Quieter than most gas leaf blowers -- but you'll still need ear protection. The Husqvarna 350BT is very similar to the Husqvarna 150BT (*Est. $295), which lacks the 350BT's vibration dampeners but moves air faster (up to 251 mph, versus 180 mph for the 350BT). They roar at the same volume -- just over 70 decibels, from 50 feet away.
That's exactly how loud the Echo PB-500H is, too -- and it's actually quieter than most gas leaf blowers, one test finds.
But although the neighbors might not complain, you'll still definitely need hearing protection, experts say. The noise ramps up to 94 decibels at the operator's ear.
Owners don't find the Husqvarna 350BT overly noisy. In fact, it's "quieter than I suspected it ever would be," writes one owner at Amazon.com, and another says it's "more quiet than any of the handheld blowers I've used." And you don't have to use the loudest setting much, one Sears.com customer points out -- the 350BT does a great job on low to medium throttle.
'The most comfortable' backpack blower at Popular Mechanics. The Husqvarna 350BT weighs nearly 23 pounds -- just like its rival, the Echo PB-500H -- but the backpack style distributes the weight evenly over your shoulders, making these leaf blowers feel lighter.
Both have padded shoulder straps, but the Husqvarna adds a padded hip belt that makes it "the most comfortable machine" in Popular Mechanics' backpack blower test. "We were skeptical about its hip belt until we started scaling steep hills and stone walls," testers there say. "It works. If you clear difficult areas, this is your blower."
Owners find the Husqvarna 350BT easy to assemble, and most say it starts reliably with just one to three pulls. Like the Echo, the Husqvarna has variable speeds (so you can control airflow around shrubs, etc.) and cruise control. The competing Echo has its throttle mounted on a control wand at hip level, which testers find particularly handy -- but we found no complaints about the Husqvarna's tube-mounted throttle control.
In fact, we found only one small quibble about the Husqvarna 350BT's usability: its purge bulb. You press this little bubble to purge air from the fuel system and carburetor before starting, but it's mounted upside down, and a couple of Amazon.com users find it hard to reach. Popular Mechanics testers say "the upside-down purge bulb is a nuisance" -- their lone complaint about the Husqvarna.
Plenty of power for wet leaves and other tough jobs. With equal-displacement engines (about 50 ccs), the Husqvarna and Echo backpack blowers blast leaves -- and more -- equally forcefully in two top tests.
"The Husqvarna is one of the most powerful of the residential models -- you've got to strap this thing on to appreciate how effective it is," Popular Mechanics says. "It not only moves a lot of air, but the blast from its tube seems unusually productive; perhaps it's more laminar and has less turbulence than others."
The Husqvarna 350BT and Echo PB-500H both make short work of wet and dry leaves, sticks, seedpods and pinecones in Popular Mechanics' test. In another test, both earn the highest possible marks for sweeping piles of leaves and blasting ground-in leaf bits out of the turf.
Owners agree that the Husqvarna 350BT gets tough jobs done. "I just moved into a house that had leaves piled up for two years. This tool took care of it," one writes. Another says, "What took me 15-20 minutes to clear with my handheld blower now takes five [minutes] with this backpack blower."
The Husqvarna 350BT is just as powerful, comfortable and easy to use as the best-reviewed Echo PB-500H backpack blower, but the Echo comes with a longer warranty for the same price. Most homeowners probably don't need an expensive backpack leaf blower at all, though. If you have a normal-sized yard, a cheaper handheld leaf blower like the gas-powered Stihl BG 55 (*Est. $150) or electric Toro Ultra Blower Vac 51609 (*Est. $70) is a good bet, and less costly, too.
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Report Credibility: Excellent Testers here rank the Husqvarna 150BT (very similar to the 350BT) alongside four other gas backpack blowers (including the Echo PB-500H) based on their handling, noise level and ability to blow a pile of leaves and loosen embedded debris out of the yard. Each model also gets an individual review.
Review: Husqvarna 150BT, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, As of October 2012
Report Credibility: Very Good Popular Mechanics tests seven backpack blowers and hands them to volunteer testers to try, too. The Husqvarna 350BT is one of the top two picks (along with the Echo PB-500H). It blows a lot of air and is "unusually productive" at blowing leaves, with a comfortable harness that helps testers maneuver on tough terrain.
Review: Backpack Leaf Blower Comparison Test, Roy Berendsohn, Not dated
Report Credibility: Good Overall, the Husqvarna 350BT gets very high marks from owners here -- an average of 4.5 out of 5 stars with more than 80 reviews posted. Most find this backpack blower comfortable to wear, easy to use and plenty powerful. The few low marks are largely from owners who had a problem with the blower (it died or was missing a part) and had a tough time getting Husqvarna customer service to help.
Review: Husqvarna 350BT 50.2cc 2-Cycle X-Torq Gas Powered 180 MPH Midsize Back Pack Blower (CARB Compliant), Contributors to Amazon.com, As of October 2012
Report Credibility: Good The Husqvarna 350BT maintains nearly perfect ratings with 14 owner reviews posted here. The reviews are shorter and fewer than those at Amazon.com, but they do back up what owners at Amazon.com say.
Review: Husqvarna 50cc 2-Cycle Gas-Powered Backpack Blower, Contributors to Sears.com, As of October 2012
Report Credibility: Fair Bob Crewe, a staffer at this retail website, recommends the Husqvarna 350BT as one of the best gas backpack leaf blowers. His write-up is very short, though, and LeafBlowersDirect.com recommends only brands that it sells.
Review: Husqvarna 50cc 2-Cycle Backpack Blower, Bob Crewe, As of October 2012