Backpack leaf blowers "provide the power and go-anywhere ability of gas without the arm strain of a handheld blower," says Sal Vaglica at This Old House. Experts say that desirable features include a carrying handle on the top, an easy-to-reach fuel spout, a see-through gas tank and a footrest for pull-starting the engine.
The Husqvarna 350BT (Est. $320) gets strong reviews from experts and users alike, and continues to lead the backpack leaf blower pack to Best Reviewed status. It has a low-emission engine that creates airspeeds of up to 180 mph and air flow up to nearly 495 cfm. In addition, it offers a range of comfort features, such as an ergonomic, padded harness with a thick hip belt and wide shoulder straps, and an adjustable, soft-grip handle. Its fan speed can be locked, so you don't have to keep pulling the trigger, and it comes with a two-year warranty.
The Husqvarna 350BT has been around for a few years now, and seems to have well withstood the test of time. It earns good feedback in a 2010 Popular Mechanic's comparative evaluation of backpack blowers, with Roy Berendsohn noting that its airflow is powerful and very productive. He also calls this model the most comfortable machine in his magazine's test. In addition, product expert Marissa Munoz of LeafBlowersDirect.com says the 350BT is highly powerful and yet "remarkably quiet for a gas leaf blower" -- though that's certainly grading on a curve as experts widely recommend hearing protection when using this backpack model. The 350BT also earns Recommended status in a comprehensive leaf-blower test conducted by an independent reviewer. That test based its recommendations based on performance, handling and noise.
But user reviews are what continue to tip the balance in favor of the Husqvarna 350BT. More than 580 users posting to Amazon.com give the 350BT an overall rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars. Like the experts, owners find it very powerful on wet and dry leaves, as well as dust, cobwebs and snow. They also call it comfortable and like how easily it starts. We found very few complaints about this model. Elsewhere, nearly 170 users weigh in at LeafBlowersDirect.com, where it earns a near perfect score and recommendations from 96 percent of owners. At Lowes.com, it gets reviews from more than 300 owners, who rate it at a rare 5.0 stars overall, with 97 percent saying that they would recommend it to a friend.
With that type of feedback, the 350T is an easy call, but there are other options. TheSweethome.com names the Stihl BR350 (Est. $350) the best choice among backpack blowers. "You can certainly find more powerful blowers, but after an initial test against four competitors in 2014 and a full year of long-term field testing by pro landscapers, the experts agreed that the midrange BR350 has all of the power that anyone would really need," says that site's Doug Mahoney. It's also Recommended in a large test of leaf blowers conducted by another independent reviewer.
According to Mahoney, despite the more modest specs compared to some blowers -- average air speed at the nozzle of 167 mph (maximum of 201 mph) and an air volume of 436 cfm -- the BR350 still "moved leaves better than the other backpack blowers" in TheSweethome.com's testing. However, it was design features that set it apart even more. "The gas fill is oriented upward, as opposed to at an angle, making for an easy, spill-free pour; the gas cap has a hard plastic ridge around it, protecting it from bumps; and the top of the tool is the perfect shape for placing a hand while you're pulling the starter," he says. On the downside, it's a lot of leaf blower to carry around if all you need to deal with is a small to mid-sized property, and it's loud -- the second loudest blower in their test, Mahoney says.
Like all Stihl blowers, the BR350 is sold by independent authorized retailers, not online, so the best place to find user feedback is at the Stihl site. There aren't a ton of reviews, but most of the nearly 75 owners that weigh in seem pleased and the Stihl BR350 earns a 4.7 star rating.
According to Marissa Munoz at LeafBlowersDirect.com, "The pinnacle of performance and power for leaf removal is a walk-behind leaf blower," adding that "These big hoss blowers will eradicate every last leaf on your lawn in no time."
Look for models that let you alter the direction of the air flow, and for large rear wheels (for navigating irregular terrain) and a swiveling front wheel (for easier maneuverability, for example, next to buildings). Pricing covers a wide range, starting at less than $300 for an entry level wheeled leaf blower, to around $5,000 for the most powerful commercial models with features such as a self-propelled motor.
For homeowners, the Troy-Bilt TB672 (Est. $430) looks like a good alternative. Also sold as the Troy-Bilt 24A-672G011 at Lowes.com, this entry-level walk-behind blower draws good expert and user feedback. It's one of six wheeled leaf blowers rated in a large, independent roundup of leaf blowers of every type and size, and earns Recommended status. While user feedback isn't extensive, what's available is generally positive -- 4.5 stars at Lowes.com, for example, based on more than 30 reviews.
This is one powerful blower. While its airflow velocity isn't exceptional at 150 mph, its airflow volume at up to 1,000 cfm outpaces virtually all handheld and backpack gas and electric leaf blowers. With a sound-level rating of 100 dB you will very much want to be wearing hearing protection when using this walk-behind blower, although tests show that sound levels at 50 feet and beyond are surprising low -- lower than most other wheeled blowers and low enough to not overly bother any neighbors.
The 12-inch rear wheels are large enough to make moving the blower over uneven ground not too challenging, but the front wheel is fixed, so maneuverability is limited. There are three discharge chute positions, as well as louvers to direct the air up or down. There's no vacuum feature. The Troy-Bilt TB672 is covered by a two-year warranty.