, an inventor from New Jersey, with the idea for the expandable hose. To hear him tell the story, he got the patents first, and everybody else is stealing his idea. The validity of his claims is playing out in court right now, so while we're waiting for updates in the case, let's go water that thirsty lawn.