Backpack Leaf Blowers: A Brief Intro
If you’ve never tried using a backpack leaf blower, you’re in for a treat! They might just be the most satisfying tool in the garage. As fall approaches and leaves begin to pile up on your once-pristine lawn, there is nothing quite like the feeling of blowing them to one side and into a neat pile. We highly recommend it!
Leaf blowers obviously come in all shapes and sizes. However, the backpack variety really does have some benefits over their handheld cousins. With the help of your favorite wheelbarrow you will be cleaning up your yard in no time!
Firstly, with the motor (or battery) strapped to your back, the weight of the machine is much better spread across your shoulders.
Secondly, as you navigate your yard to clear it, you don’t have to put the machine down. Things always end up in the way, and having two free hands is a big help.
Finally, because the weight is spread onto your back, these backpack leaf blowers are generally much more powerful than their hand-held relatives. In some cases, they deliver so much whoosh you could be forgiven for feeling like you’re wearing a jet pack!
In this deep-dive review, we’ve assembled our top picks for a variety of different use cases and buyers. We’ll also answer a lot of common backpack leaf blowers buyers’ questions in the section at the bottom.
Backpack Leaf Blowers: Our Picks
1. Husqvarna 150BT
Air Flow: 434 cfm
Air Speed: 251 mph
Dry Weight: 22 lbs
Motor Type: 2 cycle
Motor Size: 50cc
Fuel Capacity: 42 fl oz
Blowing Force: 20 N
The recipient of raving reviews, the 150 BT is Husqvarna’s mid-size blower, and still packs a big punch for a smaller and lighter unit than its bigger brother. For most residential and light commercial buyers, this will be a great choice, offering a good deal of power in a small, light and reliable package.
With a 20N blowing force coming from the 2.15hp motor, this model weighs in at a comparatively light 22lbs, making it comfortable to wear for long sessions in the yard. It’s worth mentioning that this blower uses a 2-cycle X-Torq motor, which may not be everyone’s choice because of the need to pre-mix the fuel. That said, it’s a small sacrifice to pay to get huge power in a lightweight package – something that isn’t achievable with a 4-cycle or electric motor.
Best of all, it’s hugely competitive from a price perspective, making it very attainable for most homeowners. In addition, with Husqvarna’s wealth of experience as an industry leader in garden equipment, you can feel confident that you’re buying a quality and long lasting machine.
2. Troy-Bilt TB4BP
Air Flow: 500 cfm
Air Speed: 150 mph
Dry Weight: 16 lbs
Motor Type: 4 cycle
Motor Size: 32cc
Fuel Capacity: 26 fl oz
Another solid candidate for the value category, the Troy Bilt TB4BP is a smaller 32cc 4-cycle blower at a very attractive price. For residential owners who don’t expect to put their tools through as much work as a commercial owner, this might just be a winning choice.
Producing decent volumes of air at lower speeds (500 CFM and 150 MPH), this blower puts out adequate numbers for most small yards with moderate leaf fall. That smaller motor also keeps it light – and at 16lbs, it’s among the lightest in this test.
Not unlike the Craftsman, this blower also has a number of innovations aimed at making life a bit easier for the residential owner. It is compatible with Troy Bilt’s Jump Start technology, which although sold separately will eliminate the need to pull start. This add on works very similarly to the Craftsman version, and also uses a hand drill accessory.
Equipped with a smaller 26oz tank, this blower won’t be the best choice for very large areas or particularly long sessions, but being a 4-cycle, you won’t have to mix your fuel. All in all we would say this is a great residential selection, with medium capacity and various convenience enhancing features. Offered at a great price, it’ll be a great fit for most homeowners.
3. Husqvarna 580BTS
Air Flow: 908 cfm
Air Speed: 206.2 mph
Dry Weight: 25 lbs
Motor Type: 2 cycle
Motor Size: 75cc
Fuel Capacity: 87 fl oz
Blowing Force: 40 N
The Husqvarna 580 BTS is a powerhouse of a machine and had quite rightly earned a loyal following in the commercial market. It’s Husqvarna’s most powerful offering and delivers a whopping 206 mph airspeed at 908 cfm (cubic feet per minute). Not only is that one of the highest airspeeds in this review, but with a very high cfm, it equates to a lot of pushing power – 40N of blowing force to be exact.
Digging into the finer features, all that power comes at the expense of some weight, and at 26lbs this is one of the heavier blowers. That makes it very well suited to commercial or heavy stress environments, but potentially not the best blower for the typical back yard homeowner.
Equipped with an impressively large tank, this blower has a huge 87.9 fl. Oz tank which will give it a huge run time for long blowing sessions. At 440 g/kWh fuel consumption, that equates to about a 1 hour reported run time, which is standard for commercial blowers.
In summary, if you’re looking for a heavyweight commercial blower, this is an excellent choice. Huge pushing power combined with a large fuel tank and a well-respected brand make this a great selection for heavy-duty applications.
4. Husqvarna 350BT
Air Flow: 494 cfm
Air Speed: 180 mph
Dry Weight: 22 lbs
Motor Type: 2 cycle
Motor Size: 50cc
Fuel Capacity: 42 fl oz
Blowing Force: 21 N
Aimed at large landowners, or applications where bigger areas need to be cleared, the 350BT sits between the 580 and the 150 models from Husqvarna. This is a lightweight package, weighing in at just over 21lbs, and designed to be worn for long periods.
From a technical perspective, it features a high CFM but a relatively low air speed, making it ideal for moving sparsely distributed leaves across a large area like a field or large lawn. If you suffer from very heavy leaf fall, you might look to the 580 models greater pushing power, as this model generates a more middle of the road 21N of pushing force.
Like all the Husqvarna models, this blower is equipped with their Air Purge system. This innovation makes the blower easier to start by clearing air out of the carburetor and making the pull start process less strenuous.
In summary, this blower will be a great choice for you if you’re expecting longer blowing sessions across large areas of less densely packed leaves. Coming in about average from a price perspective, it’s a great blower for the money and will serve you well if you needs are suited to it.
5. Echo PB-580T
Air Flow: 517 cfm
Air Speed: 216 mph
Dry Weight: 22.7 lbs
Motor Type: 2 cycle
Motor Size: 58cc
Fuel Capacity: 62 fl oz
Blowing Force: 22 N
With over 40 years of experience in power machinery, it’s no surprise that Echo’s PB-580T enjoys a strong following. As a mid-sized blower, the PB-580T features a 58cc two-cycle motor, coming in at 22lbs.
From a stats perspective, this is another blower well suited to large areas of land, with a relatively modest max MPH, mid-range 22N blowing force, and a large CFM. Equipped with a big 62 fl. Oz. tank, this blower will give you a very good run time for clearing large areas of low-density leaves.
It has been reported that this blower can be slightly susceptible to producing vibrations, but at a very competitive price point it’ll remain appealing to owners that like to buy American. There’s no doubting that many commercial landscapers have a great loyalty to the brand – with Echo’s string trimmers being amongst the most popular out there. This leaf blower is certainly no different – and for the right type of buyer, it’ll be a great choice.
6. CRAFTSMAN BP410
Air Flow: 410 cfm
Air Speed: 180 mph
Dry Weight: 17.6 lbs
Motor Type: 4 cycle
Motor Size: 32cc
Craftsman’s BP410 is quite a different blower from many in this list for a number of reasons. Firstly, it makes use of a 4-cycle motor, which some buyers will find hugely attractive, and second, it’s packed with a number of interesting features such as electric start compatibility.
Starting with the blowing characteristics however, this is a lightweight machine but lacks some of the punching power of other blowers on this test. Weighing in at just 17lbs, it’s one of the lightest in the review, but equipped with only a 32cc motor, it lacks a little on the pushing power front. Dishing out 460 CFM at 205 MPH isn’t bad from a power to weight perspective, but might make this blower more appropriate for large open spaces as opposed to large quantities of densely packed leaves.
All that said, the BP410 includes some great features. First off, you won’t have to make your messy oil and fuel mix with this blower, as it’s a conventional 4-cycle engine taking pure gasoline. Some buyers will find that appealing, having grown frustrated with carrying around mixing containers and other paraphernalia.
Also interesting is the electric start functionality, which comes in the form of a drill attachment used in conjunction with a normal hand-held drill (both sold separately). Stick the drill in the back of the blower, and hey presto, it’ll fire ‘er up. Certainly a refreshing change to pumping the pull cord.
All things considered, this is a reasonable performer which comes at a very appealing price point. For residential users, the added ease of use of electric starting and a 4-cycle motor could make this machine very attractive.
7. Poulan Pro PR48BT
Air Flow: 475 cfm
Air Speed: 200 mph
Motor Type: 2 cycle
Motor Size: 48cc
The PR48BT from Poulan Pro sits squarely in the medium-sized blower category. Equipped with a 48cc 2-cycle motor, this blower is the cheapest on the test and certainly won’t break the bank.
That said, it doesn’t quite develop the power of some of the more premium offerings, and there have been concerns about reliability shared online. Pushing out 475 CFM at 200 MPH, this blower will take care of most residential and light commercial applications. At 22lbs it isn’t especially heavy or lightweight, so sits firmly in the middle of the bunch from that perspective.
For homeowners working to a tighter budget, who don’t have the toughest of requirements, this blower could be a good option. That said, it’s worth taking the time to think about your leaf blowing requirements, because if you need to take on a bit more than you initially expected you could benefit from investing in one of the other blowers.
8. Makita EB5300TH
Air Flow: 516 cfm
Air Speed: 184 mph
Dry Weight: 19.7 lbs
Motor Type: 4 cycle
Motor Size: 52.5cc
Fuel Capacity: 60.9 fl oz
Commercial users looking for a blower to cover large areas will be hugely excited about the Makita EB5300TH. Another 4-cycle blower, this model is packed with features designed to make long blowing sessions significantly easier.
Looking at the numbers, this is a lightweight blower, weighing in at 19lbs, but it still manages to move a lot of air with its 52cc motor. Propelling 516 CFM at slightly lower speeds of 184 mph, this blower is well suited to covering large areas of land. Additionally, it features a large 60 oz fuel tank, so you can expect to get a great run time of well over an hour per tank.
Owing to the 4-cycle motor, this blower is also one of the quieter gas blowers in the test, and you can expect more of a thumping sound rather than the traditional squeal of a 2-cycle.
Not necessarily the top performer in any particular category, this product is still a very good blower and will be very attractive to commercial owners in particular due to the lightweight and quieter 4-cycle motor.
9. Stihl BR 600
Air Flow: 677 cfm
Air Speed: 238 mph
Dry Weight: 21.6 lbs
Motor Type: 2 cycle
Motor Size: 64 cc
Fuel Capacity: 47 fl oz
Blowing Force: 32 N
Stihl have a rich history in power tools, with their chain saws in particular being very popular in the commercial logging industry. Their blowers continue that trend, and the BR 600 is a strong contender for commercial blower honors.
With a whopping 64cc motor, this is one powerful blower and is capable of blowing some serious leaf volumes. From a numbers perspective, its doing 677 CFM at 200 MPH, producing a blowing force in excess of 30 newtons.
All that equates to an excellent blower for commercial users – but what about the weight? Coming in at 21.6lbs, the weight is impressive on this blower, making it a solid choice for extended use. The 47 fl oz fuel capacity is not the largest in this review, but you can could on around an hour of blowing time with this machine, which is broadly in line with other similar blowers.
This model features many of the same features you’ll find on a premium Husqvarna model, including a purge valve for easier starting, a great harness, and speed hold functions. For commercial settings, this and the Husqvarna’s will both be great choices, and if you’re looking for a high powered blower for heavy residential use, then this would be a great choice for you as well.
10. RYOBI RY40440
Air Flow: 625 cfm
Air Speed: 145 mph
Dry Weight: 21.2 lbs
Motor Type: Electric
Blowing Force: 20 N
As they have in so many other categories, Ryobi continue to push expectations for electric yard machinery. The RY40440 is their only backpack electric offering, but looking down the specifications it will catch your eye right away.
Pushing out 625 CFM at 145 MPH, the basic numbers are certainly not bad for this blower, and the significant reduction in noise is certainly nothing to sneer at. In fact, it’s almost half as noisy as most gas versions, so for some buyers that will be a serious check in the pros column.
That said, the 5AH battery will only produce 30 minutes of blowing time, which is quite a lot less than many of the gas powered rivals. However, you can actually attach a second battery to this machine, using the two active battery ports to give you additional run time. What’s more, batteries are interchangeable for many of their tools, so in a residential setting the short battery life may not actually pose a big problem.
Like many of Ryobi’s other tools, the RY40440 is well designed for the residential market, and should pack enough of a punch in all but the heaviest of use cases. With the option to swap out or add second batteries, the big reduction in noise and the increased cleanliness of an electric blower makes it a very strong candidate. We wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to you if you fall into this category – most residential owners will find it an excellent buy.
Buyers guide questions
MPH or CFM – which is important?
You’ll often see both these numbers quoted above, and also extensively on spec sheets. We’re here to help you break it down and understand what all the numbers mean for your blower.
what is MPH?
MPH stands for miles per hour and is the speed at which air exits the nozzle of the blower. This can be a factor in the power of the blower, but it’s not the whole story. If you imagine a very small pipe with air being pumped through it, you could achieve a very high MPH, but it would be a very focused beam of air. That’s where CFM comes in.
What is CFM?
CFM stands for cubic feet per minute and is a measure of the quantity of air moved by the blower. A very powerful blower will have a very high CFM and a high MPH. Imagine a heavy freight train moving at high speed – not something you want to get in the way of!
The nuance comes with balancing the two however. Let’s say you have a large area to cover (like a big lawn), with relatively light leaf fall. In that instance, we recommend a blower with a relatively higher CFM but only a medium speed. This is because it’ll have a nice wide band of air, with enough power to move small leaves.
In heavy duty applications, you’ll need both the CFM and MPH to generate blowing force. This will help move heavy objects or large piles of leaves. Obviously that power comes with additional weight and cost attached. You’ll need to make a judgement for yourself about exactly what type of usage characteristics you require.
How to start a leaf blower?
Leaf blowers, much like chainsaws, can be a little tricky to start. Once you get the hang of it though, you’ll find it relatively straightforward. We’ll only discuss starting the gas blower here since the electric models are pretty straightforward on and off switch.
Pre start routine
Begin by checking that the power switch is in the on position. Often it won’t be after the previous owner shut the machine down. Have a quick look and make sure you have adequate fuel.
Next you’ll want to engage the choke by putting it to the start setting. Move the throttle to a mid-setting. Now you’re ready to start, so find yourself a steady big of level ground (muddy ground won’t work), and make sure the air ducts on the back of the blower are clear.
Starting your leaf blower
When you’re ready to start, put the blower upright, with your foot against the base. Next use one hand to hold the backpack steady, and the older to grip the starting cord. Pull the cord gently until it engages, and then pull it hard. Do this repeatedly until the mower fires.
If it’s not firing after 5-10 pulls, and if it’s getting stiffer to pull, you may have flooded the machine. When that happens, you’ll need to leave the machine for 10 minutes before you try again.
If it has fired and the engine is now running, flick the choke back to the off setting, and now leave the blower for a minute or two for the engine to warm up before you start to use it.
What is the best gas leaf blower for the money?
It’s a complex question really and depends on what you’re going to use your blower for. We’ll describe some of the main use cases, and which blowers we think are the right choice.
Best Commercial Leaf Blower
For commercial applications, the best blower for the money might not necessarily be the cheapest one. If you buy a cheap one that isn’t up to the job, you’ll end up wasting more money on parts and/or an actual replacement.
We would suggest you look at the Husqvarna 580BT, the Makita EB5300TH, or the Stihl BR600. These are all hugely powerful and hugely reliable blowers that are very popular with the commercial community.
For more of our commercial level reviews check out our guide to the best commercial pressure washers.
Best residential Leaf Blower
For a heavy residential user, who perhaps has a larger yard area and a heavy leaf fall, there are a number of good options. Here again, you’ll be looking for something that can do the job, is reliable, and is easy to use. Our top recommendation would be the Husqvarna 150BT, which comes with many of the features of the commercial blowers in a smaller and lighter package.
For a light residential user who is working to a budget, the Troy Bilt TB4BP or the Craftsman is probably your best choice. These are good light residential blowers and work well for light seasonal use. Their price point reflects this – but it’s worth noting they aren’t a whole lot cheaper than the Husqvarna 150 BT. Given that fact, we’d probably opt for the Husqvarna.
How to use a leaf blower?
Although a relatively simple tool, backpack lead blowers can actually cause nasty injuries if you don’t observe some obvious precautions. Most importantly, it’s critical to make sure your machine is well maintained, and regularly serviced by a certified garden machinery business. Some people also like to use their riding lawn mower prior to leaf blowing to aid in the cleanup.
Fuel or Electric
Before you get started with blowing leaves, your first job is to fuel up your blower. For backpack leave blowers, the fuel tank is found on the backpack portion of the device. Now, machines fall into three categories, electric, 2-cycle, and 4-cycle.
Electric ones are obviously not worth discussing because you just charge them, but for 2 cycle motors, you’ll be fueling them up with a mixture of two-cycle oil and water. A typical ratio for this is 50 parts fuel (regular unleaded gas) to 1 part 2 cycle oil. You’ll want to double-check your machine for any specific requirements since these ratios do vary slightly motor to motor. For a 4-cycle motor, you can fill it up with regular unleaded gas.
Before You Start
Before you start the blower, you will want to ensure you’re appropriately dressed. First off, eye protection is a must for leaf blowers, as stones and debris can easily rebound into your eyes and cause long term injury. Next up, you should make sure you’re wearing pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Overalls work great, and a bandana over your mouth or a mask will also help with the dust.
Next up, make sure you’ve got adequate ear protection. Backpack leaf blowers are actually very noisy as machines go, and because they are strapped to your back, the noise is very close to your ears. You’ll want to get the best ear protection you can lay your hands on.
One final point before you get started – be courteous with the time of day you’re running your blower. Unless you have an electric machine, you could end up making your neighbors very unhappy if you’re running it late at night or early in the morning!
Once you’ve started the machine, you’ll be making a sweeping movement with the blower to push leaves like you would with a broom. Aim to work in sectors, and push the leaves into piles for collection and disposal. Be especially careful when working your way around shrubs or other plants, and you can easily damage the leaves. Sometimes a smaller lawnmower is more effective at going around the edges of your garden.
If you have a powerful blower be careful working around parked cars, buildings or people, and always make sure you’re blowing away from them. Did you know one study found that rotting leaves contribute to greenhouse gases?
How much is a leaf blower?
Prices vary greatly depending on what type of blower you’re considering, whether it’s a commercial or residential machine. For commercial machines, you should be looking to pay $350-$500 for a good machine. This will be a great investment if you’re a heavy user, and we would strongly discourage you from trying to play it cheap – it’ll only come back to bite you in the end.
For a residential blower, you’re looking at closer somewhere between $200-$350 for a residential backpack leaf blower.
What is the Top commercial leaf blower?
For commercial usage, there are a huge number of great options out there. We would suggest you consider your use cases in more detail before you make a decision. Broadly, we fit commercial blowers into two groups.
Lightweight blowers with low speed and high CFM are great for covering large areas.
Heavy-duty blowers for moving large quantities of leaves and materials.
For the first use case, we recommend the Husqvarna 380BT or the Makita EB5300TH. If you’re looking for a hard wearing and heavy hitting blower, we suggest the Husqvarna 580BT or the Stihl BR600.
What to consider when choosing your backpack leaf blower
CFM, or cubic feet per minute, is a measure of how much air the blower moves. Bigger motors will produce higher CFMs, which can be useful when you’re looking to cover large areas like lawns. If you use case is very heavy duty, you’ll want to combine a high CFM with a high MPH for maximum power. If you’re covering large areas without a heavy thing to blow, you could go for high CFM with lower MPH.
Miles per hour is the speed at which air comes out of the blower nozzle. You should be careful not to only measure a blower’s effectiveness on MPH because it’s not the whole story. In actual fact, you’re looking for a combination of MPH and CFM for maximum power.
Remember though, power comes with weight most of the time, so you should aim to pick a blower that meets your needs, not just the most powerful.
Since you’re wearing the machine on your back, weight is obviously a consideration. Lighter weight is better no doubt, but it often comes at the expense of power. You should aim to make a trade off between the two. Indeed, if you are covering large areas of land there are lighter blowers that are designed for just that.
For commercial and heavy users, good run time is important. Most commercial blowers will run for about an hour on a single tank, and it’s surprisingly similar across different machines in that category. Residential models with smaller tanks won’t last as long, but it’s not as important if you’re only doing light usage.
2-Cycle vs 4-Cycle
2-cycle motors will be your go-to for most professional applications because they are very powerful for their weight. That makes them very attractive for the commercial setting, but it does come at a price. They are generally louder and require a mix of fuel and oil to refuel them. This also adds some complexity for owners, as well as the additional mess and products to transport with your blower.
4-cycle motors are less powerful for their weight, as a general rule, but do come with their own advantages that make them attractive to the residential owner. These motors are generally a little quieter, and they just take regular gas as a fuel. This makes them a little more straightforward to operate.
Ergonomics and Vibration
The leaf blower will be on your back, so making sure it’s comfortable will make a big difference to how enjoyable it is to use. All the blowers in this review are pretty comfortable, but the only way you can really be sure of how it’ll feel is to try and put one on. If that’s not an option, generally more commercial blowers will be more ergonomic.
If you’re using your blower in a residential setting, you should consider the noise of your blower because these are loud machines. The quietest backpack leaf blowers will be electric ones, followed by four-cycle machines and finally two-cycle machines.
If you’re a home user, you might want to look for the quietest machine possible. Aside from keeping your friendships with your neighbors, this could mean you can use your machine at more hours in the day, such as after you come home from work.
For commercial users, noise is not so much of a concern as landscaping companies are generally operating during normal work hours. There is also a general acceptance that the machines can be loud. That said, it’s worth ensuring that you have a good set of ear defenders. You can give yourself long term hearing problems if you use loud machines for extended periods without adequate protection.
Cruise Control Setting
All the blowers in this review have the ability to hold a certain speed or throttle setting. This can be extremely useful when blowing for long periods of time. You should check any machines you are looking at have it, as it will help to prevent finger cramp from holding your hand down on the throttle.