Delivering water to plants is a common denominator in gardening, and the hand-held hose gets the job done for most of us. Selecting the hose may simply be a matter of choosing either vinyl or rubber, but nozzles are more complicated. They can be made from plastic or metal (or a combination of both); in one or multiple parts; in gun, wand or traditional nozzle form; and with a surprising variation in spray strengths and patterns. As with all tools offering a variety of special features, you'll get the best fit by knowing which nozzles are best suited to your hand and adaptable to your planned use of water.
First, consider the form of the nozzle device, how it fits in your hand and whether you could use it for an extended period of time. Anything that requires a tight grip to release and aim the stream will fatigue hand muscles and cause cramping. Size and scale are important: high-pressure guns can be hard to control for a small hand, while a larger hand may feel inadequate for a medium-sized gun. Make sure the device fits comfortably in your palm.
Hose nozzles made from solid brass are good quality and long lasting, and will outlive the gardener. But they are quick to chill from cold water and uncomfortable to use for extended periods. Look for foam cushioning or an insulating sheath over the hand grip. Stainless steel is another heavy metal with lasting value, but die-cast zinc and aluminum are much lighter and give good results. High quality and lightweight are features found in nozzles manufactured from nylon and fibreglass; metal is sometimes included for added strength.
Now for the tricky part—what are your watering purposes and how many special features do you require? Determine the three most necessary watering functions you need, then see what each nozzle offers. Simple brass ones have a classic twist mechanism that makes either a stream or a spray, adequate for most gardening applications; gun nozzles with revolving turrets can have numerous spray patterns. It's difficult to imagine the need for some of these—although Stephen and I did get soaking wet trying to invent uses for chevrons and horizontal bars of water sprayed at high pressure. If you tend flats of seedlings, then certainly a misting feature will be useful, as will a classic rose for delicate watering. A wand attachment will lengthen your reach and save you from back strain. A clip to hold the nozzle in the “on” position is a valuable option and saves stress on your grip. Finally, the best hose nozzle is the one that operates with complete ease in your hand and faithfully performs your three most important watering functions, whatever they are—chevrons, upside down pyramids or even figure eights!