For most homeowners, a backpack leaf blower is overkill. But if you have a huge lawn or long driveway to clear, these powerful gas blowers can be a godsend: "The gardener's answer to the jetpack," Popular Mechanics says.
Backpack blowers are pretty heavy -- more than 20 pounds -- but padded straps distribute the weight evenly over your shoulders, so owners say it's actually more comfortable than lugging around a handheld gas leaf blower with one arm.
The king of the residential leaf blowers, the Echo PB-500H (*Est. $300) is beloved by experts and owners alike. It aces two top tests, making short work of sticks, pinecones, seedpods and embedded leaf bits. "It blew me away," one owner at Amazon.com writes. "I had long grass and HEAVY wet maple and oak leaves and this thing didn't even sputter."
It's dead-simple to use: "Our volunteer corps, working at clearing leaves at a church, needed no coaching to use the Echo," Popular Mechanics says. And despite its brute force, it's actually quieter than most gas-powered leaf blowers (although you'll still need hearing protection).
The runner up Husqvarna 350BT (*Est. $285) is nearly identical to the Echo. Both have the same-size engine (about 50 cc) and exactly the same noise level, and both strike testers as equally brawny and easy to use. But the Echo carries a longer warranty: five years for homeowner use, versus two years for the Husqvarna.