What does it feel like to have a hurricane strapped to your shoulders? Donning any of the best 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.
Lots of manufacturers make leaf blowers. Those include handheld, backpack, 2-stroke, 4-stroke, gas, and battery-powered (AKA electric or cordless). However, when it comes to the backpack blowing beasts, this list narrows pretty quickly. We’ve spent plenty of trigger time with some of the top performers from high-end Pro to homeowner levels and our recommendations are the ones we’re confident will do the job for you.
Reading: Best backpack leaf blower under 300
Best Gas Backpack Leaf Blower Overall
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 an impressive 239 MPH of average air velocity with 912 CFM.
You might find the second improvement even more impressive. Stihl integrated the 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 $659. Even so, we still think this is the best commercial backpack leaf blower around and it has a large dealer network for service after the sale.
Best 4-Stroke Backpack Leaf Blower
Makita EB7660TH Backpack Blower
The best 4-stroke backpack blower is the EB7660TH from Makita’s MM4 series. In a very small field of competitors, it gets the work done and 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 appreciate that Makita claimed real numbers that the blower actually hit. 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.
While we have enjoyed Makita’s MM4 lawn care equipment, get it while you can. They plan to pull gas from their lineup and be a completely gas-free brand in April 2022. We can’t wait to see what they have in store for Pro-grade battery-powered equipment, though.
Best Lightweight Backpack Leaf Blower
RedMax EBZ6500RH Backpack Leaf Blower
In finding the best lightweight backpack leaf blower, we didn’t want to completely sacrifice performance. Most professional brands have a sub-23-pound dry weight blower that balances the weight and blowing force but drops the blowing force down in the low to mid-20s. Our top pick is the Redmax EBZ6500RH. With 232 MPH and 631 CFM, it’s capable of producing an impressive 30 Newtons.
A big reason RedMax outperforms its competition for the weight class is its engine selection. Most other Pro brands have something closer to 50cc to drop the weight down, but Redmax’s is 65.6cc.
Best Backpack Leaf Blower for the Money
Echo PB-580T Backpack Leaf Blower
When you’re shopping on a budget, the 50cc class is a great place to look. You can typically find a professional-grade blower for less than $400 and get more than 20 Newtons of blowing force from it.
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After considering what professional brands offer, we picked the Echo PB-580T as the best backpack leaf blower for the money. Value doesn’t always equate to “cheapest”, however the Echo PB-580T ends up giving you a lot of bang for your buck.
Its 58.2cc engine is capable of 216 MPH and 517 CFM, combining for blowing force up to 22 Newtons. The dry weight is still reasonable at 22.7 pounds.
With a price tag of $329.99, it’s well under the $400 mark. In order to bump the blowing force in the mid-20s, expect to pay more than $400. That’s a big jump in price for just a few more Newtons of force.
Best Battery Backpack Leaf Blower
Stihl BGA 200 Battery-Powered Blower
Choosing the best battery backpack blower isn’t quite as concrete as other categories. By shifting the weight of the battery to your back or making a high-capacity battery on a backpack harness, you essentially create one from a handheld blower. Of course, there are also more traditional backpack blower form factors that swap a gas engine for battery ports and a brushless motor.
Considering both ways of getting the backpack, our top pick is Stihl’s BGA 200—a handheld blower that tethers to a backpack battery. The choice comes for a couple of key reasons. The first is performance. Rated for 21 Newtons, it hit 21.3 N in our tests, making it one of the strongest we’ve tested to date. Then there’s capacity. With 1148 Wh of lithium-ion cells, it’s like having five of Stihl’s 6.3Ah AP300 batteries on your back.
The best isn’t cheap, and the total price tag is something you need to consider.
Price: $409 (blower), $1219 (AP3000 battery), $99.99 (battery harness), $89.99 – $129.99 (charger)
Best Backpack Leaf Blower for Homeowners
Troy-Bilt TB15BP Backpack Leaf Blower
Most professional brands also make homeowner-level gas backpack blowers with the full backing of their dealer networks. They’re excellent tools, but you can get higher performance for a similar price by shopping around.
When you only need to take care of your own property, consider Troy-Bilt’s TB15BP as the best backpack leaf blower for homeowners. While other brands are using sub-30cc engines, Troy-Bilt’s is 51cc with 220 MPH and 600 CFM performance. The result is a much higher blowing force than some brands provide.
Best Backpack Leaf Blower Brand
If you ask a group of professional lawn crew teams who the best backpack leaf blower brand is, prepare yourself for a fistfight between Echo and Stihl loyalists. Both make excellent backpack blowers and they’re by far the top two brands we see on professional trailers. Echo tends to lead in performance while Stihl tends to lead in feature development.
Is one better than the other? We’ll just step out of the way and let y’all settle it in the comments below.
Best Backpack Leaf Blower Buying Guide | What We Look For
Most people turn to backpack blowers for higher performance and that’s the highest priority for us as well. Large MPH and CFM numbers are great, but it’s Newton Force that tells a more complete story. Check out this article for a discussion on airspeed, air volume, and blowing force.
Weight and Padding
When you have a blower strapped to your back, padded straps make difference, but let’s face it, it’s mainly about weight. The longer you have to wear the blower, the more the weight comes into play. It’s not just the weight of the blower, though. High-volume gas tanks offer longer runtime, but more fuel weight.
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, gas-powered leaf blowers are loud! ANSI testing requires measurements from 50 feet, but you’re not a bystander and the noise at your ear level is much higher—more than 100 decibels in most cases. In other words, you need hearing protection.
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The exception is battery-powered models. Some are able to keep the noise level below OSHA’s threshold for hearing protection. In addition to the lower overall noise, it also lets you hear more of what’s going on around you.
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 sounds a lot quieter than its SPL measurement. 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.
Value is all about getting the best backpack leaf blower that fits your budget, not just the cheapest you can get your hands on. When you consider a blower’s value, weigh what you get against the price with your highest priorities as the most important.
Got $400 to spend and value performance? Look for the highest Newton force that fits your budget. More concerned about weight? Start there.
Work Efficiency, Not Just Fuel Efficiency or Tank Size
Fuel efficiency directly affects your bottom line and it’s an important part of the equation. But so is work efficiency. Look for the best balance between fuel efficiency and runtime. The more often your crew has to stop and fill and tank, the more time you’re spending on your properties. A larger fuel tank combined with an efficient engine keeps your team more productive.
Features to Look For
What we’ve talked about so far takes care of the meat and potatoes. Now let’s shift gears to what makes for a better operator experience. Here are some of the key features we look for:
- Harness design that actively pulls air across your back to cool you down
- Hip straps that shift the weight of the blower away from your shoulders
- Chest strap
- Effective padding
- Reduced emission engine design
- Reduced vibration design
- Throttle lock on
- Side recoil start (the Stihl BR 800 Magnum C-E is the only blower we’ve tested with this feature)
- Hip and tube throttle options
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