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 the heaviest type of leaf blower, making their backpack design almost a necessity. These models "provide the power and go-anywhere ability of gas without the arm strain of a handheld blower," says Sal Vaglica at This Old House. TheSweethome.com's Doug Mahoney goes one step further by saying that if you can afford the higher cost, bypass handheld blowers completely in favor of a backpack model for the "better ergonomic experience."
Because they are generally built for larger properties and for commercial use, backpack blowers have lots of blasting power yet are designed to be comfortable enough to use for hours. They cost more than handheld leaf blowers, and may be overkill for owners with small properties, but, as Mahoney notes, backpack blowers really offer the best in power and ergonomics for medium to large yards. Roy Berendsohn at Popular Mechanics adds that, 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 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.
Among backpack blowers, the Husqvarna 350BT (Est. $300) gets strong reviews from experts and users alike. 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 earns a top rating in 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 five-model 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 is included in ConsumerReports.org's comprehensive leaf-blower test, which evaluates models for performance, handling and noise.
Users are even more impressed. More than 480 users posting to Amazon.com give the 350BT an overall rating of 4.6 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 140 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 50 owners, who rate it at 4.8 stars, with 95 percent saying that they would recommend it to a friend.
Another top backpack choice is the Echo PB-500H (Est. $300), which is considered especially easy for beginners to use. "Our volunteer corps, working at clearing leaves at a church, needed no coaching to use the Echo," says Roy Berendsohn of Popular Mechanics. "Anyone can start it, sling it on his back and start blasting leaves in seconds." The PB-500H creates airspeeds of up to 195 mph, with airflow up to 465 cfm. It comes with a padded harness and variable-speed throttle with locking ability, and it has a five-year warranty for consumer use.
The PB-500H earns a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars in a Popular Mechanics comparison test of five backpack models, with writer Roy Berendsohn calling its flexible left control wand "so smart, you wonder why other manufacturers haven't copied the design." It is also included in ConsumerReport.org's comparative test of leaf-blower models. At HomeDepot.com, the PB-500H earns a rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars based on reviews from more than 200 users. Owners say it starts quickly, feels comfortable and loosens even soaking-wet leaves very well. We found very few complaints about this model, with 95 percent saying that they would recommend the Echo backpack blower to a friend.
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."
Walk behind leaf blowers place a powerful motor on wheels and are most appropriate for commercial usage -- such as clearing leaves from a parking lot -- but can also be a help for homeowners with acres of land to clean up. 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. $400) 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 by ConsumerReports.org, and while user feedback isn't extensive, what's available is generally positive -- 4.4 stars at Lowes.com, for example, based on nearly 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.
Elsewhere in this report: