Best Backpack Leaf Blower Reviews 2020
What does it feel like to have Hurricane Irma strapped to your shoulders? Donning any of the leading backpack leaf blowers will give you a close representation. With air velocity exceeding 200 MPH and CFMs reaching for four digits, these monster air movers make short work of leaves and mower shrapnel. Our best backpack leaf blower reviews give you more than just a single winner as we custom-tailor picks for every occasion and use.
Lots of manufacturers make leaf blowers. Those include handheld, backpack, 2-stroke, 4-stroke, gas, and battery-powered (also called electric or cordless). However, when it comes to the backpack blowing beasts, this list narrows pretty quickly. We tested over a dozen of the best backpack leaf blowers in this review roundup. We tested each backpack under real-world conditions—and then we hooked up our scientific instruments to collect tons of data.
Best Commercial Backpack Leaf Blower
Stihl BR 800 C-E Magnum
A few years back we ranked the Stihl BR 700 at or near the top of our best backpack leaf blower list. The Stihl BR 800 C-E Magnum backpack blower improves upon that model in two very important ways. First, it blows about 20% harder. In fact, it nets around 41 Newtons of force and blows at almost 200 mph of average air velocity (per the ANSI B175.2 standard, which we follow as closely as possible).
You might find the second improvement even more impressive. Stihl integrated a new Easy2Start system. Rather than having to take the blower off your back to pull the cord, a quick pull of the side handle overcomes the engine’s compression and starts up the blower. Yes, you heard that correctly—you can start the blower while wearing it. Take my money!
And that might be the only downside to this blower. While it starts easy, blows hard, and runs forever on the 2000cc (over 1/2 gallon) fuel tank, it retails for around $650. Even so, we still think this is the best commercial backpack leaf blower around. It also has the largest dealer network.
Alternative Commercial Backpack Blower Recommendations
- ECHO PB-8010T backpack blower
- RedMax EBZ8550 or EBZ8550-RH backpack blower
The standout feature of the Echo backpack blower is its power. The PB-8010 cranks out an eye-popping 1071 CFM at 211 MPH. We suppose the bespoke 79.9 cc engine gets most of the credit here. The ECHO PB-8010T delivers more power than most should need and runs just $600.
If you happen to be a RedMax fan, you can’t really ignore the capable EBZ8550. If you simply want brute force, this blower makes for an easy choice. At around $580 it won’t break the (commercial) bank (account) either. You can also get this blower in either hip-mount or tube throttle.
Best Gas Backpack Leaf Blower
Husqvarna 580BTS Gas Backpack Blower
If you simply want the best gas backpack leaf blower but don’t care about commercial applications, we have a great pick. The Husqvarna 580BTS backpack blower topped our charts in runtime and comfort. You can wear this backpack blower for longer thanks to excellent active cooling. That matters when you blow larger properties in the hot sun.
This Husqvarna blower also had the best work efficiency and came in second in performance. The 75.6cc engine pushed out 38.2 Newtons of blowing force on our test rig. Further, we love the ergonomics of the tool. Everything sits in the right place and we found it simple to start. In the end, $570 gets you an awful lot of blower.
Best 4-Stroke Backpack Leaf Blower
Makita EB7660TH Backpack Blower
Years ago we’d say there was no such thing as. best 4-stroke backpack leaf blower. Not any more. The MM4 series Makita EB7660TH 4-stroke backpack blower gets the work done, even while it sounds quieter than your typical leaf blower.
The sound coming from this 75.6cc Makita 4-stroke backpack blower has a much more mellow tone. It differs greatly from the high-rpm screaming 2-strokes. In addition to demonstrating excellent blowing performance, Makita has the best active cooling we experienced—by far. At wide-open throttle (WOT), you can feel a strong wind moving between your back and the blower body.
We also appreciated that Makita claimed real numbers that the blower actually hit. In fact, not only could we hit their claimed CFM and MPH with the same nozzle/tip, but we actually beat one of their metrics. We measured a respectable 33.9 Newtons of force off this beast.
If you want to rid stop mixing fuel, then Makita has your ticket. They also match this tool with a full line of MM4 4-stroke OPE tools. Pick up this blower for $599.
Best Backpack Leaf Blower for Homeowners
Echo PB-580T Backpack Leaf Blower
When it came time to consider the best backpack leaf blower for homeowners, we immediately went to the Echo PB-580T. This blower offers huge value and tosses in some very Pro features. You get a cooling system built into the padded backrest. We found the ergonomic tube throttle to work easily. Echo also went with nice thick straps, making this an as-comfortable-as-you-can-hope-for 22-1/2 pound backpack leaf blower.
With a 58.2cc 2-cycle engine, this Echo blower pumps out more than 500 CFM of air at speeds over 200 mph. That gives you both volume of movement as well as the ability to pick up “sticky” wet leaves.
As a brand, we also like the support Echo offers. The availability of retail locations and the 5-year consumer warranty solidify this as our clear pick for the best backpack blower for residential use. Finally, the price is right, too—just $330.
Best Lightweight Backpack Leaf Blower
Stihl BR 700 Backpack Leaf Blower
Stihl enjoys some well-deserved popularity for making great tools and having excellent dealer support. The efficient performance of the Stihl BR 700 backpack blower really comes home when you consider it came in as the lightest model in our backpack blower head-to-head. Because it also dominated ergonomics, our blowing swath test, and fuel efficiency, we can safely dub this our best lightweight backpack leaf blower.
If you want a lightweight backpack blower that starts on the first pull and has the most user-friendly controls check out this blower. In fact, the only real negative is the size of the fuel tank—just over 47 ounces. You get just over 50 minutes of runtime on a full tank.
As a brand, Stihl offers reliability and great support. Making this our best lightweight backpack blower came as an easy choice. Don’t let the light-weight fool you—retail for this model shows this as a Pro-level tool. Get one for around $549.
Best Backpack Leaf Blower for the Money
Echo PB-770T Backpack Leaf Blower
After testing dozens of models, we picked the Echo PB-770T as the best backpack leaf blower for the money. Our pick came for a variety of reasons. Value doesn’t always equate to “cheapest”, however the Echo PB770-T did end up being one of the least expensive high-performance blowers at $499.
The Echo PB-770T manages to stay lightweight while putting out over 36 Newtons of blowing force. That plus having one of the highest tested (and spec’d) airspeeds, makes this blower an incredibly solid value for both Pros and homeowners alike.
Wrap all that up with excellent run-time and fuel-efficiency, and the $499 cost of entry sounds like a pretty great deal.
Best Affordable Backpack Leaf Blower
Husqvarna 130BT Backpack Blower
You may be wondering what the difference is between the best backpack leaf blower for the money and the best affordable backpack leaf blower. Our prior recommendation favored bang for the buck with an emphasis on the “bang”. We essentially went for a more powerful model and assumed you were operating it on a larger property and needed all that a reasonably-priced leaf blower could offer.
Our best affordable backpack leaf blower recommendation puts a lot more emphasis on finding a lower-priced model. With that in mind, we can easily recommend the Husqvarna 130BT Backpack Blower. The 29.5cc engine on this leaf blower gives you 145 MPH of speed and 360 CFM of airflow. That’s plenty of power for larger properties, yet it doesn’t break the bank. We also like the fact that you can find this blower EVERYWHERE. Even Walmart sells it online!
A 2-year warranty, lots of service options, and ample run-time make the Husqvarna 130BT blower our top choice for affordability. You can strap this one on for just $250.
Best Battery Backpack Leaf Blower
Greenworks Commercial GBB 700 82V Battery Backpack Blower
You won’t get the power of a high-end professional gas blower from a battery-powered solution. However, if you want the convenience of battery power and are willing to pay for it, the Greenworks GBB700 backpack blower gets you close. The power it generates blows away most other cordless handheld blowers. You get 690 CFM and 165 MPH specs to match an amazingly high (for battery) 22.75 Newtons of force. What do you get with our best battery backpack leaf blower recommendation? A dramatic reduction in noise, no gas and oil, and zero emissions. So, while this blower may not perform quite like a professional gas model, you can use it where a gas blower simply isn’t viable.
The system runs off one Greenworks 82V battery pack at a time. When one battery runs out of power, automatically switching from a dead battery to the next one. This delivers continuous runtime without having to make a manual swap. Greenworks 82V batteries take around 30-45 minutes to fully charge depending on the capacity. We recommend a pair of 5Ah packs at a minimum.
Greenworks gives you a 2-year warranty on the tool and battery. Pick up our best battery backpack leaf blower choice for just $976 with two 5Ah batteries and a dual charger.
Alternative Battery Backpack Blowers We Like
- Husqvarna 550iBTX Battery-Powered Backpack Blower – $450 + BLi950X battery backpack – $950
- EGO LB6003 56V backpack blower kit (7.5Ah) – $399
The Husqvarna 550iBTX battery backpack blower may seem expensive, but it also offers the longest runtime of our three picks. While Stihl offers comparable backpack battery capacity, we prefer Husqvarna. It’s actually a backpack blower—not a tethered handheld unit. The harness support remains part of the allure for backpack blowers and you’ll note that we left out tether-only solutions entirely.
The EGO LB6003 has the same advantage. You get exceptional value out of a backpack form factor, but you do lack the runtime and power you might find in more expensive products. Of course, you can likely buy three additional 7.5Ah batteries before you match Husqvarna’s retail price.
How We Test
Weight and Padding Make a Difference
When you have a blower strapped to your back, padded straps make difference, but let’s face it, it’s all about weight. We weigh every backpack blower we review, multiple times, with our digital hanging scale. We then report the dry-weight numbers with no fuel in the tanks.
Surprisingly, nearly all gas-powered backpack leaf blowers fall within three pounds of each other. Three pounds may not be a big deal to most. However, if you wear a backpack blower for hours on end, this may weigh heavily on your decision.
How Loud are Backpack Blowers?
When using a backpack blower—cover your ears! All this great power found in our backpack leaf blower reviews comes at a price. No matter how you slice it, leaf blowers are loud! Regardless of which you end up choosing, you must wear hearing protection. ANSI specs actually require measuring the decibel (dB A-weighted) levels from fifty feet away. We measure per the ANSI spec, but we also test noise levels at the operator’s ear.
Some of the manufacturers claim numbers as low as 73 dB, however, the lowest in our actual testing was a Makita 4-stroke model. It measured just 76 dB. Keep in mind, this small measurement is at fifty feet. That makes it useful if you want to understand what bystanders hear. All backpack blowers we tested ranged from 101 to 104 dB at the operator’s ear. In short, wear hearing protection at all times while operating any gas-powered leaf blower.
Note on OSHA Exposure Limits for Sound Levels
OSHA allows a permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 90 dB (A-weighted) for an 8-hour workday. After that, the OSHA standard has a 5 dB “exchange rate”. What that means is that when the noise levels increase by 5 dB, the amount of time a person OSHA allows for exposure divides by two. Using this calculation, at 100 dB SPL you could only work for two hours without hearing protection. Thus, the goal of hearing protection for an 8-hour workday is to reduce the volume to your ears by at least 20 dB SPL.
One interesting thing to note, the Makita 4-stroke blower tied with another 101 dB at the operator’s ear. To the naked ear, however, it actually sounds a lot quieter. The tone seems to be much lower, giving it the illusion of less noise output. More information can be found in our Makita MM4 4-Stroke Technology article.
Blowing Force and Power
This is not our first rodeo. We know you want to know the skinny on power and performance. Performance is the highest weighted category in our calculations. Yes, we’ll get into MPH and CFM, but first, let’s talk about Newtons. No, we’re not talking about the fig kind, this is all about force. The formal definition says that one newton of force equals the force required to accelerate an object with a mass of 1 kilogram 1 meter per second per second. OK, now that we cleared that up, let’s make some sense of it.
You may hear manufacturers brag about MPH while others tout CFM. Most list both numbers. Force combines speed and air volume into a single metric we can actually measure in Newtons. ANSI sets a standard for this measurement, so we follow as close as we can to the spec using a high-tech force meter arranged according to the specification.
Gas-powered backpack leaf blowers push for close to 40 N in our testing. In fact, our top blowers separate themselves by just five Newtons. As a user, you may not even recognize this difference unless you used them back to back. Battery-powered blowers, on the other hand, have only just started breaching 20 N of force. You can quickly see the difference between gas and battery power—it’s profound.
Horsepower or Torque – MPH or CFM?
Now let’s really muddy the waters a bit. Now that you understand a bit about Newton force, let’s dive into airspeed and volume. You’ve probably heard the claims of blowers with 225 MPH and others with 900 CFM. Which is better for work? The real answer? Both. We could make a whole article out of this topic. In fact, we did just that. For details, check out our article: Blower CFM and Airspeed: Why Are the Numbers So Far Off?
Looking at airspeed, we calculate three different numbers. The first is the actual MPH as tested, with no correction factors. The second number is the MPH that the manufacturers claim in their specifications and marketing collateral. The third number is the theoretical peak MPH. We use math to deduce the MPH in a perfect environment as a corrected calculation from our “actual” MPH which is part of the ANSI equation. Check out the article we linked above for more on that.
What in the CFM?
Cubic feet per minute represents the volume of air the blower can produce at wide-open throttle (WOT). Again, many misunderstood claims are made in this arena, but we cut the clutter and give you the skinny. Again, more of this can be explained in the article linked above.
Using the actual CFM as tested, we found some models actually achieved higher CFM numbers than their marketing claims. Just as we stated in the MPH section, we don’t hang our hat on the CFM side either. We always need to look at additional real-world testing.
Blowing Wet Sand
While we use our fancy measuring tools to find all the scientific mumbo-jumbo, real-world tests matter too. If you don’t already know, Pro Tool Reviews is headquartered in Central Florida. If you want an idea of our weather, it’s pretty much like an armpit: hot, damp, and it benefits greatly from airflow.
We wrestled with the correct medium for testing some real-world scenarios with these blowers. Fallen tree leaves seem way too easy, so we thought about using wet grass on concrete or asphalt. With most lawn Pros now mulching their lawns, it’s hard to find a truckload of grass clippings. We settled for a better idea. Using a 50-pound bag of wet playground sand for each test, we evenly spread the bag over a 6-foot by 6-foot area of very porous asphalt.
With our area marked out in paint, we also add a red chalk line to ensure the exact starting point for each blower test. Our custom rig ensured that every blower nozzle kept the same angle. We also kept the tip at the same height off the ground for each test. We turned them on and took the maximum width and multiplied by the length. Each of the blowers ran for the exact same length of time.
Determining the Best Backpack Blower Value
First We Start with Price
Interestingly enough, with the exception of the battery-powered models, less than $100 separates the most expensive blower from the most economical in the performance category. Mind you, that changes once you look at budget models and work your way down the line. The most expensive brands ended up being Maruyama and RedMax. The least expensive? Makita and Echo.
While Echo can be purchased from many of your commercial lawn dealers, the Makita can be purchased via online outlets and big box stores. At the same time, the Echo can also be purchased from stores such as Home Depot. Additionally, the rest of the brands are going to be sold through commercial distributor/dealer channels, so you may be able to strike a better deal than MSRP.
After Performance Tests we Calculate Value
More than just the cost of the tool, value factors in what you get for the money. That necessitates understanding performance. A higher-priced blower may have a better value simply because its performance and features far outweigh the competition. This superior performance may justify the additional cost.
Work Efficiency – Not Just Fuel Mileage
When we talk about work efficiency, we’re talking about more than just how much and how fast fuel gets used. Fuel consumption, while important, is only part of the equation. We also need to understand how often the operator of our best backpack leaf blowers needs to return to the truck or trailer for a fill-up. This measurement takes into account both fuel efficiency and also tank size.
To test for fuel efficiency, we emptied the tanks of all the backpack leaf blowers. With the tanks empty, we then cranked them up, running them until they stopped. This ensured that the tanks were empty and the carburetors had no fuel in them either. In the South, we call this “bone dry”. With careful measuring, we added 6 ounces of the same TruFuel 50:1 premix to the fuel tanks (except our 4-cycle models like the Makita MM4 backpack blower). For that one, we added pure 91 octane unleaded fuel to its tank.
With only 6-ounces of fuel in each tank, we primed and started the blowers, immediately taking them to wide-open throttle (WOT). This wasn’t a problem, since the Florida heat kept the blowers warm, there’s no need for choking and warming up first. With stop-watches rolling, one by one the blowers sputtered out. The least efficient brands were RedMax and Husqvarna. The most efficient brands included Stihl and Makita.
How Far Will a Tank Get Me?
Armed with the knowledge of how long 6-ounces of fuel lasts, we can do some math. We wanted to know how long we could run the tool at full-throttle on a full tank. Since we had the manufacturer specs on the tank size, this presented a simple calculation. We take the tank size in ounces and divide by 6. That number gets multiplied by the minutes/seconds the 6 oz. lasted. That gives us the total runtime on a tank of fuel.
While Stihl had the best fuel efficiency, its smallish tank placed it dead last in total runtime. On the other side, Husqvarna and Makita ran for the longest. The question really comes down to whether you want to save $0.50 or make fewer trips back to the truck or trailer.
Features and Ergonomics
While the performance, weight, and fuel efficiency testing is quite objective, ergonomics get a bit subjective. We ran each of our tested blowers extensively to get a feel for comfort. We also paid close attention to how much vibration we felt. Some of the blowers vibrate more than others, and some bring vibration to your back as well as to your hands.
All the best backpack leaf blowers include nice padded straps and a padded back. Some, however, come more padded than others. Also, some of the straps are much easier to access and adjust, while others seem more difficult. In general, we preferred big, open finger pulls for cinching the straps. Reaching for plastic adjusters for releasing a strap can be a pain. We also insist on a true waist strap/belt as well as a chest strap. For some, the waist and chest strap may be a time-waster. However, if you’re part of a large crew, you may run a blower for hours at a time. This being the case, the additional support of the waist and chest strap will be worth the effort to fasten them.
One of the features that stands out the most is the active cooling felt on your back. The best gas backpack leaf blowers all use some form of this. As the blower pulls air into the blower housing, air also comes through ports located against your back. This pulling of air creates a nice draft to cool your back. On a hot summer day—that really matters. Makita, by far, has the best method for active cooling. Even in the 90+ degree Florida heat, the blower keeps our backs down-right cool. Most brands, with the notable exception of Shindaiwa and Stihl, have some form of active cooling.
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