Tag Archives: yard sprinklers

Best Walking Sprinkler

If your yard looks like the scorched earth terrain from a Mad Max movie then you need to investigate the National/Rittenhouse Walking Sprinkler.

This is the creme de la creme of yard sprinklers.


One word. It is solid. Okay that’s three words but you get my drift.

The Rittenhouse lawn sprinkler (National) is one solid beast that stalks irresolutely across your yard watering your lawn as it goes. This is the original walking sprinkler that every other one has been based on since it came out in the 1930s.

The problem with the other designs is they try to cut the cost by using cheap plastic parts. Result – stripped gears and runaway sprinklers. Yard sprinklers are a dime a dozen but you get what you pay for.

Runaway sprinklers?

Yes, really! When I was asking friends and neighbors trying to decide what sprinkler to buy for our yard, I heard horror stories of sprinklers that jumped off their hose (because they’re too light) and headed off down the road sprinkling as they went!

Rest assured, you will never have those sort of problems with this one.

It weighs around 30lbs and this means that it stays on the hose track. No more racing outside to put it back on track – or worse chasing it down the road!

It has both adjustable speed and width of spray so can be used in variety of situations. Width of spray can be set to between 4 to 50 feet which gives you enormous adjustability. I have heard of someone watering their roof two stories up so keep those windows closed until you’ve got your settings right!

It can even manage a slight incline which none of the others can. Note that I said “slight incline” not Everest so keep your expectations realistic here, folks! My yard is completely flat so I can’t test this aspect but I’m sure some of you will!

You can see on the image above that the wheels are cast iron – steer clear of cheap plastic wheels.


High speed is 40 feet an hour and will it put down about half an inch of water.

Low speed is 20 feet an hour and will put down about 7/8 of an inch of water.

This means you can adjust it so that it is putting down the right amount of water for your situation. This model can pull up to 300 feet of hose so by varying your hose length and speed you can adapt it for your yard.

Also, by flipping the drive pawls out of engagement you can use it as a stationary sprinkler.

Sprinkler arms are adjustable and cover from 4 to 50 feet. Make sure when you assemble it that the word “top” is facing upward on both arms

Setting up the hose track

To set up the traveling water sprinkler you simply lay the hose in the middle of the area that you want to water. Make sure all your turns are gradual and the tractor unit can negotiate the bends with ease.

laying sprinkler hose

To get the best results you need to use a 5/8 inch garden hose. The half inch size can be used but might be too small to guide the sprinkler round corners with the result that the front wheel of the unit will jump off the hose. Now the whole point of buying this heavier model is to avoid that happening – the lightweight traveling lawn sprinklers are forever coming off the hose-track.

This is one of those things that you want to set up right and then you don’t have to worry about it again so do make sure you use 5/8” hose.

The National Walking Sprinkler has been made in the good ol’ USA since 1938. Plenty of imitators but nothing matches the original traveling lawn sprinkler.

What other folk are saying about this model

These reviews of the National B3 model are taken from happy buyers from Amazon and other online sites.

“performance has been great, even going up and down modest grades”

“Manufactured from meticulously machined components of stainless steel, brass, and aluminium, sturdily fastened to a rugged, cast iron chassis, drivetrain, and wheels, this is a solid, durable, bombproof sprinkler. It’s built like a steam locomotive. Moreover, in the unlikely event that it does need to be repaired, it comes apart (yes, I could not resist taking mine apart) with basic hand tools, and goes back together quickly and easily. ”

“has proven itself capable of pushing small tree branches out of it’s way”

“You don’t want this Gilmour one or the Nelson Rain Train. They are both plagued with the same problems: stripped gears, inability to go up even the slightest hill, an “off” valve that sticks”

“Not a bit of plastic on this thing, no cheap gears to strip when dragging a lot of hose behind it.”

“Very impressed with how strong this sprinkler is, very heavy duty. Should last forever if proper care is taken to lube the moving parts as directed by owners manual.”

“I got tired of buying a new sprinkler every spring, so I decided to invest in a top of the line sprinkler made in the USA, and boy, am I glad I did! This thing is a monster! Seriously, the Nelson traveling sprinkler (which i bought and immediately returned) was a dainty little thing (full of plastic gears, no doubt), but this beast is SOLID METAL! It’ll probably outlive me!”

That last comment is one that resonates with me. This is quality merchandise. You do get the feeling that it will probably outlast you. Maybe I can leave my walking sprinkler to one of the kids in my will!

And for those who, like me, found it all a bit difficult to picture this above ground sprinkler system in action, this video will give you an idea of what it all looks like..

How Does A Traveling Water Sprinkler Work

Like to know how a traveling water sprinkler works?

Chances are you are considering buying one so let me explain the basic principles behind these versatile yard sprinklers and why they are so good.

There are a number of different brands of traveling lawn sprinkler. Some are full of plastic gears and cogs which soon break and others are of solid construction that will last for generations. My favorite is the National walking sprinkler. Needless to say it is in the last for generations category!

different brands of traveling water sprinkler

However whichever brand you buy they all operate in a very similar fashion. The sprinkler is on a small tractor. The tractor is placed upon its own hose (see the red tractor on the left) and the force of the water in the hose turns a series of gears which are connected to the axle and this slowly turns the sprinkler’s wheels. By this means the sprinkler creeps along the “hose track”.

Most brands are adjustable for both speed and water spray.

An important point for all brands of this type of yard sprinkler are to ensure you have the arms pointed in the right direction. If you have it set up wrong, the sprinkler either won’t move at all, or it will move backwards – not really what we want!

Each arm of the sprinkler needs to point in the opposite direction to the other. Stand above the sprinkler, facing in the direction it will travel and the arm on your left should point back towards you and the arm on your right point in the direction of travel. Study the diagram above and you’ll get the idea.

A traveling sprinkler has only five essential parts:

* Sprinkler arm assembly
* Worm gear
* Transmission
* Three wheels
* Hose connection

So water pressure is what drives this system. When you turn on your garden tap, the water pressure will typically be around 40 to 70 psi (pounds per square inch). The pressure forces water down the hose, through a pipe in the sprinkler and out through two sprinkler arms.

As the water pushes out, it exerts an equal and opposite force back on the two arms. You will have noticed in the pictures that these arms are bent at the end. This means that the force pushes on each arm at an angle and as the arms are bent to point in opposite directions, the force acting on both arms combines to produce torque. Torque is simply a rotational movement.

This rotational force is applied to the worm gear and if you buy a sturdy sprinkler it will be made from metal and last a lifetime and if you buy a crappy brand it will be made from plastic and will be stripped just as you try to ready the yard for your only daughter’s wedding and the grass will brown off and die and your wife and daughter will both stop talking to you and don’t come running to me saying I didn’t warn you!

worm drive or worm gear

To your left you can see an example of a worm drive or worm gear. Note the spiral bit which is the “worm” and how it drives the gear.

And you can see how cheap plastic gears will be stripped at the first challenge to your sprinkler. Let it run into a boggy patch, let the dog lie down in front of it, let the kids “zoom” it down the drive, and your plastic gears are history. Trust me on this latter point!

As the two arms spin they rotate the worm gear, which engages a gear in the transmission. This transmits the rotational force of the worm gear to the drive axle that turns the tractor’s back wheels. The drive comes from the back wheels which push the front wheels.

All the different brands work the same way. Differences in price come down to the construction. Cheap brands often don’t last the summer and rarely last more than a couple of years. Sturdy brands such as the National sprinkler – B3 is the original which all later brands tried to copy with varying degrees of success. The National will last a lifetime.

You work out the economics!