Garden hoses can be unwieldy so the promise of a lightweight, expandable hose that takes up little space was hard to resist. Consumer Reports tried out three 50-foot models of this new breed of garden hose, which weighs as little as one pound and stretches like an accordion to roughly three times its original length with the water on. And while the so-called pocket hoses don't really fit in your pocket, they live up to most of their claims.
The hoses we tested were the Pocket Hose, $28, FlexAbleHose, $39, and DAP XHose, $48. All prices include shipping. In our kinking, twisting, slashing, and freezing tests, the hoses lived up to most of their TV infomercial promises. We even found a clear winner, the Pocket Hose, if you want higher flow far from the spigot but have wimpy water pressure.
The hoses resist kinking and bursting. None lost flow when folded, twisted, or knotted—a problem with the conventional hoses we bought for comparison. And none burst until we boosted water pressure to more than 200 pounds per square inch (psi), much more than the 40 to 80 psi that's usual in most homes.
Though small nicks we made in the hoses created weak spots, they held together until cuts reached about one inch in length. If any part is damaged or the hose leaks, expandable hoses can't be repaired like conventional ones. Their manufacturers warn you to keep them out of the sun when you aren't using them. They may also shrink under reduced pressure. The hoses delivered full flow for car-washing and other jobs at 60 psi with the nozzle wide open. But at 40 psi, they started retracting unless we reduced the flow at the nozzle. The Pocket Hose shrank the least, losing roughly 10 feet of length compared with almost 30 feet for the other two. And because they shrink to their original size when the water is turned off, all three are poor choices for use with sprinklers.
If you're just digging in to your yard work this spring, here's some tricks to reduce the size of your yard and your yard work. Switching from an all-lawn yard to one that's 40 percent lawn and 60 percent trees, shrubs, ground cover, and hardscape will cut your water needs by 20 to 50 percent, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. You may not even need a hose, pocket-size or otherwise.
Update: "Flexible garden hoses get mixed reviews from our readers."