Product preview: Stihl debuts a lighter backpack gas blower

Consumer Reports News: October 05, 2011 10:36 AM

You might not think a backpack gasoline-powered leaf blower is right for you, especially if you’re among the 80 percent of U.S. adults who have experienced back pain. But bending over to reach under bushes and into other tight places with even a light corded handheld might be just as challenging. Outdoor-gear manufacturer Stihl thinks it has the appropriate solution for anyone concerned about backache.

The BR 200 (at right), $280 at Stihl dealers, weighs only 12.6 pounds empty—about 7 lbs. lighter than average for gasoline-powered backpack blowers in our latest Ratings. (The next heaviest is the 14-lb. Craftsman 79479, $190.) Besides claims of easy starting and single-handed operation, this model has an anti-vibration system for comfort. One caveat: It might not be for communities that have restricted the use of gas blowers louder than 65 decibels at 50 feet; this model is rated at 70dB.

Adding to a cordless-electric product line that includes the 36-volt, lithium-ion HSA 65 hedge trimmer, Stihl announced the BGA 85 handheld blower and the MSA 160 C-BQ chain saw. All these products are marketed to residential and pro users, but with the recommended AP 160 battery selling separately for $260 (chargers are $50 and, for rapid charge, $90), the cost for the green-minded homeowner is steep. Pay special attention (as with any cordless power tool), moreover, to the manual’s instructions for storing and charging, or you might find your battery needs replacement come spring.

The BGA 85, available later this year for $300, has an air velocity of 102 miles-per-hour at the nozzle. Noise shouldn't be an issue: It’s rated at 64dB at the operator. It’s also claimed to run for about 20 minutes on the recommended AP 160 battery. The battery recharges to 100-percent capacity in 60 or 165 minutes, depending on the charger.

Another cordless product that uses the same battery, the MSA 160 C-BQ chain saw, should be available at dealers this fall for $350. It weighs just over 10 pounds and has a run time of up to 35 minutes on the same AP 160 battery.

Ed Perratore

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