LAST UPDATED: October 10, 2019
Best Backpack Sprayers: Quickly Eliminate Weeds
These top backpack sprayers will help you get rid of weeds in no time
The Review Team
How We Decided
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PUBLISHED ON October 10, 2019
If you do a lot of work around your yard, there are a variety of products you can use to kill weeds that take over your lawn and garden. One of the best ways to apply these products is with a backpack sprayer. This device helps you evenly dispense weed killer around your property. It can also be used for other applications. Check out our buying guide below to find the best backpack sprayers available.
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Benefits of a Backpack Sprayer
- Keep invaders out of your garden. By “invaders,” we mean both insects and weeds. Backpack sprayers can be customized to spray both herbicides and insecticides, at both precision and wide angles.
- Quickly apply fertilizer. Backpack sprayers don’t just kill things—they’re also good at helping things grow. Fill it up with liquid fertilizer and watch your garden bloom.
- Spray with precision. A backpack sprayer is a great way to efficiently apply pesticides, insecticides, and fertilizer, but it’s good for more than just speed. You can also spot-treat specific problems, zap individual weeds, and reach into tight spaces and around difficult terrain.
Types of Backpack Sprayers
Hand-Powered vs. Motor-Powered
In order to work, a backpack sprayer needs a power source to get the liquid into the pipe and onto the nozzle. The biggest distinction among sprayers is how they get that power.
Hand-powered sprayers operate using a pump. You pump them repeatedly to pressurize the chamber and fill up the pipe, then spray the pressurized contents out through the nozzle. Hand-pumped backpack sprayers are cheaper and mechanically simpler, but require a lot more work to use.
Motor-powered sprayers can run on either batteries or gasoline. They use a motorized pump to pressurize the tank’s contents, so all you have to do is squeeze the handle. As you might imagine, these are way less work, but are more expensive, and require a battery to be charged or a gas tank refilled.
Flat vs. Cone vs. Streaming Nozzles
The other biggest variation between backpack sprayers is the type of nozzle attached. Note that these can come as removable attachments, so one sprayer might offer two or three of these spray shapes.
Streaming nozzles spray the liquid out in a concentrated line, like a watering can without a sprinkler cap. They’re best for applying liquid fertilizer to the soil.
Cone nozzles spray out liquid in a circular pattern whose width you can usually adjust. They’re best for applying herbicides to patches of weeds, or covering a bed of vegetables with insect repellent.
Flat nozzles offer the widest, lowest impact spray. These are best for the biggest jobs, like misting an entire orchard.
Jacto was founded in 1948 in Brazil, and now sells its agricultural products in more than 100 countries worldwide. Its founder, Shunji Nishimura, was guided by the belief that “nobody grows alone.” Today, his company supports farmers and gardeners with products like backpack sprayers and nozzle wand attachments.
Chapin Home and Garden
In 1884, Ralph Chapin ran a hardware store in New York, and started making his own cans for the kerosene he sold his customers. That first product prompted him to expand into storage tanks and sprayers, which his company still sells today. In addition to backpack sprayers like the International 61500, Chapin also sells higher-capacity ATV sprayers.
The Fountainhead Group is the parent company of several global sprayer brands, including Roundup, D.B. Smith, Field King, and Indian. Companies now in the group are responsible for agricultural innovations like the compressed air sprayer in 1888 and the lever-operated backpack sprayer in 1930. They’ve got millions of products, but one of the best is the Field King Professional.
Backpack Sprayer Pricing
- Under $40: This is the price range for backpack sprayer parts, like extra nozzles, replacement batteries, and hose extensions. If you see a full sprayer for less than $40, it’s probably fake.
- $40 to $150: In this price range, you’ll find good-quality pump-action sprayers, mostly with around a four-gallon capacity. You also might find a few lower-capacity motor sprayers.
- Over $150: Expect to pay at least this much for a well-made motor-powered sprayer with a capacity of four gallons or more.
Today, almost all backpack sprayer tanks are made of plastic, which resists both impacts and chemical corrosion while burdening the user with less weight. The most important traits of a tank are its capacity (measured in gallons) and the width of its top opening.
It’s important to clean the tank before using it for a different chemical—you definitely don’t want to mistakenly spray herbicide where you meant to spray fertilizer. Tanks with a wider opening are easier to clean out.
The pump pressurizes the contents of the tank so they fill the hose. Pumps are powered either by hand or by a motor. If your backpack sprayer works with a hand pump, it will have a large lever on the side, allowing you to reach back and pressurize the tank while you’re wearing it.
If your sprayer is pressurized by an electric motor, it will have an on-off switch, and sometimes options to control the pump’s speed. Pumps are core to your backpack sprayer’s function, so make sure to get one you know will hold up.
Hose, Wand, and Nozzle
These parts form the system that gets your insecticide, herbicide, or fertilizer from the backpack tank to your plants. The hose should be long and flexible, and made of a material that’s unlikely to kink or leak.
The wand is a long, rigid attachment that allows you to reach farther with the liquid you spray. It’s an optional part of the nozzle.
The nozzle, as we discussed above (see “Types of Backpack Sprayers”), determines the shape of the spray. The wider an area you plan to treat, the wider the nozzle you should look for. Some are also adjustable, letting you work on more tasks without changing them out.
The straps allow you to wear a backpack sprayer on your back. They can range from two simple shoulder straps to complex harnesses with chest, waist, or hip belts. Four gallons of liquid on your back can get extremely heavy, so we recommend looking for straps or a harness that distribute the weight well.
- Safety. The majority of chemicals you’ll insert into your backpack sprayer are not instantly caustic or harmful to humans. However, many of them can cause damage over time if you regularly touch them or inhale their fumes. Make sure to wear a mask, eye protection, and gloves any time you work with agricultural chemicals.
- Anti-Leak Features. Related to the above: Properly cleaning and maintaining a backpack sprayer should prevent it from leaking. But it’s easy to miss a month, or get sloppy. Fortunately, many backpack sprayer pumps are designed with anti-leak shutoff features as a second line of defense.
Best Backpack Sprayer Reviews & Recommendations 2020
Roundup is the Band-Aid or Jell-O of pesticides and herbicides, practically synonymous with the product category. It’s no surprise that their branded backpack sprayer is our pick for the best on the market right now. Despite being a pump-action sprayer, it’s able to reach 150 PSI in the chamber, compared to 95 PSI for an average competitor.
This sprayer’s features are as solid as its internal parts. It comes with four nozzles: two wide fans, one adjustable, and one foaming nozzle. It has a wide tank opening that filters out debris, a pump handle that can be fitted on the left or right, comfortable padded straps, and a leak-proof one-way valve.
It’s not perfect, however. In general, we prefer electric sprayers, and made an exception for this one because the rest of it is so solid—pumping it is a lot of work. More small gripes: The marks on the tank are in metric units, and the folding handle doesn’t fold when attached on the left-handed side.
Chapin is a reliable agricultural tech brand that makes our favorite backpack sprayer for gardeners and orchard keepers on a budget. It’s a versatile unit, suitable for insecticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, and can keep going for hours with its 4-gallon tank.
This is another pump-action sprayer, with the arm fatigue that implies. However, it’s exceptionally efficient, able to cover gardens and orchards in a short time once pressurized. The no-leak technology and two-stage filter work exactly as intended, and the wide spray jet is even and reliable.
The trade-off is comfort. This sprayer requires a lot of pumping in order to work. Aside from that, this sprayer doesn’t distribute the weight of 4 gallons as well as some others, making it hard to wear for hours on end.
D.B. Smith/Field King calls this a “professional” sprayer, but it can really be used by anybody who understands how. It’s able to reach the highest standard of 150 PSI, and also comes with a pressure regulator, so you can hold it at the lower pressures more suited for precise work.
The chest harness is comfortable, and the choice of spray nozzles is impressive, adjustable for basically any job. We also like how easy it is to assemble, and how it takes relatively little pumping to stay pressurized. At its highest pressure, it can reach trees up to 20 feet in the air, making this another good choice for orchard keepers.
So why an honorable mention? Foremost because it’s a little leaky. It claims to be “no-leak,” but that just means a sprayer has no-leak technology—not that the technology works. After a year of use, you’re likely to see drips. It’s also difficult to fold the handle properly in order to store it.
- A backpack sprayer’s nozzle can produce a variety of droplet sizes, including very fine, fine, medium, coarse, very coarse, and extremely coarse. The sprayer should indicate what size droplets should be applied. If the droplets are too fine, they will drift. If they're too coarse, they will not spread far enough for an even distribution.
- Choose a product that is comfortable so that you don't get fatigued while completing your work. Many backpack sprayers have adjustable and padded waist, shoulder, and chest straps.
- Properly maintain your backpack sprayer so that it operates efficiently and lasts a long time. Make sure to wash it after every use with either water or a commercial cleaner. Also, lubricate the seals and o-rings at least once a year.
Q: Is it better to use a sprayer with a motorized pump?
A: It depends on how much work you need to do. If you only spray your weeds a few times a week for 15-20 minutes, a motorized sprayer isn't necessary. However, it makes the job easier.
Q: What is the best spray pattern to use?
A: A backpack sprayer's wand has a nozzle that can produce many patterns. Most people prefer using an even flat-fan pattern for single-nozzle applications. Other patterns include extended flat fan, full cone, hollow cone, and flood.
Q: What is the ideal PSI for a backpack sprayer?
A: Read the instructions on your sprayer so you know how to calibrate it properly. Typically, a pressure between 20 and 60 psi is fine, but some sprayers offer much more than that. The aim is to have as little drifting as possible while maintaining accuracy and a uniform pattern.
Our pick for the best backpack sprayer is the Roundup No-Leak Backpack Sprayer. It’s as powerful as a pump-action sprayer gets, yet it’s also comfortable, versatile, and easy to afford.
For a more budget-friendly option, consider the Chapin International 4-Gallon Sprayer.