How portable, practical and useable are cassette-type hoses? Ben Meakins wrestles with the problem, tests six models and promises not to gush
This article was edited on 20/06/16 to correct an error: The X-Hose is not certified as food-safe.
It’s long been the case that marinas across the Channel don’t supply hoses, but in the past few years marinas in the UK have been removing theirs at an alarming rate too. That means that if you want fresh water, either to wash down your boat or fill your water tanks, you will need to carry your own hose.
The simplest solution is to take a length of hosepipe – but storing one, even on a garden-type reel, takes up a lot of valuable space on any boat.
That leaves cassette-type hoses. I remember being frustrated almost to tears as a child when trying to roll up a ‘collapsible’ cassette hose which kinked, jammed and refused to go back on its reel.
However, there are a range of options, so we collected together six ways to get water from a tap to your boat and put them to the test.
We looked at the quality of the fittings and how leak-resistant they were, as well as the quality of the hoses themselves. We also assessed ease of use and replacement on the reel, and resistance to kinking.
Only three of the hoses we found were suitable for drinking water, or marked as ‘food grade’.
This isn’t an issue if you’re just looking to wash your boat down, but to fill a water tank it’s worth spending the extra money for a food-safe hose. Some plastics, often present in garden hosepipes, can leach bisphenol A (or BPA) used in the manufacturing process into the water, which is a potential health risk.
Manufacturers recommend running the hose through before placing it in your tank (a good idea anyway), to clear any nasties from the pipe. A food-safe hose is a wise investment!
Length: Whatever you want it to be
Stowed size: Around 80x80x20cm
Flow rate: 5lt: 17s = 18lt/minute
Standard hosepipes have the advantage that they are relatively cheap, easily available and some are even made from food-grade hose: and besides, you can have any length you want.
The downside is that they are bulky to stow: reels are available but are big and heavy, too big for most boats’ cockpit lockers.
Our sample hose was 15m long, sold as a food-safe motorhome hose, and cost £25 from eBay. It was supplied coiled, but as with any standard hosepipe it was difficult to stow unless it was coiled back up and tied with string. The smallest we could coil it was 80x80cm. It was, however, resistant to kinks and had a very good flow rate, although experience tells us that hosepipes become more susceptible to kinks as they age.
ON TEST: Second-best flow rate, available online in any length and safe for drinking water if made from food- grade hose, but too cumbersome to stow on most small boats.
Length: 15m (50ft)
Stowed size: 47x40x6cm
Flow rate: 5lt: 35s = 8.6lt/minute
This hose, which we bought from Force 4 but which is also available from a number of gardening outlets, is of different construction to the others on test, comprising three 6mm hoses bonded together to create one flat hose. It comes stowed on a captive reel, with a Hozelock type push-fitting at each end. The reel is solidly made and has a good winding handle. It isn’t certified for drinking water.
Its flat design means that it is almost impossible to kink, and the semi-rigid construction means that you don’t need to remove all the water to replace it on the reel. However, the semi-rigid design means that it comes off the reel formed in coils, which makes winding it back longer than it should. The plastic hose also proved to be quite brittle: after keeping it in a locker for nine months with occasional use, the hose fractured where it was held by the centre of the reel. It’s still usable without fittings on one end – until the other end fractures.
ON TEST: Resistant to kinks, but the semi-rigid design makes the hose itself brittle. Its design gave it the lowest flow rate on test. It fractured at the point where it is held by the reel after nine months’ storage on our boat, having been used only four times.
Stowed size: 43x37x4.5cm
Flow rate: 5lt: 20s = 15lt/minute
This hose is available from Force 4 and Fox’s chandleries. Made in the UK, it comprises a flat, single-core hose with good quality push-fit end fittings which didn’t leak under pressure. A 1in BSP threaded male adaptor is supplied along with a 25-38mm female hose clamp for awkward fittings, and there is a variable nozzle on the end.
The reel is made from plastic, and there is a removable winding handle which slots into a socket but is stored inside the reel. This could get lost in a locker, so perhaps it should be drilled for a lanyard attachment.
The hose was resistant to kinks – the thick-walled hose meant that water pressure pushed them out, and it had a good flow rate. The end fittings can be cut off and reattached should any section become damaged. The hose wall was thicker than any of the others on test.
Winding the hose back onto the reel was a slightly tortuous affair as all the water had to be removed first to allow the hose to fit on the reel and, without the water pressure to keep the kinks out, it had to be laid flat on the pontoon. But as long as this was done, it wound back on with no fuss.
ON TEST: A high-quality food-grade hose with well-made fittings that didn’t leak, a good flow rate and a useful reel.
Stowed size: 27x33x3cm
Flow rate: 5lt: 25s = 12lt/minute
Kingfisher Gardening’s Kink Resistant Lay Flat Hose Set is sold by a number of outlets. Ours came from Machine Mart, but it’s also available from Towsure and online. It’s a compact reel, with a plastic hose and braided cover. It comes with two tap fittings, one with a 3⁄4in BSP thread and another with a 1in BSP thread. It has a Hozelock-style quick-release fitting on each end. It comes with a spray gun attachment which is useful for rinsing off and cleaning but less good for filling water tanks. It’s not certified as food-safe or suitable for drinking water, so it should be used accordingly.
As with all flat hoses, it must be removed from the reel entirely before use. When removed from the reel and connected to the tap it filled with water like a snake coming to life, and was somewhat prone to kinking, although the water pressure eventually ironed these out. It had a flow rate of 12lt/minute. The push-fit end fittings were prone to leaking under high pressure.
Replacing it on the reel was a nightmare. The inner hose kinked and rolled as the outer cover stretched, making removing all the water nearly impossible – a necessary precursor to rolling it up. We eventually got it back on the reel by laying it flat on the pontoon and squeezing the water out inch by inch, which took longer than it had taken to fill the tanks.
ON TEST: Cheap, and a good flow rate, but prone to kinks and soul-destroying to replace on the reel.
Price: From £19.99 (15m)
Length: 5m contracted, 15m expanded
Stowed size: 25x25cm
Flow rate: 5lt: 15s = 20lt/min
The XHose is a non food-grade hose with a plastic inner and an elasticated outer sheath which shortens the hose when not in use for stowage. It is 5m long when contracted but expands with water pressure to 15m. Other models are available, up to 30m (100ft). Stowage is therefore easy as it can be coiled up or stuffed in a locker. It’s also lightweight, at 45g.
It comes with a standard 25mm threaded adapter on the tap end and a Hozelock-type push-fitting on the other end. It also has a shut-off valve at the end.
When the water pressure was applied, it expanded and lengthened like a gorging python. Its flow rate was the best on test at 20lt/minute, but it was important to keep the pressure up in order to keep the hose at its full length – backing the tap off meant the hose began to shorten, so taps with very low pressure could pose a problem. However, with an adjustable nozzle on the end you can reduce the flow rate but keep the same water pressure in the hose – the fittings were good quality and showed no signs of leakage. It comes with a one-year warranty, but this can be extended to three years for an extra £14.99.
ON TEST: Excellent – easy to store and good quality, with an impressive flow rate, but high pressure is needed to maintain its length. This pressure meant it resisted kinks well, too.
Stowed size: 31x26x26cm
Flow rate: 5lt: 17s = 18lt/minute
Hozelock make a mini-hose reel for small gardens and balconies, the Pico Reel. It’s 10m long, which is on the short side for marina use, but the fittings are good quality and leak-free. The flow rate was equivalent to our standard hosepipe. The round hose stows on the reel without any need to remove the water first, and the reel is compact. It comes with well-made push-fit fittings and a spray gun, and can be used partly wound on the reel if the tap isn’t far away. The hose is not food- safe, so shouldn’t be used for drinking water. On tEst: Small and compact, ideal for washing down a boat. The reel would be easy to stow in most lockers, and the fittings are of good quality.
All the hoses worked in that they transported water, but there were some major differences.
It’s best to go for the longest hose you can: a quick survey of local marinas showed that no berth was further than 15m away from a hose, but there’s always a chance that a hose won’t be quite long enough to reach your boat. That means that our joint best buy award goes to the 20m Meridian Zero hose and the XHose, also available in that length.
The XHose had the best flow rate on test and coiled back up into a soft, small, easily stowed coil. We’ll conduct some longevity tests and report back, but while the Meridian Zero hose was of higher quality and feels like it would last better than the XHose, it isn’t as easy to store.
The other hoses tested would be ok for wash-downs, but all bar one weren’t food-grade: and in some cases were seriously lacking in quality.
Greg Goulding assesses a range of waterproof phone cases to see how they cope with conditions at sea and during…
Alex Bell and a PBO test team compare a variety of handheld lamps, meanwhile assessing LEDs versus incandescent bulbs, with…
Dust-free sanding sounded too good to be true, but the Mirka Deros 650CV sander, priced from £340, makes it as…
Being able to leave the helm for short periods of time is made much easier with something to hold the…
Chart plotters and instruments have been around long enough that they’re now considered standard equipment on most boats. But sailors…
Which cleaning products are the most efficient at removing ingrained dirt from boat decks? PBO’s Ben Meakins tries out a…
Five dedicated testers took to the RNLI College's training pool to put 17 lifejackets through their paces.
The ‘tank taste’ you get from a boat’s fresh water tank can be pretty unpalatable, especially if you’re feeling seasick.…