The 10 Best Backpack Vacuums
This wiki has been updated 18 times since it was first published in February of 2017. If you're always struggling to clear out the grime, dirt, dust bunnies and cobwebs that gather in ceiling corners, on top of door frames, and under furniture, try one of these handy backpack vacuums. Portable, light, and strong, they offer a greater reach than traditional uprights or canisters and are suitable for both household and commercial use. Our list has something for every need and budget. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
February 10, 2021:
While many people assume that backpack vacuums are only for commercial use, this isn't actually the case. They can be a handy addition to home cleaning tools, especially if you have two-story home, since they are easier to carry up stairs than upright or canister models. In addition to home and commercial options, we also added some that are perfect for jobsite use during this update, specifically the Makita XCV09Z and Milwaukee 0885-20. Both of these are ideal for cleaning up wood and drywall dust, and other debris created when doing indoor construction work. We also eliminated the Hoover HushTone this time around due to many complaints of electrical failure.
June 10, 2019:
Whether you’ve got a lot of ground to cover or just want to move around more efficiently, a backpack vacuum can be a lightweight and easy-to-maneuver solution. They’ll increase your productivity, since there’s no canister to pull or upright body to push around. Many are held securely in place with sturdy shoulder and waist straps. The ones featured here are known for their reliability, and some offer extra features (like multiple noise level settings or cordless operation) to meet your particular needs.
Joining the list are two reliable Hoover models. The heavy-duty Commercial C2401 is designed to minimize back strain, with a chiropractor-designed harness that helps to make it comfortable to wear (which you’ll appreciate when you have a lot of cleaning to do). Another feature to help you work faster is the generous 48-foot-long power cord, which helps you to get through a large area without having to switch outlets as often.
For a convenient selection that does not require any power cord, look to the Hoover Hushtone 6Q, which will give you 45 minutes of uninterrupted work per charge. This battery-operated choice is great for areas with frequent traffic, since there isn’t a power cord for any passersby to trip over. Its self-sealing bag keeps all the collected debris contained, which prevents a mess and is helpful for those allergic to dust and pet hair. It offers a convenient “hush” mode that only produces 66 decibels. (The “boost” mode puts out 70 decibels.) Note that this convenient and reliable choice does come at a higher price than many, however, when you factor in that the battery is sold separately.
In this update, the GV Cordless leaves the list, due to issues with availability.
Tornado Pac-Vac 6 Roam This cordless selection will help you get the job done quickly, thanks to its large 6-quart capacity and battery with a 1.4-hour run-time. The lithium battery can be swapped out easily without removing the pack from your back. A handy indicator light shows how much juice you have left, and when you do need to recharge, it can be done fully in only 2-1/2 hours. tornadovac.com
Simplify The Process Of Busting Dust
The beauty of its portability is that it can access tight spaces and locations that are more difficult for a traditional upright vacuum to reach.
One common application for many backpacks is the transportation of objects from one place to another. After all, it's convenient for Timmy to store his schoolbooks in something that can be zipped up, easily strapped to his shoulders, and carried off to school with minimal effort. Keeping this image in mind, the practical use of a backpack can also be applied to situations that you wouldn't immediately consider, such as vacuuming the tops of the bookshelves in your bedroom.
Comfortably strapped to an operator's back and shoulders, the ultra-portable backpack vacuum is specifically-designed to clean all those hard-to-reach spots in any commercial, industrial, or residential setting. Consider the concept of Ghostbusters, but instead of using Spengler's proton pack to save the city from creepy apparitions, you're busting dust and messes to save your home and family from allergens. Unless you clean haunted houses for a living or you're acting out a scene from Luigi's Mansion, I'm not sure how much luck you'll have using one of these vacuums to eliminate that pesky poltergeist. But should you attempt such a paranormal feat, you'll have to let us know how it goes!
The backpack vacuum contains several parts, including an intake port, responsible for sucking up debris; a rotating brush, which typically sits just inside the intake port and directs dirt particles into the device; a wand and hose, used for flexing and accessing hard-to-reach places; and an electric motor, working in conjunction with an internal fan to create the necessary suction power to pull air through the vacuum's intake port. Depending on their design, many backpack vacuums are also equipped with both bags and HEPA filters that collect the dust and clean the air prior to its release back into the environment.
So what is the ideal setting for a vacuum like this? The beauty of its portability is that it can access tight spaces and locations that are more difficult for a traditional upright vacuum to reach. Granted, there are situations when an upright model would be equally useful, especially when it comes to cleaning deep carpets. The backpack category fills a different niche with respect to cleaning heavily-traveled and dirty areas, which include airplane cabins, movie theaters, busy hallways, dusty shelves, ceilings, drapes, and especially staircases.
A backpack device typically has fewer moving parts than its traditional upright counterparts, hence one of its major benefits. When considering long-term costs and maintenance, there is less to go wrong over time with a backpack vacuum, making it an ideal companion for daily use in industrial environments. Ergonomics is another key advantage, as the vacuum's straps are easy for an operator to adjust, while the overall design helps to promote good posture and minimize user fatigue that would otherwise be caused by constant bending or stretching. Finally, its freedom of motion eliminates the headache of a power cord getting in the way, increasing your cleaning efficiency and overall productivity.
It's All About Power, Portability, And Convenience
Because a backpack vacuum is designed to access locations that are more difficult for upright models to reach, having a powerful motor and lightweight design are key ingredients. Since the device is dedicated to facilitating quick cleanups and minimizing fatigue while doing so, there is little sense in purchasing a heavy option with a motor that lacks adequate suction power to get the job done. Ideally, your device of choice should have a canister no heavier than 10 to 15 pounds with a motor that delivers a minimum power output of 1,000 watts.
Additional conveniences like padded shoulder straps and integrated sternum clips provide superior comfort and stability when you have to clean all over the house. A telescoping wand and flexible hose come in very handy if you find yourself vacuuming ceilings, walls, curtains, or multi-tiered bookshelves with lots of nooks and crannies.
A good backpack vacuum will often have a reliable HEPA filter for removing as many allergens from the surrounding environment as possible.
A Brief History Of The Backpack Vacuum
The earliest vacuum cleaners evolved from the carpet sweeper as early as the 1860s. The sweeper device was manually operated and made use of both a bellows and a rotating brush to create suction. By 1869, Chicago inventor Ives W. McGaffey patented his non-electric Whirlwind vacuum cleaner, which used a hand-cranked, belt driven fan to operate.
In addition to producing suction from an electric fan in order to blow dust into a soap box, this device also made use of a rotating brush to collect debris.
British engineer Hubert Cecil Booth is credited with developing one of the first powered vacuum cleaners in 1901. Commonly known as the Puffing Billy, Booth's design took the form of a large, horse-drawn, combustion engine and depended on both the suction and pumping of air through a cloth filter.
The first domestically-marketed vacuum cleaner was released in 1905 by British manufacturer Walter Griffiths. In 1907, Canton, Ohio resident and department store janitor, James Murray Spangler, invented the first portable electric vacuum cleaner known as the Electric Suction Sweeper. In addition to producing suction from an electric fan in order to blow dust into a soap box, this device also made use of a rotating brush to collect debris. By 1908, Spangler sold his original patent to William Henry Hoover, who further refined the design of the unit to include a metal casing with wheels and attachments, leading to the eventual founding of the Hoover Company in 1922. Additional innovations for the Hoover Company included disposal filter bags by the 1920s and the first upright vacuum by 1926. However, the device was considered a luxury item up until the end of World War II, when it became more common and affordable for the middle class.
The latter part of the 20th century experienced a wide distribution of vacuum technologies, including backpack, self-propelled, and the first robotic vacuums by the early 2000s.