Traveling sprinkler systems or traveling gun irrigators are very convenient as they allow you to irrigate multiple areas as well as irregular areas without the cost of installing permanent sprinkler systems for each one.

There are two types of traveling sprinkler irrigation systems available: hard hose and soft hose systems.

Although both do basically the same thing, how they do it is slightly different so your choice of system should be based on these differences.

Hard Hose Traveling Irrigation Systems

Hard hose sprinkler irrigation systems or reel travelers are comprised of a length of hard hose made of polyethylene plastic and a large hose reel on a trailer.

They have a motor that rolls the hard hose onto the reel, pulling the trailer forward as it does and can be used with hoses of different diameters from 1-½ to 5 inches with travel paths set to anywhere from 150 to multiple hundreds of feet.

Pros of Hard Hose Systems

  • Easy to Set Up and Move - Easily moved and set up quickly as they are self-propelled by rolling onto the reel.

  • Require Less Space - Can be used in a narrower travel lane.

  • More Labor-Efficient - Overall, they require a lot less labor to run.

Cons of Hard Hose Systems

  • Need Higher Pressure - Require higher water pressure from a stronger pump to function properly

  • Top-Heavy and Unstable - Can get top-heavy as the hose rolls up and fall over; only used on level ground.

  • Higher Cost - More expensive than soft hose systems.

Soft Hose Traveling Irrigation Systems

Soft hose traveling sprinkler systems or cable-tow systems are comprised of a hose cart with a sprinkler head mounted on it and motor with a cable pulley system.

The cable is used by the motor to pull the hose cart along and gets secured to two anchor points, one at each end of the travel path.

The soft hose is unreeled at the start of the travel path and dragged along behind the cart as it pulls itself along the cable.

Soft hose systems are used with hoses of between 2-½ and 6 inches in diameter with lengths of a few hundred to more than 1,000 feet.

Pros of Hard Soft Systems

  • Work with Lower Pressure - Soft hose sprinkler irrigation systems can be operated with lower water pressure and a smaller water pump.

  • Safer on Uneven Ground - Due to the low profile and the soft, flexible hose dragging behind, they can be operated safely on uneven ground with low risk of the cart toppling.

  • More Versatile - Can be pulled behind a tractor to sprinkle along irregular fields or if no anchor points are available. 

  • Lower Cost - Considerably less expensive than reel traveler systems.

Cons of Soft Hose Systems

  • Time-Consuming to Set Up and Move - The cable must be affixed to two anchor points and the hose laid out along the path in preparation for use.

  • Require More Space - Need a wider travel path since the hose must be fully laid out in a loop next to the cart path.

  • Hose Can Be Damaged - Travel paths must be clear of debris that could catch and damage the hose as it is dragged behind the cart.

  • Dependent On Cable or Tractor - Requires either the cable secured to two anchor points for the pulley to roll the cart along or a tractor to pull it.

Hard or Soft Hose Irrigators - Which Is Best?

With so many conveniences offered by each, it’s easy to see that both hard and soft hose traveling sprinkler irrigation systems are an affordable option when installing more permanent solutions are not desirable or possible.

In choosing which one is best for your needs, you’ll need to consider a few things, including that ground typography and field sizes are some of the factors dictating which of these systems is more suitable for your needs as will the size and capability of your water pump.

You may be able to choose solely on budget and convenience alone or based on the shape, size, and evenness of your land, may need one over the other.

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