Even the best backpack leaf blowers have one crucial flaw. As powerful as they are for clearing leaves or, in early spring, wintertime debris, their very design typically requires a 90-degree bend in the blower tube somewhere between the engine and the outlet. That bend reduces usable airflow and power. But a new Ryobi backpack Consumer Reports added to its leaf blower Ratings straightens out that design quirk.
The Ryobi RY08420, $200 at Home Depot, has a difference you can instantly spot. While backpack blowers traditionally resemble, well, backpacks, this Ryobi situates the engine perpendicular to the operator's back instead of parallel. This results in only a gentle curve in the blower tube's pathway from the engine, much like you'd see in a handheld blower. The model is among the 19 recommended leaf blowers from our tests.
We found the Ryobi fairly easy to control but the design is not without its compromises. There's a spring between the engine and the harness that tends to relay rather than muffle vibration. Its waist strap is too high to make a difference. And most of all, the Ryobi was even louder than usual both at the operator's ear and, for the neighbors, at 50 feet, so wearing ear protection is strongly advised.
If noise is a concern in your neighborhood, see our Ratings for high-performing blowers that are quieter. Among backpacks, these include the Husqvarna 356BT, $480, and the especially lightweight Stihl BR-200, $280.
If you've never owned a leaf blower or plan to replace an old model, check our leaf blower buying guide for features that count. In addition to testing for noise, we evaluate how well they work in the blowing mode as well as the vacuuming mode, for models that have that capability.