Backpack leaf blowers mount a large gas engine to a harness, leaving the user to manage only the tube when blowing leaves. They're the most powerful and therefore heaviest type of leaf blower, which explains why they're worn on the back. Marcus Pickett at HomeAdvisor.com recommends them for "heavy-duty leaves on a big yard." Backpack blowers can be quite comfortable, providing "the power and go-anywhere ability of gas without the arm strain of a handheld blower," says Sal Vaglica at ThisOldHouse.com.
Backpack blowers are built for commercial use with additional blasting power and comfort to last for hours on the job. They cost far more than handheld leaf blowers, and most homeowners probably don't need the extra oomph. But according to Roy Berendsohn at Popular Mechanics, for some it's a question of time versus money: "If you're willing to invest, nothing can speed outdoor jobs more than a backpack leaf blower -- the gardener's answer to the jet pack." He says the best backpack leaf blowers have a carrying handle on the top, an easy-to-reach fuel spout, see-through gas tank and a footrest for pull-starting the engine. Backpack blowers don't have the ability to vacuum; if you want to suck up and mulch your leaves, consider a handheld blower instead.
Both experts and owners call our Best Reviewed Husqvarna 350BT (Est. $300) an impressive machine. "This is one of the most powerful backpack gas leaf blowers available, creating air speeds of up to 180 mph, yet remaining remarkably quiet for a gas leaf blower," says Joe Delulio, product expert at LeafBlowersDirect.com. In a comparison test of five leaf blowers, Popular Mechanics gives the 350BT a perfect 5-star score. "It not only moves a lot of air, but the blast from its tube seems unusually productive," Berendsohn says. He calls the 350BT the "most comfortable machine" in his test. In addition to the padded shoulder belt most backpack blowers have, Husqvarna uses a thick hip belt to distribute the blower's weight evenly.
Another top choice, the Echo PB-500H (Est. $300) , is especially easy for beginners to learn how to use. "Our volunteer corps, working at clearing leaves at a church, needed no coaching to use the Echo," says Berendsohn. "Anyone can start it, sling it on his back and start blasting leaves in seconds." The PB-500H keeps up with the Husqvarna 350BT in terms of performance, but has a slightly higher price tag and fewer features. Reviewers say it's reliable and well built, and Echo's five-year residential warranty beats Husqvarna's and Stihl's two-year coverage.
While the Husqvarna 350BT and Echo PB-500H weigh in at about 23 pounds and are too heavy for some users, the Stihl BR-200 (Est. $300) packs a powerful punch in its 13-pound frame. According to expert reviews, the BR-200's sweeping and loosening performance is superb, and handling is user-friendly. The comfortable harness and anti-vibration technology create "a small backpack that can be used for hours," says Vaglica. Only a handful of owner reviews are available, so build quality and long-term performance are difficult to gauge. At StihlUSA.com, about 20 users give the BR-200 high marks for being well built and durable. The BR-200 has a two-year warranty.