When Consumer Reports tested three lightweight expandable hoses two summers ago we thought they were an acceptable alternative to heavy garden hoses. But as soon as we published the results of our tests we started hearing complaints from our readers and Facebook fans about expandable hoses that burst, split, and leaked. Many said they had returned one, two, or even three hoses to the store. The outcry led manufacturers to upgrade their hoses so, of course, we felt compelled to retest the newest batch.
The appeal of an expandable hose is that it's lighter, easier to handle, and doesn't take up as much storage space as a conventional hose because when there's no water in it the hose shrinks down to size. This year, the three original brands we tested came out with models with tougher fittings. The DAP XHose makes the DAP XHose Pro and DAP XHose Pro Extreme; Pocket Hose makes the Pocket Hose Ultra and the Pocket Hose Top Brass; and FlexAble Hose makes FlexAble Hose Extreme. But how extreme are they?
In our first tests we kinked, knicked, and twisted the hoses, put them in a freezer to simulate cold weather, and otherwise abused them like you would any garden hose. This time we focused on what our readers told us was the weakest link, the fittings. We also evaluated the hoses for how easy they were to repair should they tear. Here's what we discovered.
The new connectors are stronger than the older, light plastic versions and stand up to impact much better. The brass fittings of the Pocket Hose Top Brass and the XHose Pro, and the aluminum fittings of the FlexAble Hose Extreme were even better than the brass fittings of a standard garden hose. However, with the exception of the FlexAble Hose Extreme, the hoses were more or less the same, meaning they can rupture if the tubing rubs against the inner edge of the connector.
To address this problem the Pocket Hose Top Brass adding "connector protectors" at each end that reinforce the section where the hose joins the fittings. And if the XHose springs a leak, we found that it's repairable, which sets it apart from the other hoses including its brandmate the XHose Pro. But even when used with care, failure of the expandable hoses is common, as our online readers continue to tell us.
We also tested another lightweight, but non-expandable hose, the Clear Flow. The transparent 50-foot hose weighs just a tad over 3 pounds. The hose is compact and the sides flatten when it's coiled and stored. The manufacturer claims it doesn't kink and we found that to be true. You can also repair the Clear Flow if it breaks. In short, it's a good choice if you're looking for a lightweight garden hose that's easy to maneuver.
We were recently contacted by the company that represents the XHose Pro, National Express Incorporated, which claims the product we tested was not authentic and that Amazon, where we purchased it, was not an authorized seller. Since our testing, the company has come out with a hose it says is even stronger, the XHose Pro Extreme. We are buying one directly from the manufacturer's website and will be testing it in our labs.
—Mary H.J. Farrell (@mhjfarrell on Twitter)