Tired of lugging a vacuum around your house? Trying to avoid bumping into furniture is annoying but bending over a normal stand-up vacuum can hurt your back and make any existing back problems worse. Stand-up vacuums can be tough to maneuver around household objects and up and down stairs. A backpack vacuum might be a better choice for you.
While once only used by commercial cleaning services for office and other public spaces, backpack vacuums’ popularity has been growing for home use as well. Below, we will describe the characteristics of backpack vacuums, what to look for in a good model, and which one is best for your needs.
Why Buy a Backpack Vacuum?
Initially used for offices and public spaces, backpack vacuums are finding their way into residential houses as well. It seems the professional cleaners using them decided that they would work great in their own homes. Compared to more traditional, stand-up vacuum cleaner models, backpack vacuums have a number of advantages.
Here are some top reasons why you may want to consider buying a backpack vacuum cleaner.
Ease of Movement
One of the hardest parts of using a canister (those are the vacuums that roll along the ground with a long hose attachment) or an upright vacuum is how difficult it is to get them where you need to clean. Your house is an obstacle course of furniture, stairs, and walls that you have to navigate, all while trying to keep the cord plugged in. Backpack vacuums come with you. If you can walk to a spot, you can clean that spot. And with the cord behind you, not in front, you have much more freedom to move. Just think of all the time and effort it takes just moving the cord out of your way.
Backpack vacuums are designed to be as lightweight as possible while still being powerful. With an average weight of 9 pound, these units weigh barely more than a high schooler’s book bag.
Because you spend less time getting to the spot you want to clean and more time actually cleaning it, the time it takes you to clean drops off quickly. Since you don’t have to hold both the cord and the vacuum it also frees up a hand for other cleaning tasks like dusting.
Better Filters and More Power
Most backpack vacuum cleaners use HEPA filters. Even the models that don’t use HEPA filters still come with ‘beefier’, more powerful filters than your average standup vacuum cleaner. These filters screen out harmful bacteria and pet dander that most other vacuum filters miss. This built-in filter power is a carry-over from the backpack vacuum’s beginnings as an industrial tool.
Better for Your Posture
Sadly, most of the things we need to clean in our house are waist level and below with the floor being the furthest from our natural reach. If you are using a standup vacuum, that means you are leaning over a lot. Most standup vacuums come with a handle that makes you hunch over to use them. Spending even 30 minutes hunched over can leave your muscles tense and your back sore for hours.
A backpack vacuum lets you avoid bad posture or awkward movements. You don’t have to stress your muscles reaching in directions the human body was not designed to do.
Backpack vacuums are usually on the more expensive end of the price range, especially higher end models with added features. So, before you start shopping, fix your budget and think about what add-ons and accessories you will really use.
Since they were originally designed for commercial use, some backpack vacuums can be pretty large. However, these days you can find many that have been slimmed down for use in homes. Take note of the weight and dimensions of each model you look at.
Another holdover from their commercial design is the noise level. Less effort was put into designing a quieter unit. No models are in the dangerous zone of noise generation, but you should still check the noise range in decibels.
Considerations When Buying a Backpack Vacuum
A few characteristics are important to think about when considering buying a backpack vacuum:
The amount of space you need to clean is a large consideration. Backpack vacuums are designed for large areas. However, if you have a smaller area like an apartment, you may not need the extra power and mobility.
How Much Weight Can You Carry?
Even though they are better for your back than stand up vacuums, backpack vacuums are still weight you have to carry. Most units are less than 20 lbs. with some only as much as 9 lbs. But if you have lifting or mobility issues, you want to make sure you are able to carry the weight.
Features and Accessories
Like standup vacuums, backpack vacuums often include several add-ons and accessories. You’re familiar with extension wands, powered brushes, crevice tools, and floor tools. However, many backpack models include new features such as the blower function. This reverses the flow and lets you ‘blow’ things such as leaves or other trash out of an area. HEPA filters are also common.
Since a backpack vacuum is worn like a backpack, the strap design is something you want to pay attention to. Some units come with multiple adjustment options while others are pretty simple. Some come with a lot of padding, but some don’t have any padding at all. If you can’t make a unit comfortable, then it loses most of its benefits. The best units will allow a user to forget it is even there. We all have different shapes and sizes and personal preferences. So, in order to meet such diversity, good models will have a lot of adjustment options. Straps over your shoulder should sit loosely and keep the unit from shifting. The weight of the unit should sit on the hips instead of the lower back.
A backpack vacuum sits on your back directly next to your ears so it’s very important to think about the noise level. You should not need ear protection, but your personal comfort level is important. Units usually range from 60-decibels to 70 decibels or higher.
If your home has low ceilings or short door frames, a tall backpack vacuum may not work for you. Lower profile models with narrow width have to make up for the space in height. Given your center of gravity, it may be easier to use a wider vacuum vs a taller one.
Cord or Cordless?
Most backpack units come with at least 20 feet, with some having cord length of 50 feet. You can always add an extension cord if you need more length.
Cordless models are available which give you as much freedom as possible. Most battery powered units can go 45 to 60 minutes on one charge. You can also buy spare batteries, so you don’t have to wait for one to charge before finishing cleaning. These spares aren’t cheap. And be sure you find one that will fit your unit.
As discussed, the filters on backpack units tend to be more effective than on their standup cousins. A HEPA filtration system will give you most filtration available on the market. Made up of several layers, each with slightly smaller openings, HEPA filters can catch some of the smallest particles in your home.
Because most backpack vacuums were designed for professional use, many
models provide a strong suction power. However, you should be aware that this generally means higher decibels and energy consumption. Also, if you choose a battery-powered machine, ensuring the cleaning time from a fully charged battery will suffice.
Bagless or Bagged
Just like standup vacuums, backpack vacuums come in bag or bagless options. Bagged vacuums help contain all the dust that you’ve sucked up. This can be important if you have allergies or asthma but buying replacements can get expensive and inconvenient. Bagless canisters don’t require a bag but must be handled with care since the fine dust captured in them can easily escape. They must also be cleaned for effective use.
The Best Backpack Vacuum Reviews of 2021
With the above characteristics in mind, we have reviewed the top seven backpack vacuum models on the market using customer comments and manufacturer specifications:
ProTeam Super CoachVac Backpack Vacuum
Best Overall Backpack Vacuum
The Super CoachVac backpack vacuum made by ProTeam is powerful and comes equipped with a super filtration system. It sports a 50-foot power cord, one of the largest offered on the market, which lets you cover most large rooms from one electrical outlet. The Xover multi-surface telescoping wand and included tool kit has attachments for any task, including the ceiling fan. This model is relatively quiet at just 66 decibels.
Why We Love It
Powerful and Quiet
The Super CoachVac small but powerful 1,188-watt motor gives you plenty of suction power.
Many owners really liked its ability to easily eliminate fine dirt and dust. With a noise level of only 66 decibels, it’s a good choice for homes with pets or kids or public areas which require quiet, like schools or offices.
The Xover Tool enables a user to move from carpeted floors to other surfaces like hardwood floors, linoleum, and tiles. The long collapsible wand lets you reach high places like ceilings, air vents, and fans. The included tool kit comes fully equipped with an upholstery tool, crevice wand, and soft dusting brush. It also comes with a handy belt so you can carry these tools with you.
Advanced Filtration System
The Super CoachVac backpack vacuum incorporates a four-level advanced
Filtration HEPA system. It has earned a gold rating by the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI). The 10-quart canister gives it three times the capacity of a traditional standup vacuum.
ProTeam utilizes a mountaineering-style backpack to ensure the Super CoachVac is comfortable. The weight is transferred off your lower back and on to your hips.
Keep In Mind
The Hose Snaps Off Easily
Some customers have reported some incidents where the hose has broken off. There is a 3-year warranty to cover this but getting the replacement can take a while.
Hoover C2401 Shoulder Vac Commercial Backpack Vacuum
Best Commercial Backpack Vacuum
Made by one of the oldest vacuum companies in the word, the Commercial C2401 is one of Hoover’s best made models. Weighing just over 9 pounds, it’s very lightweight. It is also very compact allowing the user to fit into small areas. Its capacity is actually very large at 6.4 quarts. A clear plastic dome lid lets you see the dust being collected. It’s 48 ft. cord comes with a Quick-Change feature and is long enough for most large areas. The C2401’s accessories package comes with all you will need for thorough cleaning.
Why We Love It
Hoover used a group of chiropractors when they designed this model’s carrying harness. It’s two shoulder straps and fully padded hip belt puts the weight (only 9.2 lbs.) on your hips.
Bag or No Bag Versatility
The C2401 holds 6.4 quarts of dust in either a canister or a cloth liner dust bag, whichever you choose. You can also use disposable bags, giving you unmatched versatility in waste disposal depending on your needs. For everyday cleaning, you can use the canister or cloth liner. For pet hair or really fine dust, you can use a paper bag.
Hoover packs in a number of useful features for your 60-in. locking hose. The wands are metal for extra durability. There is a turbo floor tool for carpet cleaning as well as a crevice attachment, upholstery tool, and dusting brush. The HEPA filter screens 99.97 percent of particles to the size of 0.3 microns.
Quick Connect Power Cord
The Commercial C2401 comes with a 48 feet power cord extension that allows you to attach it easily and securely to a longer cord if needed.
Keep In Mind
No Height Adjustments
The wand isn’t height adjustable, meaning you may not be able to get the best suction depending on your height.
Adapter Needed for the Tools
You need a special tool (included) to connect the various attachments. This can be frustrating if you lose it.
Hoover PortaPower Commercial Canister Vacuum CH30000
Best Backpack Canister Vacuum
Another great option from Hoover is the PortaPower Commercial Canister Vacuum CH30000. Though called a ‘canister’, this model is really a backpack with all the pluses of a canister. It can reach under low furniture or to some of the highest ceiling fans. It is lightweight, reliable, and comes with several add-ons enabling you to reach tight areas. The blower option also lets you push dirt out of places like your garage. It has a reusable cloth bag which can be replaced by a disposable paper one. The 900-watt motor provides plenty of power.
Why We Love It
Two types of suction heads, crevice and upholstery tools, and a dusting brush make this model very versatile. The bagging options (cloth or paper) are also very handy.
At 8.3 lbs., this is one of the lightest models on the market, making it pretty comfortable to carry around the house.
Powerful Suction and Long Reach Excellent Suction Power and Reach
A 900-watt motor isn’t the largest on the market, but it provides enough power to get the job done. The 33-foot-long cord is on the short side, but the extendable wand and hose make it easy to reach high places.
Keep In Mind
Not for Thick Carpets
While it has suction for most floors, this model does not work well on thick carpets or deep-pile rugs.
No Storage for the Cord
Strangely Hoover did not include a hook for cord storage. Instead, you are left to wrap it somehow around the handle.
Unlike most backpack models, this one comes with only one strap. You can carry on one shoulder, but it does not distribute the weight well and can slip off. You can cross it across your body for better weight distribution.
Powr-Flite Comfort Pro BP6S Backpack Vacuum
Best Backpack Vacuum for Sore Backs
If you have a bad back, this model is a great option. With comfort in the forefront of the design, this model helps avoid exacerbating old back pain or creating new problems.
The 1,200-watt motor delivers a lot of suction power but only rates a quiet 62-decibels. It sports a 5 stage HEPA filter that keeps dust, pollen, and other particles in the vacuum once sucked up. This model also has the standard package of attachments for most needs.
Why We Love It
The Powr-Flite Comfort Pro BP6S Backpack comes with a harness with several adjustment points that make it easy to fit to any size and preferred shape. The straps are made of mesh material that lets your skin breathe, which is a huge plus if you are working in a hot environment. Finally, at only 8.26 pounds, this model is very easy to lift and carry.
With 1,200 watts of motor power, this model earned the Carpet and Rug
Institute (CRI) Gold Seal of Approval. Its suction ability combined with a 5-stage HEPA filter works well on pet hair, dander, and fine dust.
With a noise level of only 62 decibels, the Powr-Flite Comfort Pro meets several industry standards for quiet operation.
Plenty of Tools
This model comes with most standard tools, along with an extendable, crush resistant hose and a two-section bendable chrome wand.
Keep In Mind
The harness is second to none in comfort, but it does take a little bit of effort to customize for each user, so if this unit is traded between people, it can be a hassle to adjust every time.
Quiet Clean EURSC412B Backpack Vacuum
Best Backpack Vacuum for Bare Floors
Bare floors aren’t necessarily damage resistant. Indeed, many types like hardwood or stone need special care in order not to scratch. The Quiet Clean from Sanitaire works well on any type of uncovered floors. It’s 1,400-watt motor is very powerful for use on tough carpets and smoother surfaces. The model sports a four stage HEPA filtration system, which can remove 99.97 percent of particles larger than 0.3 microns. The 12-inch-wide suction opening lets you cover more area quickly. The 50-foot power cord allows you to reach most places in a large area without changing outlets.
Why We Love It
Great for Bare Floors
Dust can be illusive on smooth surfaces. Unlike carpets and rugs which keep dust in place, dust can move easily across smooth surfaces. To address this, the Sanitaire comes with specialized bare floor attachments along with the standard suite of other cleaning attachments.
Wide Cleaning Path
The broad 12-inch-wide suction area increases the area you can reach with each stroke. The 50-foot power cord further increases the speed with which you can clean.
Keep In Mind
Attachments a Bit Tricky
Some users have commented that the attachments take some strength to put on and pull off.
If you want a very secure attachment system, then this is a good option for you.
Some owners have stated they found the instructions in the owner’s manual to be incomplete, missing steps on tools attachment. Fortunately, the operation is fairly straightforward.
ProTeam ProVac FS 6 Backpack Vacuums
Best Backpack Vacuum for Stubborn Messes
Some messes are just bigger and/or harder to reach than others. This is where this model excels. Loaded with accessories, the ProVac gives you the tools to handle any job. It comes with a padded harness for increased comfort as well as adjustable FlexFit, which works with people of all sizes. The breathable fabric mesh helps you stay cool when working in hot areas. There is a 50-foot power cord for extended reach and a HEPA filter for cleaner air.
Why We Love It
ProVac’s padded harness is super comfortable and has an integrated tool belt for the attachments.
Lots of Extra Tools
ProVac comes with a two-piece wand, upholstery tool, carpet and hard floor attachments, soft dusting brush, and crevice tool.
The 50-foot-long power cord gives you excellent reach and the 1,108-watt motor provides plenty of suction power. At 11.6 pounds, it is a little heavier than some other models, but the fantastic harness makes this difference seemingly disappear.
Keep In Mind
Attachments Aren’t Universal
You can’t use other ProVac model attachments on the ProTeam ProVac FS 6. If you have a cleaning business with numerous models or have an older model with attachments you like, you won’t be able to switch them out.
GV Commercial Backpack Vacuum
Best Backpack Vacuum for Pet Hair
The GV Commercial Backpack Vacuum does a great job of picking up pet hair and dander. It has a lot of power but is fairly light, with durable aluminum construction. It can be used on hard floors and carpets. It comes with the standard collection of tools as well as a pet tool. The 3 stage HEPA filter is integrated into the unit and is sufficient to beat pet hair, dander, and odors. The adjustable padded waist and shoulder straps make it comfortable to wear. The canister is pretty large and can hold a 10-quart bag for dust and debris.
Why We Love It
Plenty of Power
Users praise this model’s suction power. One noted you can suck flies from the air. The large capacity gets bigger jobs done quicker without changing bags.
Weighing 11 pounds, this model isn’t the lightest option. But the adjustable padded straps distribute the weight evenly on your hips, so this isn’t an issue.
Perfect for Pet Hair
This unit’s power and a mini turbo nozzle destroy pet hair. This easily attached pet tool has a small spinning brush which pulls hair off the carpet or floor before it is sucked away.
Keep In Mind
Some users have said that the hose bends very easily and occasionally detaches.
This model comes with a 10-inch (that’s right, 10 inches!) cord, so your own extension cord is required.
Backpack Vacuums FAQs
Are Backpack Vacuums Good on Carpets?
It depends on the model. Backpack vacuums are very similar to canister-type vacuums. If you have the right attachments, most will perform as well as or better than a standup model.
Are Backpack Vacuums Good with Pet Hair?
Pet hair can be the absolute worst to remove. The right tools are critical to your vacuum’s success in removing it. Backpack models, with the right tools, can tackle pet hair as easily as other vacuum types.
How Much Do Backpack Vacuums Cost?
Backpack vacuums tend to be more expensive than standup models. This of course depends on brands and extra features, but a good rule of thumb is the $200-300 range.
Backpacks for Life
Backpack vacuums are great options for speeding up your cleaning. They are also much easier on your back when fitted properly.