Pros: Great blower/vac for leaves
Cons: Overstated mulching rate; limited capacity bag
I got the Leaf Hog to replace a Weedeater Barracuda blower/vac. The leaf collection system (usually sold as an option) was included with the Leaf Hog, so I'll talk about it too. My intent was to use this to blow leaves/straw into piles then vacuum them for disposal.
Disclaimer: I use this blower/vac on centipede grass lawns with live oaks and pine trees in a semi-sandy environment. I vacuum grass trimmings as well as leaves and straw. I'm guessing this is the "worst case scenario" for blower/vacs, and your lawn may yield better performance. Read on...
There's very little to assemble. The blower and vacuum attachments both use extension tubes that come in two halves. Just slide the two parts together and you're done. The collection bag comes with a plastic collar (to connect to the vacuum section) already attached. You supply an extension cord.
How it works
Connect the blower or vacuum section to the motor unit and you're ready. To switch sections, press a button and the attached section swings free. Switching from blower to vacuum (and vice versa) takes only about 10-15 seconds. When attaching the vacuum section, you must also attach the collection bag to catch vacuumed and mulched debris. The collar on the bag slips, twists and locks onto the vacuum section. There's an adjustable strap on the bag to help hold it. When running, the motor is loud and I strongly suggest wearing ear plugs.
As a blower:
Attach the blower section and go. There is a sleeve on the blower section that adjusts the amount of air flow. The air stream flows well, but it isn't as concentrated as the air stream produced by the Barracuda. As a result, it took a few more passes to blow leaves and straw into a pile. The difference between the two machines is noticeable, but hardly a show-stopper. As a blower, the Leaf Hog is quite adequate.
As a vacuum:
Attach the vacuum section, attach the bag and go. The vacuum is strong enough to collect small pine cones, acorns and sticks, but the impeller will not mulch them. When I hear these objects rattling around, I turn off the unit, let the objects fall out then power up and continue. The collection bag can move about the collar it attaches to, so you can move the bag if you switch hands or are left-handed. The strap is long enough to be comfortable for me (6ft tall), so most folks should have no problem with it. The bag, however, does fill up quickly. To empty, remove it from the vacuum section and unzip its end. As a vacuum, the Leaf Hog works quite well although it advertised mulching rate (10:1) was never realized.
With the leaf collection system:
First off, this system allows you to connect the Leaf Hog to a trash can instead of using the collection bag. This will save you plenty of time if you have lots of leaves. The system consists of a fabric cover and a hose. The cover is made from the same type fabric as the collection bag and it fits over a trash can (mine was 32 gallon). A drawstring holds it in place. The hose connects to this cover and to the vacuum section in place of the collection bag. The hose is about 8-10 feet long. Otherwise, it operates in the same manner as a vacuum.
I place a trash bag inside my trash can before putting on the fabric cover. When the bag fills, you just take the cover off, tie up the bag and pull it out. One catch, it's hard to tell when the bag is full. I stop periodically to check the trash can. After a little practice, you can reasonably guess how much it can hold.
As a blower, it either works or it doesn't and the Leaf Hog works fine. As a vacuum, there are a few quirks you should know. All blower/vacs have limited collection bag capacity, and you'll fill bags much quicker than you realize. I spend about half my time vacuuming and the other half emptying the bag. The mulching ratio is 10:1, meaning 10 bags of leaves can be mulched down to 1 bag. At best, I saw 2:1, but pine straw and small leaves don't mulch and compact any easier than unmulched. If you have lots of big, fluffy leaves, I'm sure 10:1 is possible.
The collar on the collection bag is plastic. Initially, it's a tight fit. Over time and use, dirt and dust will collect on it making it even tighter. Keep the collar clean for easiest assembly. The collar slides onto the vacuum section then twists and locks in place. There are no marks on either the vacuum section or collar to help you line up the two parts, so you may fumble around trying to get the two together from time to time.
I did have one problem. The leaf collection system uses a cheap hose with thin vinyl/PVC/plastic walls. When assembled at the factory, the collar (to connect to the vacuum section) was tightened such that it pinched the wall. During use, this caused enough stress to tear a hole in the hole. I reassembled the collar over the hole to cover it, but the stress was still great enough to eventually tear again. I will soon replace the hose with a heavier and longer hose. This problem is minor, at most, an inconvenience. If you enjoy the leaf collection system, you may want to investigate installing a heavier hose.
In all, the Leaf Hog is a smart system. As soon as I replace the hose, it will be another outstanding tool in my collection. Since my yard represents the "worst case scenario" for blower/vacs, I'd guess it would make an outstanding tool for you too.