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.Â 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.
- Small area required to setup
- No 80M – 160M
Overall, I love this antenna, and would definitely buy another if something happened to this one.