Pros: Like all gas blowers, portability. Easy and comfortable to carry.
Cons: Now quite the power of my much less expensive electric Weed-Eater blower
I've had my Homelite Backpacker for a few weeks now and have tested it fully. I bought it used at an estate sale for $45.00, it retails for about $180 at my local Home Depot. Even though it had been sitting in a garage at this deceased persons home, it fired right up despite the old gas that was in it. The 2-stroke motor has a bulb primer common on newer 2-stroke engines which makes starting these things almost bullet-proof. I have an older Homelite chain saw that lacks this primer but actually is still pretty easy to start which is why I bought this thing. I have a mantis tiller without the primer that is really tough to start. Anyway, I've observed that Homelite gets trashed in comparisons to Stihl and other premium brands when it's lumped with other cheap brands like McCoullough and Poullan. I feel about this blower the way I do about my Homelite chain saw. You pay about 3 times as much to get the equivalent power and features on the Stihl. If you're a regular home owner like I am, then perhaps you'll agree when I say that I just can't justify that much additional money for something I don't use all that much. Plus, Homelite is a division of John Deere and those products have a great reputation for quality as well as being American made (my blower was made in Charlotte, NC).
Back to the review. It has a 3-position choke - off, half, and full. As I said, I found it very easy to start up, even without having the owner's manual to read. In use I found that it should be allowed to warm up before use, it lacks power when run cold. This thing is loud, but anytime you run a 2-stroke engine 1 foot from your head it's going to sound loud - wear hearing protection. Another reviewer complained about fumes - I noticed them but found them no worse than those from any other 2-stroke engine I've used, definitely not a problem. The power switch is on the handle where you direct the nozzle with your right hand. There is a trigger throttle controlled by your index finger which can also be locked at about 80% of full power, a really useful feature for routine leaf blowing. It's easy to carry and use without putting it on your back if you just have a quick job to do. It's also easy to get on your back if you've got more to do and it is super comfortable to carry on your back and use - it just blows my old hand-held blower away which, in addition to be a pain to carry, also had a power cord to contend with. I could use the Homelite all day. The down side is that at full power I think my Weed-Eater, which cost about $40, has the edge on power. I guess electricity converts to blower power more efficiently than does gas. It's not much of a difference though and one I'll gladly trade for the ability to carry the thing on my back, and cut the power cord tether. I could never reach some portions of my yard with the old electric one and now I can blow anywhere (so I can blow all my leaves into my neighbors yard!!!).
I have encountered one problem with my blower and I think it is probably just related to how much it was used before I bought it (which I don't know). The backpack section is attached to the blower section by 3 rubber "shock absorbers". On my blower, 1 of these is broken and another one is about to go, I guess the vibration puts enough stress on the rubber than eventually it cracks in half. The blower can be used with only 2 attached, but I intend to replace them before the 2nd one goes. They are easily replaced - the kit can be order from Homelite and costs about $15.00.