Best leaf blower and leaf vacuum 2017: this season's must-have tech

Come autumn or fall, the leaves do fall, so keep a leaf blower/sucker, on a hook on the wall (of your shed)

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Leaf blowers and vacuums are an essential not a luxury if you have a tree-lined garden. I mean, have you ever tried raking a lawn full of leaves? Don’t bother; it’s an exhausting pain in the rear, even if raking is actually good for the grass. Sweeping leaves off paving is almost as tedious and time consuming. 

The solution? Blast the crap out of them with a few well-aimed gusts from a garden blower. The great thing about leaf blowers is that they not only blow leaves away in a fraction of the time it takes to sweep, but they also deal with dust, dried mud and other unsightly garden invaders that usually escape the broom. Then, when you’ve finished blowing you can get the revolving chair out into the garden for some good old centrifugal thrust-powered fun. I know I do!

What is the best leaf blower?

Our winner is the mains-powered, 3000W Black & Decker GW3030, partly because it’s cheap and partly because is sucks as well as blows, but mostly because it’s damn good, with an excellent leaf-collecting backpack and the ability to muster up a hurricane-like 240mph wind.

The even more budget-priced Bosch Garden Vacuum ALS 2500 is another great electric suck ’n’ blow model that does the job well, but 

Finally, if you have a really small garden, consider the handy little cordless Ryobi OBL1820S . The best cordless option is Husqvarna's 436 LiB – an excellent blower with superior battery life, and supreme controllability – but it's somewhat pricier. If you have a huge garden then try the petrol-powered Stihl SH 56 C-E, which runs forever on a single tank.

How to buy the best leaf blower for you

We’ve called in a quintet of blowers, including a trio that also vacuum, and put them to the test on a leaf-strewn lawn. I also put some almighty gusts down my back passage, which resembles a New England forest floor. 

The first thing you need to know is that leaf blowers are loud – as in 'Jeffing' loud. It’s like listening to a jet aircraft just before takeoff, albeit from a safe distance. This means it’s not an especially pleasant sound for the neighbours either so perhaps refrain from unleashing it first thing on a Sunday morning or while your neighbour’s having a barbecue party (even though he might ask you to fan the flames from over the garden fence). You might also wish to wear some ear defenders – or a pair of noise-cancelling headphones.

If you have a huge garden with a lot of trees and hence regular bouts of leaf infestation, consider a petrol-powered model. These beasts are heavy and cumbersome, and the most powerful models come with a 007-style backpack. They're also the noisiest of all, a bit smelly and, because they use two-stroke engines, need topping up from time to time with both petrol and oil. 

For most lawns an electric model is the way to go. True, there’s a cable attached which can be annoying if you have trees and other obstacles scattered about, but mains-powered leaf blowers are about as powerful as their petrol counterparts and not nearly as loud. They also run for as long as there is electricity in the world.

If you have a smaller property or simply don’t fancy trailing a cable behind you, cordless models are heavier in the hand thanks to the big battery, and not as powerful. But if all you need is a 10 to 20 minute blast round the abode, they're great.

Some blowers also suck. They’re called vacuum blowers and this variety is well worth the extra outlay since they will not only suck up dry leaves (although wet stuff, not so much), they’ll also mulch them into little bits and deposit them into a bag slung beneath, or on your back. 

Changing over from blow to suck isn’t just a case of flicking a switch. In most instances you’ll need to remove the blower pipe, remove or rotate a centre fitting and fit a different vacuum pipe. The effortless gathering capacity does outweigh the hassle of conversion, in my opinion. And now, let's get blowing! And sucking.

The best leaf blowers and vacs, in order 

1. Black & Decker GW303OBP

The best electric model for both sucking and blowing

Specifications
Weight: 3.7kgs
Power source: Mains
Vacuum: Yes
Air speed: 260mph
Reasons to buy
+Massive, variable air speed+Excellent leaf collection backpack+Low price
Reasons to avoid
-Noisy, admittedly
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When it comes to the annual sweep up and collection of fallen leaves, I’m the one usually tasked with the duty, and it’s not a job I’m that enamoured of. But since strapping on the brand new, mains-powered B&D, I’m wondering how I ever managed without it.

Now, instead of breaking my back using a stupidly inadequate broom, rake, dustpan and brush, I go around blasting everything asunder and when I’ve finally managed to coax the leaves into a pile of sorts, I remove the blow tube, add the suction fitting, pop the suction tube on, attach the brilliant 50-litre collection backpack and watch the leaves disappear up the tube where they’re mulched into little bits and deposited into the bag for easy disposal. 

This thing is supremely efficient, and highly noisy – hardly surprising, given its wind speed is allegedly a phenomenal 260mph. The speed is adjustable via a little knob below the handle.

It sucks exceedingly well too, and is faster at collecting leaves than the Bosch and Stihl. It’s also well balanced and easy to hold, especially when used with the included shoulder strap. The rake attachment for the vacuum tube is a nice touch since it makes the collection of insubordinate leaves a wee bit easier.

Keenly priced, well specced and easy to use, this model is pretty much all you need for efficient autumnal garden clearance. Top buy.

2. Bosch ALS 2500

Best low-cost electric leaf blower and vacuum

Specifications
Weight: 3.2kgs
Power source: Mains
Vacuum: Yes
Air speed: 186mph
Reasons to buy
+Great price+Efficient and comfortable
Reasons to avoid
-Only has two air speeds-Suction could be better
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This model is similar in design to the Black & Decker but not quite as powerful. It easily passed the leaf eradication test with flying colours and is really comfortable to use; the included padded shoulder strap is a big plus.

However, because the suction isn’t especially powerful the leaves disappear up the tube in twos and threes rather than a whole bunch in one go. That still beats gathering them up by hand, mind.

As a blower, this model isn’t quite as practical as the cordless Husqvarna since it only has two speeds and comes with a long cable. The similarly-styled B&D pips it in the air speed and suction stakes. Nevertheless, its very low price and ability to suck as well as blow make it an especially attractive budget option. And, hey, it’s a Bosch!

3. Ryobi OBL1820S

Best low-cost cordless leaf blower

Specifications
Weight: 3kgs
Power source: Battery (10 minutes per charge)
Vacuum: No
Air speed: 150mph
Reasons to buy
+Very light+Easy to use
Reasons to avoid
-Vibrates a lot-Battery and charger sold separately
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If you have a small garden and/or low budget, consider this fairly lightweight but adequately powerful, cordless wonder. It only has one speed setting and you won’t get much more than about 10 minutes out of a full charge of its 18v battery, but boy can it blow, with a narrow, curved, clip-on nozzle creating a more focused gale.

The Ryobi is light in the hand, well balanced and powerful enough to shift damp, sticky leaves on paths as well as dead vegetation around sheds. It’s not quite as noisy as others in this roundup though it does vibrate a lot more, leaving ones hands tinglng after use. 

At least on Amazon, this blower doesn’t come with a battery or charger – that’ll be an extra £99, if you don't already have Ryobi batteries for your other Ryobi tools.

4. Husqvarna 436LiB

Best cordless leaf blower

Specifications
Weight: 3.6kgs
Power source: Battery (15-20 minutes per charge)
Vacuum: No
Air speed: 103mph
Reasons to buy
+Very good run time+Superb variable speed trigger+Excellent blower
Reasons to avoid
-Quite heavy and could be better balanced-A bit pricier
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Swedish brand Husqvarna is perhaps best known for its chainsaws but it’s also a lead player in the blowing arena.

This large cordless model is on the heavy side and could be a bit better balanced so you don’t have to swivel the wrist to make the nozzle sit higher; a shoulder strap would be an advantage. Nevertheless, this thing will blow the head off a scarecrow from ten feet away and because it has a perfectly configured variable speed trigger, the air speed is easily controllable.

When you pull the trigger in gently, it starts with a light breeze – perfect for petal clearance. The more trigger you apply the higher the air speed, until it reaches seemingly gale-force proportions (actually around 103mph). When you come across an obstreperous leaf that simply refuses to budge, hold in the temporary boost button for some serious tornado-style obliteration.

The Husky’s large 36v Lithium Ion battery provides a very decent 15 to 20 minutes of use at near full power. Although loud, its sound frequency isn’t overly annoying while the addition of variable air-speed control can be considered a major bonus.

Again, this model doesn’t always come with a battery (Bli20) or charger, so be aware there may be additional outlay required.

5. Stihl SH 56 C-E ErgoStart

Best petrol-powered leaf blower for large gardens

Specifications
Weight: 5.2kgs
Power source: Petrol
Vacuum: Yes
Air speed: 159mph
Reasons to buy
+Very efficient+Petrol power runs for ages+Variable speed
Reasons to avoid
-Extremely noisy-Requires maintenance-Heavy
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Owners of larger suburban gardens will be better off with a petrol-powered model like this blower-and-vacuum option from Germany's Stihl. 

It’s a heavy brute, and setting it up from new is a bit of a palaver that involves filling the two-stroke engine with a mixture of petrol and oil, pressing a fuel bleed nipple a few times, adjusting the choke lever and pulling on the starter rope a number of times. 

Once up and running, this superbly built garden blaster deals with leaves and other unsightly detritus with aplomb, albeit while impersonating a Harrier jump jet taking off. Vacuuming is also pretty good, though you will need to change the configuration of the plastic tubes and add the 45-litre collection bag and integral shoulder strap. 

The variable air speed trigger makes it easy to control the power and, despite the weight, it’s not too tiring to use. The tank lasts for ages and ages between refills, too. 

Stihl garden tools are widely considered to be among the very best and many users report decades-long reliability, so consider one of these carefully, especially if you have a garden the size of Hampstead Heath.