If you are like many homeowners with a beautiful, sprawling, lawn or garden you take pride in maintaining your outdoor space. You are no stranger to the effort it takes to keep things green and thriving, but the struggle of lugging around and refilling a hand pump sprayer can take its toll. You want a more efficient way to apply herbicides and pesticides, but you may wonder if a backpack sprayer is worth the investment. Let’s explore the benefits and find out if a backpack sprayer is right your you.
Backpack sprayers are generally worth the cost if you have a large area to cover. You can cover ground more efficiently because you will refill the tank less often and you can pump the sprayer without stopping or setting it on the ground to rest. However, if you only need to spray a small area occasionally, a smaller hand pump may suit you just fine.
Let’s examine the pros and cons of a backpack sprayer and compare its cost versus hand pump sprayers.
Testing Efficiency of a Backpack Sprayer vs a Hand Pump Sprayer
It’s no secret that there are differences between backpack sprayers and hand pump sprayers. However, there are some aspects that you may not have considered. Backpack sprayers generally have larger capacities than hand pump sprayers. Depending on the make and model, backpack sprayers can hold anywhere from 2 to 5 gallons of liquid, while hand pump sprayers usually hold between 1 and 2 gallons.
The increased capacity of a backpack sprayer will allow you to cover more area before needing to refill, but it also means it is heavier. A fully loaded 4-gallon backpack sprayer will weigh nearly 40 pounds. Many would prefer not to lug this much weight around, but we will discuss that more in a moment.
The bottom line with sprayer capacity: does it make you more efficient? I did a simple test to see how much more efficient I could be when using a backpack sprayer versus a hand pump sprayer.
I marked off a 2500 sq ft area to spray. I simply timed how long it took to even cover the area using both a 4-gallon backpack sprayer and a 2-gallon hand pump sprayer. I filled both sprayers full and sprayed the area twice. I used the same nozzle on each one to ensure the output was as similar as possible. I started the time then filled the sprayer and began to spray. I used a simple back-and-forth motion with my spray wand and tried to maintain a constant walking pace.
It took just over 11 minutes to cover 5000 square feet with my hand pump sprayer. This includes the time it took to fill the sprayer. It took just under 9 minutes to fill the sprayer and cover the same area with the backpack sprayer.
The reason it took longer to cover the same area with a hand pump sprayer was that each time I needed to pump the sprayer I had to stop and set the sprayer down to pump it back up. With the backpack sprayer, I was able to continue to spray and pump at the same time. So, while the time to cover this much area was not too significant, over larger areas this can add up. It was also more taxing physically, and I believe this would be harder on the equipment as well.
Since you can keep your pressure more consistent with a backpack sprayer as you walk and spray, you are actually able to cover your ground more evenly. This is another benefit you get from a backpack sprayer over a hand pump sprayer.
How Many Square Feet Does a Backpack Sprayer Cover?
One of the other main questions that you might have when considering a backpack sprayer is how much area you can cover with a single fill. Using the information from this test we can conclude that you can potentially cover about 10,000 square feet with a single fill of a 4-gallon backpack sprayer. This would be a little under ¼ of an acre. This amount can change slightly depending on your nozzle size, walking speed, and pressure.
One thing to note, while testing, I did notice that the backpack sprayer used more liquid to cover the same area, even though the nozzle sizes used were the same for both. My walking pace was certainly not perfectly consistent, but the main reason for this is the spray pressure. With a backpack sprayer, you can spray at a higher pressure for a longer period of time because you can keep pumping the handle as you walk and keep your pressure up. The hand pump sprayer loses pressure until you stop to pump the handle more. The maximum pressure your hand pump sprayer will reach is also likely to be lower than a backpack sprayer.
I confirmed this by connecting a pressure gauge to the end of the spray hose on both my backpack sprayer and hand pump sprayer. I could get the pressure from the backpack spray slightly over 60 psi, with the hand pump sprayer it would reach about 25 before the pressure relief valve would let air out. *It is important to be cautious, especially with the hand pump sprayer, pump the handle slowly and do not over-pump. It can break the sprayer.
RELATED: Calibrating Your Backpack Sprayer
It is simply to say a backpack is more comfortable to use than a hand pump sprayer. For many this is true, but someone with physical limitations may find it difficult to lift a full backpack sprayer and carry it on their back. While lugging a hand pump sprayer around could be tiring, a small hand pump sprayer is about like a jug of milk and can be set on the ground while you spray an area and then move on. This gives you a chance to rest and still cover ground fairly efficiently.
A backpack sprayer is going to cost more than most hand pump sprayers. The cost is relative to the quality and size of the sprayer. There are several different types available. Some will have more metal components and others are all plastic. In some instances, a sprayer may be designed for a specific type of spray task such as concrete cures or solvents, etc. These will be made from a plastic material and contain gaskets/seals that are compatible with that type of liquid/chemical.
Hand pump sprayers range from about $15-100. To get a reliable sprayer you will likely need to spend $30-40, especially if you want to use it commercially. There are light-duty backpack sprayers available for as little as $50 and there are heavier-duty electric or gas-powered backpack sprayers that may be more than $1000. In my experience, you need to spend about $100 to get a backpack sprayer that can handle a little stress.
A backpack sprayer is not necessarily more durable than a hand pump sprayer. If you are willing to spend a bit more money on either generally you will get a more durable piece of equipment. That being said, there are things on both types of sprayer that will wear out or fail where the other won’t.
There are a few common things that will happen with a pump sprayer. The rubber components that seal up the pump assembly and make it work will get gummed up or brittle and fail to seal. In some sprayers, this can be repaired, but in others, there are no repair parts available.
The second failure is the handle. Either from over-pumping or normal wear and tear the handle breaks. When this occurs, often it means you need a new sprayer. A less common problem is cracks in the tank. Some less expensive sprayers have tanks with thin walls or seams in the wall. Drops on concrete or gravel can produce cracks or leaks from the seam. This is usually not a problem with higher-quality sprayers. One way to avoid cracks is to use a hand sprayer with a base like the Solo 456 Hand Sprayer. The bottom of the tank is protected it dropped and the base is sturdier so it is less likely to tip over.
Backpack sprayers can also fail when the rubber seals dry out or become degraded from chemical contact. It is more likely that you can find a repair kit for a backpack sprayer than a hand pump sprayer, but it can be nearly impossible to get parts for cheaper backpack sprayers.
The quality of the straps on the backpack sprayer is important, not only for comfort but for durability. If you buy a sprayer with weak straps, you are limiting some of the benefits that a backpack sprayer has over a hand pump sprayer. You will be less efficient and you lose time repairing the backpack or it is simply unusable when the straps break.
One major advantage that a backpack sprayer has over a pump sprayer is the handle. The backpack sprayer does not require that you carry it around with the same handle that you use to “pump” it. A hand pump sprayer handle is used to carry the sprayer as well as “pump” the sprayer. This tends to mean your handle on a hand pump sprayer will where out while your backpack sprayer handle will last longer relative to the amount of spraying you do.
Do backpack sprayers leak?
This is a very relevant concern when using a backpack sprayer because the consequence can be chemical on your body. This is less of a concern with a hand pump sprayer because it is not carried on your back. This makes a quality backpack sprayer a must if you spray any chemical you want to avoid getting on your skin. In addition, proper care and maintenance of the sprayer will help avoid leaks.
How long does a backpack sprayer last?
A backpack sprayer can potentially last for several years, but there are many factors to take into account. The amount of use, the type of chemicals that are being used, and the quality of the sprayer. If you are using it for commercial use it is possible that you may get a season or less out of a sprayer before needed to replace it. A sprayer can get dropped, lost, or bounce out of a truck. Broken spray wands and lost lids are common occurrences. Keeping spares on hand is a good idea to avoid downtime.
There is a difference in the maximum pressure that a backpack sprayer and a hand pump sprayer can produce. Backpack sprayers, particularly piston-style backpack sprayers, will be capable of developing more pressure. Sometimes as high as 90 psi. I have a diaphragm-style backpack and a hand pump sprayer. If you recall from earlier, I measured the pressure of each and found the backpack sprayer will reach just over 60 psi and the hand pump sprayer will reach about 25 psi. Pressure is important if you want to get more distance from your sprayer but it is not the only factor.
Just because a sprayer can produce more pressure does not mean it will necessarily spray further. The nozzle size on the sprayer will affect the actual pressure coming out of the nozzle. A large nozzle will not restrict the stream enough to get much distance. Think of it as a garden hose. When you put your thumb over the hose it sprays further but the flow rate has not changed. You have caused the pressure to increase because you have restricted the opening and the same amount of liquid is trying to get through.
I tested the spray distance from a hand pump sprayer using two different sizes of nozzles. You can see more details in this article on how far a pump sprayer can spray, but I also decided to measure the spray distance of a backpack sprayer for comparison.
How Far Will a Backpack Sprayer Spray?
To test how far the spray from the backpack sprayer would reach I measured out 0-40 ft on a driveway and marked it with flags. Then I adjusted the spray nozzle to a solid stream. The spray was able to hit distances from 25-35 ft with the vast majority of the droplets falling about 25-30 ft. Note: this test was done on a fairly still day but there was a slight breeze from time to time. Results would likely vary slightly in other conditions.
Backpack Sprayer Advantages Over Hand Pump Sprayers:
- Larger tank capacity
- Higher pressure
- Farther/higher spray distance
- More efficient
What are the disadvantages of backpack sprayers?
- More expensive
- Heavier to carry
- Can be difficult to put one on yourself
- Does not save much time when spraying small lawns or areas
So is a backpack sprayer worth the cost? In general, a backpack can cover ground more efficiently and consistently than a hand pump sprayer. The benefit of a backpack sprayer will be greater the more area you have to spray. It can also help you with tasks that require a little more spray distance than a hand pump sprayer.