A garden hose is one of the most indispensable tools in a gardener's arsenal. Depending on the gardener and the garden, a hose may need to stand up to hot sun, freezing water, kinks, knocks and high-pressure water year after year. The right hose for a hobbyist is not necessarily going to fit the bill for a professional gardener, however.
The cheapest type of garden hose is the vinyl hose. Vinyl hoses are lightweight and flexible, making them good general-purpose garden hoses. They can be damaged by the sun, kinking or impact, so it is important to coil and store them properly when they aren't in use.
Not all vinyl hoses are equal, however. Reinforced hoses have better burst pressure ratings and resist wear better than non-reinforced ones. A double-layer reinforced vinyl hose will generally deliver the best quality.
Rubber hoses are the strongest and most durable type of garden hoses. They are much less likely to burst, crack or weather than other hoses. Rubber hoses can even carry hot water, which vinyl hoses are not designed to do. Rubber hoses tend to be more expensive and heavier than vinyl hoses.
Rubber-vinyl hoses are reinforced with tire cord fiber, like rubber hoses. They are fairly lightweight, and are more flexible and kink-resistant than vinyl. They are durable enough for most gardeners, but are cheaper and lighter weight than all-rubber hoses.
Flat hoses are designed to be easy to store and compact. They are normally flat until inflated with about 20 psi of water pressure. Flat hoses will not expand unless they are completely unwound. When flat hoses are disconnected, they automatically drain of much of their water, since they naturally squeeze down to a flat shape. This makes them less susceptible to ice damage than most other hoses.
Soaker hoses are special purpose hoses designed for watering garden beds without need of a sprinkler. They have tiny holes along their length, which create a slow, even spray when they are turned on. Soaker hoses are sometimes used with automatic watering systems, to dispense water at preset times to gardens.