The Stihl SHE 71 is a multi-function garden vac / shredder / leaf blower. Running off mains power, it aims to be the ultimate all-in-one garden cleaning device suitable for homes and gardens of any size. Available for around £90, it’s not the cheapest and with a total output of 1100W it’s not technically the most powerful, but it is very good at what it does.
Based on the multi-tube design of garden vac / blowers rather than the all-in-one approach of devices like the Flymo Gardenvac 2700 Turbo, the Stihl SHE 71 comes with a host of extra tubes and other accessories that are used to swap between its various functions.
It has a long slim blower tube that’s split into two parts. This makes storage easier and allows you to swap the end piece between either the supplied straight nozzle or the optional £7 upward curving one. The length of the tube can also be adjusted thanks to a choice of two sets of slots into which the nozzle piece locks. Finishing off the blower configuration is a grille cap for the air intake.
As for the vacuuming mode, it has a larger tube – that’s again split into two sections – for attaching to the intake and a bag with included shoulder strap to put on the outlet. Unlike some garden vacs where the bag hangs under the intake tube, here it hangs loose, requiring a shoulder strap to hold it.
The whole lot combined makes for quite a lot of bits to keep track of and store, though thanks to the tubes being split no piece is longer than 50cm. That said, the vacuum tube is very difficult to prize apart so you’d likely want to find a place to store it in its full 90cm glory.
The main unit itself is very compact. Unlike the Bosch ALS 2500, for instance, the blower section isn’t at all elongated so it’s a mere 30cm long. The handle is also a little different to some, with it being quite tall and curving right over the front to form a second handle.
Integrated into the handle is the power switch, which is just a simple on/off slider. There’s no variable speed here with it being full blast or nothing. The switch is easy to operate though, with a really light but defined action that makes it easy to flick on and off even with gloves on.
A nice touch is the cable strain relief that’s integrated into the handle. It consists of a plastic bit with a spring clamp and it enables you to loop a section of your cable round it and have it absorb the strain if you stretch your cable too far, preventing it pulling out the plug. The mains cable itself is a markedly long 10m.
The overall impression is of a simple but well thought out and put together bit of kit. Something that is reflected in its 4.1kg weight, which is a little higher than some rivals.
With ‘only’ an 1100W motor, the Stihl SHE 71 still has a hefty 580m3/h of air throughput. This is less than the 800m3/h of the Bosch ALS 2500 but as its name suggests that model is rated at over twice the power usage. Plus, as we’ll see in our tests, the SHE 71 trails little in real world usage.
Setting up the blower configuration is nice and quick, with the nozzle attachment being particularly easy thanks to a simple plastic collar grip and easy to follow guiding arrows. The intake cover takes a bit of brute force to attach but again it’s simple enough, though removal while wearing gloves is a bit difficult.
Once setup the SHE 71 is a joy to use. This almost completely comes down to the handle design. The elongated, curved design allows you to adjust the angle of the blower from parallel with the ground down to 45 degrees while remaining completely balanced. This is unlike some blowers that tend to be front heavy.
The power switch is also effortless to use one handed. This makes it really easy to quickly turn the device off and on again, which can be very useful if you’re manoeuvring in tight spaces and around delicate vegetation. There are no safety switches, though, so do be sure not to leave it unattended with children around. The unit won’t operate without the cover and nozzle in place so there’s little danger of trapped fingers, but it’s still a powerful tool.
The third reason it’s so easy to use is the second handle. This protrudes from the front edge of the main handle and is perfectly positioned for a second hand. This not only allows you to take the weight and power in two hands, but also gives even greater manoeuvrability.
The nozzles are also excellent. It’s great to have a choice of ends and both are thankfully nice and wide, giving a wide jet of air. We would’ve preferred the straight nozzle to actually be round, like on the Stihl BGA 85, but it’s still better than the narrow nozzles of some rivals. The angled tube terminates in a 12 x 3cm opening while the straight one is 10 x 3cm.
As for blowing performance, it does very well. Despite its relatively modest specs, the SHE 71 makes light work of clearing our 3kg of wet leaves from our damp 40m2 lawn. Its leaf clearing range is a touch below the more powerful Bosch ALS 2500, which registers up to 7.5ft, but at 7ft it’s still very good. This is with wet leaves on a wet lawn so the range would be greater in dry conditions.
What’s more the wider nozzles required less passes than those models with slimmer outlets. The circular outlet of the Stihl BGA 85 is still the most effective at clearing large volumes of leaves but the ones included here are very good.
We recorded a noise level of 83dB, which is a couple of decibels lower than some mains powered rivals. With no adjustability, though, there’s no way to reduce this further.
Flipping to vacuuming mode is reasonably easy, though the vacuuming tube is a bit awkward thanks to the handle being incorporated into the twist lock mechanism. The shoulder mounted bag is also a bit more of a faff than tube-mounted ones.
What’s more, in this configuration the handle isn’t quite so accomplished as when in blower mode. It’s still very well balance and easy to handle but the power switch is now completely out the way, making one handed use impossible. This does makes some sense, though, as it’s far less likely that you’ll need to start and stop very frequently when vacuuming, assuming you follow the standard procedure of blowing all the leaves into a pile then sucking them all up.
Once put to task the vacuum performed very well, easily sucking up our 3kg test pile (that’s essentially one large garden bag full of wet leaves) in under five minutes. The 45-litre collection bag comfortably accommodated the whole pile as the shredding action of the fan blades reduces the leaves to a dense bag of roughly 2cm pieces.
Emptying the bag isn’t the most elegant operation as the lack of a rigid side means you’ve nothing to keep the bag straight, but it just about gets the job done. In fact, if you're emptying into a recycling bin it is is some respects easier as you can quickly remove the bag from the vac to lift it up into the bin. On tube mounted designs it's either more work to remove the bag or you have to lift the whole machine.
For its type of combi garden vac and blower, the Stihl SHE 71 is excellent. Its powerful output makes short work or both blowing and vacuuming jobs and its very ergonomic design makes it easy to use, particularly in blower mode.
However, its shoulder-mounted collection bag is a little clunky, plus its lack of speed adjustment and modest power output do technically put it a little behind the competition even if real world performance is still very good.
Then there’s the fact that we’re still not convinced these multi-tube style models are better than the true all-in-one designs that only need a switch to change between suck and blow. They're less convenient to use and you have to find a place to store all the extra pieces.
The Stihl SHE 71 is an excellent combi garden vac and leaf blower, with particularly good ergonomics. It’s pretty basic for the price but is still a very good option that’s well worth considering.