Can anyone give me some insight into the different Buddipole models available? They look pretty similar to me except for the sizes. What would make you choose one over the other?
I own some of Buddipole products.
Buddipole is really a system rather than a product per say. It's based around being able to create an effective antenna that is both portable and has flexibility for configuration.
The real heart of the system is the VersaTee and the fact that all the parts for all the products use the same size threaded connector. All the pieces are made light for portability and the sizes are such that you can construct a variety of effective antennas based on your situation.
With a more typical product, you have, say, a portable 10m dipole, period. With any of the three main Buddipole packages, you have the parts to make a number of types of antennas: vertical, dipole, even a yagi (with a few extra parts) on any of the ham bands (except 160m).
So really before answering the question of which one to buy, you have to identify how you are going to use it and what bands you plan to work. I really encourage you to download and read the free book Buddipole in the Field by NE1RD. It's great. This guy took the Buddipole system through about every conceivable configuration and measured the results. Each section ends with a "cookbook" show the best recipe for each band.
For my needs, I wanted to operate portable (SOTA) on 10m, 15m & 20m. So, using the information in the book, I bought the 8' mast, the VersaTee, the Coax and the radial connectors. I didn't need the coils or the tripod, so I saved a ton of money versus the deluxe package. For the radiator, I used the MFJ 17' telescoping whip, which is full sized for 20m (and of course on 10, 12 and 15 by retracting some of it). I used the radial connectors to connect 4 elevated radials to the sides of the VersaTee, two off each side. These are supported at the ends by 2' fiberglass rods (former 4' driveway markers, $1.99@).
Packed up for the trip, the whip sides into the hollow center of the mast and the 4 2' rods are strapped to that making a nice compact bundle. Everything else is just wire and rope and 3 stakes all of which fits in a large ZipLock bag.
Does it work? When I set everything up for 20m in my backyard, I got through to a station from Venezuala on the second call QRP from suburban Maryland and got a 59 even after telling him my setup.
All of the buddipoles appear to be electrically the same antenna. The mini takes the two longest parts and puts a joint in the middle, so instead of having two 22" parts, you have four 11" parts, so it's a little more portable. The deluxe is the same antenna, it just comes with some more options - a tripod, one of two heights of mast, and some spare parts. The regular buddipole doesn't come with any of that, you'd need to mount it yourself or buy the other parts separately - but all their buddipole kits have the same antenna characteristics.