The Best Backpack Sprayer for Home Gardeners (2016 Edition)

If you’ve ever needed to spray your property with weed killer, fertilizer, or pesticides, then you already know how difficult this task can be. You have to make repeated trips back and forth from your shed to your work area – all the while lugging around gallons or more of heavy liquids.

If you have to do this repeatedly, even just a few times a year, then buying the best backpack sprayer is a smart move.

Figure 1 - Photo credit: edgeplot via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Backpack sprayers are a game changer for people who need to spray garden chemicals of any type over a large area. They make the task much faster and much easier. Today’s backpack sprayers typically have a 4-gallon capacity, which means fewer trips back and forth to mix a fresh batch. And because the weight is evenly distributed on your back, the physical labor of moving the mixture around is considerably less.

A good backpack sprayer can change what used to be an insufferable chore into a pleasant stroll around your garden. And because you have a free hand, you can actually enjoy a relaxing beverage as you work!

There is a wide range of products available on the market today, and below I have reviewed 5 of the very best options.

**Below, you will find more detailed reviews, but you can also click the links above to see current prices and read customer reviews on Amazon.

Different Types of Sprayers

There are several different types of sprayers today, ranging from simple hand-held bottles all the way up to 30 gallon tanks that are designed to be towed by an ATV or yard tractor. The best sprayer for you depends on the size of the area you need to treat and the frequency with which you need to apply various chemicals.

For the average homeowner, the backpack sprayer is usually the best product. But let’s take a quick look at the different types of sprayers that are available before we dive down into the specific qualities you should look for.

Towable Tanks

If you’re treating an extremely large area, the towable tank may be the best solution for you. Typically, these are used by golf courses, resorts, and municipal governments. If your yard is as big as a city park – you might look into one of these.

The tanks on these units range from 10 gallons all the way up to 30 gallons, and higher. As you would expect, a tank like this is a significant investment, and you will find average prices in the $250 - $500 range.

Backpack Sprayers

The next set of popular sprayers are the backpack sprayers. These are typically plastic tanks with straps to fit over your shoulders. You pressurize the tank with a simple hand pump, just as you would a smaller hand-held sprayer.

The tanks on backpack sprayers are typically about 4 gallons, although you’ll find tanks on the market that are slightly larger and slightly smaller. The price range goes from about $150 all the way down to about $50.

Backpack sprayers are commonly used by gardeners and landscapers – and they are usually the best choice for the private homeowner.

Hand-Held Sprayers

Below backpack sprayers, you’ll find several varieties of hand-help pump sprayers. These typically range in size from 1 gallon up to 3 gallons, with prices averaging between $10 to $20.

While they are cheaper than backpack sprayers, they require significantly more work. First, you have to make many more trips back and forth to mix a fresh batch of chemicals due to the smaller tank size. And you also have to carry the tank with you as you walk around to apply the chemicals.

If you’ve ever lugged around 3 gallons of liquid with one arm, you know how tiring this can be… and it’s bad for your back too!

Figure 2 - Photo credit: Chris Alberti via Foter.com / CC BY

Pro tip

Oil-based products are notoriously hard on pressure sprayers. Tiny particles of dust and dirt stick to the residue left by oil-based products, creating a think “gunk” that can easily clog up a pressure sprayer. If you’ve ever had a pump sprayer that seemed fine but inexplicably stopped working altogether, this is likely what happened.

Any time you use an oil-based product in a pressure sprayer, you should thoroughly rinse the unit immediately afterward with plain water. Consider rinsing it two or three times if time allows, and then leave it in a well-ventilated area to dry.

If the majority of the products you spray do not contain any oil, I would strongly consider buying a second (cheaper) sprayer to use only with oil-based products. Use the cheap sprayer to spray oil-based chemicals when necessary. And save your good sprayer for chemicals that won’t foul it up.

Factors to Consider When Purchasing a New Backpack Sprayer

When you’re shopping for a new backpack sprayer, there are several different options that you’ll want to be aware of. Consider each of these before you make a final decision.

Pressure Capacity

When you have used up the pressure in your backpack, you have to take it off, set it down, pump it back up, and put the backpack back on. It’s inconvenient and it takes time.

Some pumps can hold a stronger charge, which means you have fewer stoppages to recharge the tank. High-pressure tanks and pumps are a nice option if you don’t mind spending the extra money.

Tank Material

A translucent tank means that it’s easy to see how much liquid remains in the tank. It also makes the job of measuring your mixture much easier. If you can’t see through the walls of the tank, there will always be a bit of a guessing game to determine how much liquid you should add – and how much is left inside.

Poly is the most common material on the market today, because it can be made transparent and it has great high-pressure capacity.

Seal Material

The most common parts to fail on any pump sprayer are the seals. Multiple seals are used on the pump assembly, the tank lid, and the wand apparatus. All of these seals regularly come into contact with harsh chemicals, and they’re all regularly subjected to high pressure conditions.

Viton seals are the best available on the market today. All of the products we’ve reviewed below include viton seals – and I wouldn’t buy a pressure sprayer that doesn’t have them.

Figure 3 - Photo credit: Jason Alley via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Bells and Whistles

Across the spectrum of backpack sprayers, you’ll find several manufacturers touting various bells and whistles that make their product stand out. Some of these are nice features to have, and some of them are just marketing ploys. Here are a few that we think are nice to have…

  • Agitators – An agitator is a device within the tank that works to keep the solution of water and chemicals well-mixed as you work. It prevents the chemicals you’re using from settling at the bottom of the tank, and it makes it much easier to work with powders and oil-based products.
  • Filters – One of the most common problems with any pump sprayer is for debris to enter the tank, work its way down the wand, and eventually clog the sprayer. A well-placed filter can virtually eliminate this problem. As you’ll see, some of the products we’ve recommended below actually incorporate several different filters.
  • Nozzles – If you’ve used a standard hand-held pump sprayer, you’re probably familiar with the twisting-nozzle design. Several backpack sprayers have various other nozzles available to give you a wider selection of spray patterns – and to allow you to spray chemicals over a wide area more easily.

Like I said, these things are nice to have, but they’re not the most important factor. Be sure that the sprayer you select has quality viton seals and a transparent poly tank. To make the job of selecting the best backpack sprayer easier, we’ve narrowed the field down to these 5 sprayers that are truly the best in class.

Product Reviews – The Best Backpack Sprayer

1.Hudson 97157 SP2

Via Amazon.com

Hudson’s 97157 SP2 is one of the finest backpack sprayers available on the market today. It is preferred by professional gardeners and landscapers around the world.

It uses a high-grade poly tank and a steel pump handle to achieve a pressure capacity of 180 pounds per square inch (psi) which is best-in-class. The tank’s liquid capacity is 4 gallons.

The best materials are used throughout the design, from a solid steel handle to a 20-inch brass wand and a brass cone nozzle. You might expect that all those quality materials would add up to create a very heavy backpack… but this sprayer is actually one of the lightest units on this list. It weighs in at only 12.1 pounds when empty.

It comes standard with Viton seals. The shut-off valve locks in position and includes and in-line filter to catch any debris before hitting the nozzle. And as an added bonus, the unit ships with 3 plastic flat fan nozzles – for wide spray patterns.

And to top it all off, Hudson backs this sprayer up with a 1-year warranty – which is a very hard feature to find on any pump sprayer.

Pros

  • 180 psi pressure capacity is the best in class – fewer stops to recharge the tank
  • Brass components for maximum corrosion resistance – it’s even safe for chlorine
  • Translucent poly tank to easily monitor liquid level and mix consistency
  • Viton seals for resistance to harsh chemicals
  • Locking shut-off valve with in-line filter

Cons

  • Significant investment required – it’s the most expensive pump on our list

2.Smith Performance Sprayers NL400

Via Amazon.com

Smith Performance Sprayers’ NL400 model is an awesome tool, and a favorite of many professional gardeners. This sprayer features an internal no-leak pump – which means that you never have to worry about harsh pesticides and herbicides leaking from the pump and running down your back.

The 4-gallon tank is made of translucent poly material, and the tank can hold a charge up to 150 psi – which is the second highest pressure capacity that we’ve seen.

A built-in agitator keeps your solution well-mixed and ready to spray as you work. It is capable of handling liquids, powder solutions, and water-soluble solutions. Pressure from the pump actuates paddles within the tank that continually stir your mixture as you work.

The 21-inch wand is made of stainless steel, with a poly lining for maximum resistance to harsh chemicals. All seals are made with the highest quality Viton for strength and longevity.

The patented pump design uses as few high-wear parts as possible, meaning there are fewer replacement parts to worry about. The pump mechanism on this sprayer will likely outlast any other in its class.

In terms of comfort, no pump is better. The NL400 features a breathable padded nylon harness with an adjustable chest clip and a lumbar support.


Pros

  • 150 psi pressure capacity – fewer stops to recharge the tank
  • Stainless steel components for maximum corrosion resistance
  • Translucent poly tank to easily monitor liquid level and mix consistency
  • Viton seals for resistance to harsh chemicals
  • Pressure-actuated agitator to keep your solution well-mixed as you work

Cons

  • Significant investment required

3.Roundup 190327

Via Amazon.com

The Roundup 190327 features an easy-access pump allowing you to change out the seals in just minutes with no tools required. And the internal design means there are no worries about harsh pesticides and herbicides running down your back as you work.

Other than the brass shut-off valve, all components including the wand and nozzle are made of a high-grade poly material. The shut-off valve incorporates an in-line filter to prevent debris from clogging the nozzle. This sprayer uses Viton seals throughout.

The pressure capacity of the tank at full charge is 150 psi – in line with the best pumps in the business. And the tank includes pressure-actuated agitator paddles to keep your solution well-mixed. An in-line pressure regulator maintains a consistent flow at 25 psi, but can be removed for hard-to-reach areas and spraying long distances.

This unit ships with four different nozzles, including a foaming nozzle.

Pros

  • 150 psi pressure capacity – fewer stops to recharge the tank
  • Translucent poly tank to easily monitor liquid level and mix consistency
  • Viton seals for resistance to harsh chemicals
  • Pressure-actuated agitator to keep your solution well-mixed as you work

Cons

  • Poly wand and nozzles

4.Field King 190328

Via Amazon.com

The Field King 190328 uses a chemical-resistant poly material for all components other than the shut-off valve, which is brass. It features an in-line filter and an internal pump design. The pump handle can be easily switched for right-handed or left-handed operation.

The internal pump is a safe design and prevents leakage during use. Viton seals are used exclusively for long life and maximum durability with exposure to corrosive chemicals.

The translucent poly tank is easy to see through, and holds a charge up to 150 psi. 4 different nozzles are included with your purchase – all made of chemical-resistant poly. The wand measures 21 inches in length.


Pros

  • 150 psi pressure capacity – fewer stops to recharge the tank
  • Translucent poly tank to easily monitor liquid level and mix consistency
  • Viton seals for resistance to harsh chemicals
  • Pressure-actuated agitator to keep your solution well-mixed as you work

Cons

  • Poly wand and nozzles

5.Chapin 61800

Via Amazon.com

Chapin’s sprayer has a 4-gallon translucent poly tank with a 4-inch wide mouth for easy filling and cleaning. The most notable aspect of this design is its 3-stage filtration – ensuring that debris will never make it through to the nozzle to stop your work or damage the unit.

The wand and shut-off are poly, and the 3 included nozzles are all brass. The wand handle is cushioned, with a trigger lock mechanism to prevent hand fatigue. All seals are Viton.


Pros

  • Translucent poly tank to easily monitor liquid level and mix consistency
  • Viton seals for resistance to harsh chemicals

Cons

  • Pressure capacity is not listed for this unit
  • Poly shut-off valve, wand, and nozzles
  • Shoulder straps are not as comfortable as more expensive models

Choosing the Best Backpack Sprayer for Your Yard and Garden

If you’re looking for quality and durability, the Hudson 97157 SP2 is the way to go. Its best-in-class pressure rating and superior construction make it the clear winner for anyone who doesn’t mind spending the extra money.

If you’re looking for economy, you’ll be happy with the Field King 190328. This unit has everything you need. It squeezes some nice bells and whistles into a low price point. You get everything that is included in more expensive models, except that the wand and nozzles are made of poly.

If comfort and ease of use are most important to you, I would highly recommend the Smith Performance Sprayers NL400. No other sprayer makes the heavy load of 4 gallons easier to carry with less impact on your back and shoulders.

Do you have experience using any of the sprayers on this list? If so, leave us a comment down below and let us know what you like – and don’t like – about it. And if you have a favorite backpack sprayer that we didn’t mention, please leave a comment to share it with our audience.

James G. Craig
 

James G. Craig is a gardening enthusiast who splits his spare time between growing vegetables, preening his flower gardens, and blogging about his experiences at the Gardener Corner.

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