MFJ-2286 Big Stick HF Antenna

I needed an antenna to use with my portable station, and I wanted one which didn’t require acres of space to setup. I settled on the vertical MFJ-2286 with a MFJ-1918EX tripod as it seemed to meet my requirements. It’s a fairly new model, and there is little written about it online. It has a multi-tap loading coil, and can be used without a tuner from 5 – 55 MHz. It’s actually a collection of standard parts which MFJ sells separately. I bought an early version of this antenna shortly after they first came out, and mine didn’t come with any instructions. The assembly was pretty obvious, but tuning it for different bands was not. Fortunately, MFJ released some documentation in the spring of 2013, and tuning it is no longer a mystery.

I’ve had a bit of time to play with it a bit now, and I have to say I’m very impressed! I setup the antenna in my small backyard, and immediately started hearing many stations I’ve never heard before. Of course, I was just using a not-so-long random wire antenna previously (for receive only), so I imagine that any “real” antenna would be an improvement for me.

The antenna comes with a “Counterpoise Kit”, which is really just four copper wires joined together in the middle with a ring terminal, and with ring terminals at the ends so you can secure them. They are the just right size for my small backyard, ( about 12 feet long each), but I plan on making 8 longer ones for when I set it up in a larger space to improve performance on 60M & 40M The instructions state that the counterpoise is not required for frequencies on the 15M band and higher.

The antenna uses a loading coil at the bottom with a small wire and alligator clip “tap”. The tapped coil, as far as I can tell, is only required for the 30M and 40M bands. 20M and lower can be tuned by removing the coil entirely (or setting it to the upper-most tap), and then shortening the whip to a 1/4 wavelength of your desired frequency. The stainless steel whip by itself is 17 feet long, so it’s just a tad longer than a 20M quarterwave. You’ll want to keep a tape-measure and calculator handy when using this antenna, or carry an SWR analyzer.

If you have an antenna tuner (I have an LDG IT-100), you can tune this antenna to cover 60M and 75/80M by setting the tap to the lowest coil (ie, the longest setting), and extending the whip fully. You could probably get it to tune 160M with that tuner, but it would be very inefficient, and the range wouldn’t be very far. I’m sure you could use the tuner on the lower bands as well, but using a tuner on an antenna which is already resonant to begin with defeats the purpose of a tuner, and just won’t work anyways. A potential pitfall of using an autotuner with this antenna is if you already have a particular frequency stored in the tuner, but use a different tap location the next time you use that frequency. Unless you manually tell the autotuner to do a full re-tune, it will use the settings stored for the previous tap location, and will result in a bad SWR to your radio. Fortunately, the IT-100 can easily be put into “bypass” mode so that you can manually tune the antenna yourself, without disconnecting the tuner.

I purchased the MFJ-1918EX tripod to support this antenna. The “EX” version comes with a 10ft extendable mast and gives you about 13 feet or so of height. Of course, if your antenna is up that high it makes it impossible to adjust the tap coil unless you lower it each time. It’s also arguable if raising a vertical HF antenna only 10 feet makes much of a noticeable difference in the real-world. My intention for buying this mast was so that I could also use the tripod with VHF/UHF antennas. So far, I just use the antenna at the lowest elevation for ease of adjustments. Something which worried me when I ordered the antenna was that MFJ stated that it would easily mount to a 1/4″ or 1/2″ mast, but the 10ft extension has a 3/4″ diameter at the top section.  I was prepared to make a simple adapter if needed, but it turns out the antenna will easily mount to a 1 1/4″ mast. I’m not sure why they stated that, but it’s misleading.

Pros:

  • Portable
  • Lightweight
  • Small area required to setup

Cons:

  • No 80M – 160M

Overall, I love this antenna, and would definitely buy another if something happened to this one.

73,

VA7ACQ

11 thoughts on “MFJ-2286 Big Stick HF Antenna

  1. I have just bought the exact same equipment. Ic-718 with the same autotuner, balun and Big Stick verticle antenna. I am a newby and haven’t setup my station yet so I would be very interested in how yours turns out….Jim KF7IUG

  2. I do not own this antenna, but I recognize an ancestor. It is a simpler and weaker version of the old HyGain AV-18VS also now sold by MFJ. I bought ’18VS mine back in 1977 when I got my Novice license. The ’2286 is simpler because it’s not a construction project. You don’t need a screwdriver or wrenches to build it. It’s weaker because it does not have the ’18VS’s base bracket and pipe which enables it to withstand high winds. However, a suitable base bracket could possibly be made for the ’2286 out of wood, PVC pipe, appropriate brackets and other hardware so to survive high winds. 73 & GL, K3ANG

    • Thanks for your comment, Greg! I was not aware of that HyGain model, but after looking at it’s specs I totally agree! I was also pleased to find that it’s manual contained some good tips on operating this style of antenna, which I’m sure would also apply to the MFJ-2286. It also includes some interesting tidbits about phasing two or three antennas together for more gain and directivity.

  3. I just bought this setup too. My son and I just got back from Dayton where he attended the youth amateur Radio seminar. Anyhow long story short he won the 250 dollar MFJ grand prize and we went and visited the booth. What we were looking for was “how close can we get to a buddy pole/stick” for camping / field day. This is what the guy from mfj came up with. 250 later that is the combo we have now. I like it. it is really different from my random wire (which was 117 foot long with counterpoises cut for 80-10.) my random wire seemed quiet..

    couple questions.

    1. Do you find the antenna at the end of the mast sways QUITE a bit? Does it Lean off to the side or is yours ARROW straight up and down? Mine leans and we have about a 5 mph wind here today and I swear it looked like it was going to break or topple. It didnt but then again I didnt try my luck (I had it extended ALL the way out. (the pole was to it’s max at 18 foot)

    2. Tapping the coil? What are you supposed to do there? Mine didnt come with a manual. Is the idea to put my mfj-929 autotuner in bypass and move the coil tap around until I get as close to a 1:1 as possible? I am guessing that is the idea.

    3. Did you guy the antenna at all? I also didnt get a counterpoise kit (I emailed them that the demo I got was incomplete. I am hoping they send it to me)

    does the counterpoise kit help guy it at all? I really get the feeling this should be guyed somewhat.

    Thanks

    NA8Y and soon to be KD8??? (my 14 year old son)

    • Hello NA8Y,

      Thanks for your questions!

      1 – No, my antenna doesn’t seem to sway much but I don’t extend the pole at all, and just use it on the lowest setting in the tripod. The counterpoise seems to work best when its mounted close to the feedpoint with the radials straight out, and that’s kind of hard to do when it’s 18 feet in the air. As well, adjusting the coil tap would be a pain if you have to raise and lower the antenna each time.

      2 – The coil tap and an autotuner don’t necessarily work very well together, but the tuner will help you for working the lower frequencies. Most autotuners won’t tune on a resonant antenna, hence the reason for bypassing it. If you use just the whip fully extended without the coil (plus radials/counterpoise), your autotuner should work just fine. The purpose of the coil tap is so that you don’t have to use an autotuner. The problem with that, as you have noted, is that there is no manual or guide to tell you how to adjust the coil and whip for the various amateur bands. I now have a SWR analyzer, so I plan on publishing a tuning guide here once I can take it to a large area someplace and take some measurements. Stay “tuned”! ;o) lol!

      3 – No, but I would guy it if I set it up in a windy location. If MFJ doesn’t send you a counterpoise kit, you can easily make a better one yourself with just some wire and crimp-on connectors. It’s supposed to be portable, so 8 x 25ft, 18 gauge insulated wire will work well and not be too heavy. Mount the antenna low, and let the wires droop to the ground straight out.

      Good luck to your son!

      73,

      VA7ACQ

  4. MFJ has a manual with the information about where to set the coil tap and length of the whip for each band in a manual (PDF) available for download. It should make use much easier.

  5. I am considering buying this antenna. I have very little room in my backyard, I don’t even know if I can stretch out 12 foot counterpoint wires if I do they will be on rocks or patio pavers. Have you any idea how this antenna will work under those conditions?

    KG7DZK

    • Hello KG7DZK,

      I also have some exposed bedrock and paving stones in my backyard, and the antenna still seems to work quite well. In an open field on 20 meters, I can get a 1.1:1 SWR, but in my back yard the SWR goes up to 1.3:1, which is still quite acceptable. The antenna even works just fine without radials on 17M – 10M, and in theory on 6M too but I don’t have a 6M radio to test that.

      If you can’t spread the radials out all the way, don’t worry, just bend the ends to fit your property. Your SWR may be a bit higher, and the antenna may be slightly directional, but you’ll still make some QSO’s. With shorter radials the antenna will be less efficient at lower frequencies, though it may help if you increase the number of them to compensate. The antenna manual also has a table with some guidelines on using the radials.

      I highly recommend a SWR analyzer such as the MFJ-259B for this antenna to help tune it. I’ve found that MFJ’s antenna tuning guidelines are reasonably accurate, but small changes in the position of the coil tap can make huge differences in the SWR. If you want to operate QRP, you’ll need your antenna to operate as efficiently as possible. You should also use an inline 1:1 balun mounted at the antenna feed-point to help prevent RFI inside your house, especially with the antenna being so close and relatively low in elevation. Without the balun, I found that the RFI was very noticeable at power levels greater than QRP. With the balun, I’ve been running at 100W a few times with no complaints.

      73,
      VA7ACQ

  6. Sounds like a fun antenna. I’m looking to build a more permanent antenna system, but may pick up one of these for some QRP and/or portable fun. Thanks!

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