Best Wheeled and Backpack Leaf Blowers for Big Yards

If you need more than a handheld one, check out these top models from CR's tests

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Brooke Johnson

If you have a sizable yard to clear, a backpack or wheeled leaf blower is your only real option. "If it takes more than 30 minutes to blow the leaves in your yard, you should probably trade up from a handheld to a backpack or wheeled model," says Dave Trezza, a CR test engineer. In other words, for larger lawns you'll want to bring out the big guns.

Wheeled and backpack blowers offer distinct advantages. Here’s a crash course on the two types, along with some top picks from our most recent leaf blower tests.

Backpack Leaf Blowers
Most models weigh in at about 20 pounds. The bulk of the weight comes from the engine, which is mounted to the backpack itself. That means you'll be carrying that weight on your back. But that gives you access to any terrain you can traverse, such as steep slopes. This configuration frees up your hands to direct the tube and the flow of air, helpful if you’re gathering leaves in a single large pile.

Wheeled Leaf Blowers
For a sprawling yard, nothing matches the performance of a gas-powered wheeled blower. But that power comes with trade-offs: wheeled blower units are pricey and can be cumbersome to maneuver. They can easily weigh 100 pounds, which can be mighty hard to push up even a small incline, so they’re best suited for flat parcels. Their unbridled power makes them a smart choice if your property abuts a wooded area and you can simply blow leaves back into the woods. If you want to blow your leaves into strategic piles, however, a wheeled model probably isn't for you.

You might be temped by handheld leaf blowers, especially given their lower pricing. But each type has limitations:

• Corded electric models keep you tethered to within 100 feet of an outlet.
• Battery-powered blowers usually run only 20 to 30 minutes between charges, not quite enough to clear even one-third of an acre.
• Gas-powered handheld units weigh 8 to 12 pounds, which starts to feel pretty heavy pretty quickly.

A Note About Noise and Safety

Among outdoor tools, gas-powered blowers top the list of those prompting noise complaints. Indeed, some towns impose restrictions on decibel levels and times of day when these devices can be used. Some models have their noise level—rated in decibels at 50 feet—right on the unit. That can be helpful for compliance, but we prefer to measure noise at 50 feet in sones, which is a good proxy for what your neighbors will hear.

More on Fall Yard Care

Backpack leaf blowers have motors mounted where they'll be in close proximity to your head, and they can generate enough noise to cause lasting hearing damage in as little as 8 minutes.

There are some differences in noise levels among models, but none are quiet enough to use without hearing protection. The same goes for gas-powered wheeled leaf blowers.

In addition to hearing protection, you’ll want to wear protective goggles and a dust mask. Be sure to keep people and pets away while you work. And clear your yard of dog toys, sticks, and other objects before blowing leaves. Contrary to popular belief, sticks and stones can break your bones, not to mention your windows.

How CR Tests Leaf Blowers

Our test engineers rope off a standardized swath of grass and dump bag upon bag of leaves inside the boundary. Then we time how long it takes to clear the area completely and use that data to derive a score for sweeping, akin to the experience you'd expect if you're the type to tackle leaves as they fall.

But not everyone is so diligent, so we devised a test for the conditions you might experience if you tend to let leaves lie. We call it "loosening," and to score leaf blowers in this test, we first embed leaves in tall grass, then time how long it takes to clear them and gauge roughly how many are left behind.

Our experts also assign each model a score for ease of use and handling, which together capture the experience of carting the tool around, getting it started, and adjusting its settings.

And last, we measure noise, both at the operator's ear—which determines which models need hearing protection—and at 50 feet, which determines the nuisance factor for your neighbors.

Read on for recommendations for wheeled and backpack models from our leaf blower ratings, including top picks and CR Best Buys, which combine performance and value.

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