Clean up on any construction site is arguably one of the most important aspects of the job. Whether you’re attempting to please your customer, keep the jobsite organized, or working towards code compliance, jobsite cleanliness requires constant effort. The Milwaukee M18 Fuel 3-in-1 Backpack Vacuum takes some of the hard work out of cleanup with their new design.
Weighing in at just 15 pounds, Milwaukee’s newest vacuum is powered by the rechargeable M18 battery system and features several attachments packaged on a convenient cloth harness.
- Brushless M18 Fuel motor
- Long battery life
- Easy operation and emptying of the canister
- Three ways to use for different jobsite needs
- Lacks a battery fuel gauge
- Inconveniently located power switch
- Wide floor attachment isn’t the easiest to use
The Milwaukee M18 Fuel 3-in-1 Backpack Vacuum is great for quickly cleaning up, especially on your final cleanup at the end of the job. It won’t fully replace your wet/dry vac since it’s not rated for wet messes.
WHY CORDLESS WHEN MY SHOP VACUUM IS DOING FINE?
Imagine the situation that we’ve all been in. You’ve finished a job and it’s time for final clean-up. Here comes your helper dragging your old, dusty shop vacuum and extension cord through the house, beating up trim and scratching the newly finished floors. Not to mention that you probably haven’t cleaned your vacuum from the last job so you’re dropping nearly as much dirt and dust on the floor as you’re picking up. I’m sure that you can relate because if we’re honest, we’ve all been there.
Along comes Milwaukee with a cordless, quiet, and powerful backpack-based vacuum. You quickly move through the house, clean up your mess, collect your check, and take off to the next job. Milwaukee has made an all-out effort to combine the features you need in a jobsite vacuum while getting rid of the ones that aren’t. Although it only produces about half of the suction of larger commercial wet/dry vacuums, it handles 90% of jobsite duties without difficulty.
Unpacking the vacuum, I was immediately impressed with the construction. While lightweight, Milwaukee hasn’t skimped on the materials. The vacuum and canister are made of high-density plastic and rubber, while the extension tube is lightweight aluminum. All of the flexible hoses are heavyweight rubber.
The suction canister is a clear, one-gallon container (with HEPA filter,) making it easy to see how much material has is inside.
The harness is made of quality cloth with durable stitching and plastic buckles. The waist strap features several elastic loops for carrying the attachments.
My only complaint is that the wide floor attachment is awkwardly designed. It features a “J” shaped tube that needs to be rotated 90 degrees depending on what height you’re vacuuming. Milwaukee isn’t the only one to have this floor nozzle design, it’s just one of those things that annoy me.
The most important item of note on this vacuum is the fact that it is designed for dry use only. While sand, sawdust, drywall, and general dust are no match for this tool, you’ll have to drag out the old wet dry vacuum for water or other wet materials.
For jobsite applications, you can use the vacuum in any of three ways: hang it in a stationary location, wear it as a backpack, or carry it by the carrying handle. We use ours primarily in its backpack form.
Our vacuum came with both a wide and narrow attachment which are made from typical inexpensive plastic. During use, we found the need for some type of “brush” style attachment for cleaning air conditioning vents, cabinets, and other delicate surfaces.
Milwaukee powers its vacuum using the M18 battery system common to its other 18V tools. Running the vacuum on the high setting nets roughly 25 minutes of continuous use while the low setting gives us closer to 40 minutes.
Both settings are powerful enough for most general vacuuming, however, you’ll want to use the high setting on areas with carpet.
Note that there is no fuel gauge for the battery and the vacuum will instantly die when it runs out.
The on/off switch is inconveniently located on the left side of the machine – you’ll have to become somewhat of a contortionist to cycle on/off or change the power settings if you’re wearing the harness. It would be nice to see the power button move to a more convenient location for the next generation.
When using the vacuum in the backpack harness, weight is a non-issue. The padded belt allows most of the weight to sit on your hips while the shoulder straps are comfortable once you adjust them to your fit. It’s a lot like wearing a good hiking backpack. I wore the vacuum on my back for the duration of our 25-minute test and never experienced discomfort or problems moving in the harness.
At $299 for the bare vacuum and $539.00 for the kit with a 9.0 Ah battery, this is not an inexpensive vacuum. It’s also nearly in a class by itself as a cordless backpack vac and Makita’s HEPA backpack vacuum is its closest competition. That one will set you back $349 as a bare tool and $549 with a pair of 5.0 Ah batteries.
Has Milwaukee made me go completely cordless for my vacuuming needs?
No, of course not. My trusty cored wet/dry vac will stay on my work trailer forever, but it will definitely be getting less use. The Milwaukee M18 Fuel 3-in-1 Backpack Vacuum hits the nail on the head in terms of grab-and-go jobsite cleaning.
This machine will be my go-to for second floors, final cleans, and any other small jobs that come up. I love the lightweight, powerful suction even if there are some little things that need some improvement. It’s a convenient option to get things cleaned up faster without fighting drop cords and heavy vacuums.
Milwaukee M18 FUEL 3-in-1 Backpack Vacuum Kit
- Model: Milwaukee 0885-21HD
- 55 CFM
- 76” Water Lift
- 159 Air Watts
- 76 dB(A)
- 1 Gallon Capacity
- Filter: HEPA
- Telescoping extension wand: 25” – 40”
- Onboard accessory storage
- Warranty: 5-Year Tool, 3-Year Battery
- Includes M18 FUEL 3-in-1 Backpack Vacuum, (1) M18 REDLITHIUM HD9.0 Battery Pack, (1) M18 & M12 Rapid Charger, HEPA Filter, Flexible Hose, Telescoping Extension Wand, Floor Tool, Crevice Tool, and Dust Extraction Adapter.
- Warranty: 5 years
- Price: $299 vac only, $539.00 kit
This article originally published on August 2, 2018. It has been updated to reflect our experience with it in the field.
Milwaukee’s M18 batteries have the charge level gauge integral to the battery so no need for an additional/redundant one but I get that it might be more convenient than having to remove the unit from your back to just check the battery level. Having a second ON/OFF switch at the top would be a nice convenience feature as well but again I think both of these issues are being really nit-picky. Would love to see a brush attachment come with it as well, I have scavenged one for that purpose. Great concept and functional vacuum, love it!
Tyler let me know what you think when you buy it.