Three best backpack blowers
Leaf blowers are a great tool for tidying up the yard, but if you've got a sizable area to clear a hand-held model can take forever!
The answer is a backpack blower which, thanks to its larger motor, offers considerably more power. With the weight spread across your back, rather than held in one hand, so although heavier overall, they can be less tiring to use over long periods.
Considerations when choosing backpack blowers
The following report covers the key features you need to look for. We've also summarized the pros and cons of three of the top models currently available.
Backpack blower performance
A blower is a relatively simple device. A motor drives a fan (also called an impeller), which forces air down a tube. The more power you have, the more air you can move, and the faster you can move it.
On a backpack blower, the volume of air moved is rated in cubic feet per minute (cfm). The more the better. It varies from around 450 to over 650 cfm on the most powerful machines.
You also get a speed rating in miles per hour (mph), and they certainly sound impressive (anywhere from 150 to 200 mph). However, one way to increase speed is by simply making the tube narrower - and that's not always what you want
When you're trying to move leaves, grass, and twigs, a large volume of air (high cfm) is more effective than a thin, fast jet of air over a wide area. But the latter will often move patches of damp debris that are stuck. So which is better? The best machines combine both and have adjustable throttles to give you variable control while you work.
There are three possible power sources:
2-stroke engines (also called 2-cycle)
4-stroke engines (also called 4-cycle)
2-stroke engines are simpler, less costly, and still give good levels of performance. The down-sides are:
Higher levels of emissions (check if CARB compliant)
More noise (check the decibel level (dBa)).
4-stroke engines are usually larger (it's not very economical to produce small models), and as a result, are usually fitted on professional-standard blowers. Emissions are generally lower and they are quieter. However, they are expensive.
Cordless backpack blowers are still relatively rare because of the demands they place on batteries. They are much quieter and produce virtually zero emissions, but unfortunately, they don't have the performance of their gas-powered rivals. If you want a light-duty tool they are a viable alternative, but the need to carry spare batteries, or wait hours while they recharge, means they aren't currently a viable solution for larger plots.
A note of caution when looking at cordless backpack blowers: sometimes prices can seem very low - but check what's included. Frequently they are sold as a 'bare tool' - you have to pay extra for battery and charger. Often this can double the price.
Backpack blower comfort
Most backpack blowers weigh in the 20 to 24-pound range. Look for well-padded straps, and ventilated back panels to keep you cool. Some models have hip support and/or suspension. These distribute the weight over a larger area and allow you to work longer without getting tired.
Q. Are there any restrictions on backpack blower use?
A. There are a couple of things to consider. First is the noise level. You may live in a community or zone that only allows the use of blowers at certain times of the day. A few ban them completely. If you live near a hospital, for example.
The second is emissions levels. CARB (California Air Resources Board) is a cleaner air standard that has now spread to a number of states. Not all backpack blowers comply.
It's important to check both things before ordering.
Q. Do I need to mix oil with the gas in a backpack blower?
A. It depends on the engine. Two-stroke engines don't have an oil sump, so cylinder and piston lubrication have to come from oil added to the fuel. The mixture is usually around 40:1, but you should check the owner's manual to be sure.
Four-stroke engines should never have oil added to the fuel - but you do need to check the sump oil level on a regular basis.
Backpack blowers we recommend
Best of the best: Makita EB7650WH 75.6cc MM4 4-Stroke Blower
Our take: Tremendous performance, yet it's one of the quietest blowers on the market.
What we like: The 75cc 4-stroke engine combines great power with both reliability and low emissions. Decompression makes it easy to start. It has class-leading output figures of 670CFM and 200 mph. Padded and ventilated harness provides long-term comfort.
What we dislike: Expensive, but it's a pro tool.
Best bang for your buck: Husqvarna 965877502 350BT 50.2cc 2-Stroke Blower
Our take: Popular mid-range blower demonstrates Husqvarna's reputation for power and build quality.
What we like: Superbly made blower features a high-performance, CARB compliant, 2-stroke engine. Cruise control means you don't have to keep the trigger depressed. Backpack rig is particularly comfortable thanks to the supportive hip belt. It's not cheap, but it is a great value.
What we dislike: Noisy. Husqvarna calls it 'lightweight,' but it weighs as much as other blowers we looked at.
Our take: Entry-level blower for the budget-conscious homeowner.
What we like: Despite its low price, the Poulan Pro is the equal of many more expensive models when it comes to performance. The 2-stroke motor is CARB compliant, and the whole thing is solidly put together.
What we dislike: Some assembly required, and numerous owners complain instructions are poor. Starting can be problematic. Routine has to be followed precisely.
Bob Beacham is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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