A worthy update to a great product, the Stihl BGA 86 delivers a powerful blast of air when required, yet its variable speed trigger lets you drop airflow down for more gentle tasks and finishing off. It’s well priced for such a powerful tool, although it’s a touch heavy when you use a regular battery pack. There are no complaints about the design, with intuitive controls and a handle that naturally angles the blower downwards.
- Variable speed controls
- Naturally points downwards
- Extremely powerful
- A little heavy
- Fiddly to adjust nozzle length
- Review Price: £520
- Cordless leaf blower
- 1,000-1,150mm length
- 4.56kg with AK battery
- Round nozzle in box (straight flat nozzle optional extra)
- 69m/s max air speed
More powerful yet lighter than its predecessor, the Stihl BGA 86 is designed to be a great crossover tool that can work for professionals or those with larger gardens. Simple controls, excellent performance and a comfortable grip make this model stand out, but it’s quite heavy, which becomes noticeable when you use it over longer periods.
Design and features – Brilliantly designed, but the Stihl BGA 86 is quite heavy with a battery in place
- Clever safety features to prevent accidental activation
- Variable trigger control
- A little heavy with a regular battery in place
Stihl has slightly revamped the BGA 86 over its predecessor, the BGA 85. Whereas the older model had a fixed-position nozzle, the BGA 86 has an adjustable-length nozzle that can give you a unit length of between 1,000mm and 1,150mm.
It’s the same kind of system used on the company’s smaller BGA 57 and is just as fiddly to use. You first have to turn the barrel of the nozzle, then slide it up, then turn again to lock it. I found it stiff to adjust, although the benefit is that once you’re at the length you want, you won’t have to to keep adjusting the nozzle.
There’s only a round nozzle in the box, but you can buy a straight flat one for £10.45 for a more concentrated burst of air.
Stihl is well known for its build quality and the BGA 86 continues in that vein. Decked out in the company’s usual white and orange finish, this large leaf blower looks great and feels robust. It’s also very well designed.
To start the blower, you first need to slide the lock switch forwards, which lets you pull down the safety trigger as you grip the handle. Only then can the blower be operated by the trigger. This means that you’re unlikely to accidentally activate the blower when carrying it around.
There’s a high-performance EC motor, which is controlled via the variable trigger: a gentle squeeze gives a slight, delicate wind; depress the trigger fully and you get the full-on hurricane force that this blower can deliver.
Fitting into Stihl’s professional line, the BGA 86 uses the AP-line of batteries, with the company recommending the AP300 6Ah battery for this model. This delivers up to 21 minutes of runtime.
If you have batteries already, you can buy the BGA 86 barebones for £260; if you want everything, Stihl does a set with the blower, AP300 battery and AL300 charger for £520. You’ll want the AL300 at a minimum, since it can charge to 80% in 45 minutes and a full charge in 60 minutes. Opt for the cheaper, consumer-level AL101 charger and you’re looking at 3hrs 10mins for 80% and 4hrs 10mins for 100%. The AL500 charger is faster still, if you really need to turn around batteries quicker.
Having such a big battery in the unit does add to the weight. Altogether, the BGA 86 with battery weighs 4.56kg. Even though the handgrip is designed to angle the blower down, that’s still a fair amount of weight to carry around, and I found longer periods more of a strain.
Professionals can opt for the AR battery packs that are worn on the back, so you spread the weight around. However, these packs are expensive; a half-way house would be nice, such as the battery belt that the Honda HHB 36 comes with, letting you wear the battery around your waist.
You slide the battery in and out of the rear, and there’s a part-way position that holds the battery steady without delivering any power – handy for transportation. Each battery has a charge indicator LED on the rear, lit up by pressing the small button.
Performance – The Stihl BGA 86 is supremely powerful, clearing lawns quickly
- On maximum power, it moves even the toughest of damp leaves
- Has a gentle blow for more delicate jobs
- Surprisingly quiet
There’s too much power on tap for my anemometer to measure the wind speed at close range. Stihl says that this blower can deliver a maximum airspeed of 69m/s at the nozzle, which results in airflow of 902.11m3/hr.
At its slowest speed, I measured air at a gentle 11.24m/s, which works out at 146.95m3/hr – that’s more air through per hour than the Karcher LBL 2 on maximum speed. Even at distance, the BGA 86 is powerful. From 1-metre away, I still measured airspeed at 21.7m/s.
The BGA 86 is so powerful that as soon as I had it on full power, I could feel it push back against my hand. On maximum, you can work up to a good couple of metres away from you, yet being able to dial back the power means that you can more easily line up a pile of leaves.
Despite the power on tap, the BGA 86 is surprisingly quiet; I measured it at 82.9dB. That’s about as loud as a vacuum cleaner on maximum power, and considerably quieter than the Honda HHB 36.
To test performance, I took the BGA 86 outside onto a patch of lawn around 50m2 with a concrete path running next to it. The concrete path proved no problem, and the blower could easily clear leaves and larger twigs, pushing debris over a 5cm kerb.
Moving onto the lawn and wet leaves, I started with an easier patch of loose leaves. A few short bursts cleared the immediate area around me quickly and efficiently.
Next, I moved onto a tougher patch, where wet leaves were wrapped around grass blades. I had to approach the toughest leaves from a few angles to get them loose, but they all came out with ease.
So, while the 21-minute runtime may not sound like much, the power on offer means you can clear large spaces quickly. Certainly, for most large gardens, one or two batteries should prove sufficient.
Should you buy the BGA 86?
There’s a huge amount of choice in leaf blowers, and the final decision should come down to what you need. If you have a smaller garden or not that many leaves to deal with, then the BGA 57 will be a better choice, with more recommendations in our best leaf blower guide.
If you need a powerful blower for dealing with larger areas, then the BGA 86 is a good upgrade on the outgoing BGA 85 model. The main competition at this price comes from the Honda HHB 36, which offers similar levels of power. Honda’s advantage is that it has a battery belt to take away some of the weight, although I found that I had to angle the blower down.
The BGA 86 is slightly heavier with a regular battery but is angled better and offers slightly finer controls. Stihl also has a wider range of tools that work with its battery system and, mostly for professionals, battery backpacks that take weight away from the blower and increase runtime. For most, then, the Stihl BGA 86 is the top powerful leaf blower.