Do you need a compact stand up paddle board for traveling or remote adventures? The new breed of inflatable paddle boards are smaller and lighter than ever before.
I’ve tested the top compact SUPs on the market to see which gives the best performance for its size. My top pick for smaller paddlers is the Blackfin CX Ultra. For larger paddlers, the iRocker All Around 11’ Ultra is a good alternative.
Compact paddle boards have a unique design that means they roll up to around half the size of a regular inflatable paddle board. This makes them easier to transport, but is their performance on the water up to scratch?
Read my compact inflatable paddle board reviews below to find out!
Best Compact Paddle Boards Compared
For Small Paddlers
Fast, Maneuverable Board For Light Paddlers
This stylish board is stable enough for small paddlers and performs great on the water. The deck pad is especially comfortable, but larger paddlers may find it too unstable.
|Sizes||10’6 x 32.5″ x 6″|
For Tall Paddlers
Stable Board With Good Performance
A great all-around board for larger paddlers and comes in a gorgeous range of colors (although the 10’ Ultra may be better for smaller paddlers).
|Sizes||11′ x 32″ x 6″|
Stable Board With Large Weight Capacity
The Cruiser is a great board for beginners and families. It’s very stable and has a big capacity for a compact board. This does make it slower than other boards.
|Sizes||10’6 x 33″ x 6″|
Expensive, But Great All Around Performance
Most compact boards don’t perform quite as well as their regular counterparts. This is the exception. It glides effortlessly and packs down into a surprisingly small pack. The board that does it all—for a price.
|Sizes||11′ x 32″ x 4.7″|
Great Value, Short Board
This 9’6 board is packed with features and is great value for money. It packs down small and offers decent performance for shorter paddlers, though taller people may find it too squirrely and unbalanced.
|Sizes||9’6 x 32″ x 6″|
Tiny, Lightweight SUP for Small Paddlers
The smallest adult inflatable SUP on the market! The low weight capacity means it won’t suit everyone, but small paddlers will appreciate how well it performs for a short board.
|Sizes||9’6 x 32″ x 4.7″|
Compact Board Designed For Touring
A board that’s designed for adventurous paddling and remote expeditions. This isn’t a board for beginners, but experienced paddlers will appreciate the smooth glide and comfortable backpack.
|Sizes||12′ x 32″ x 4.7″|
The Best Compact Paddle Boards of 2023
Check out my inflatable paddle board reviews below to find out which of these SUPs is the best compact paddle board for traveling.
1. Blackfin CX Ultra—Best Compact Paddle Board for Small Paddlers
The Blackfin CX Ultra is the same length as its cousin, the Blackfin X, but it’s much narrower—32.5-inches compared to the standard 35-inches. While I rate the regular model as one of the most stable boards for its length, I found the CX felt unstable for someone of my height and weight.
Then my wife jumped on board. She loved the CX! For her, it was plenty stable enough and fast and maneuverable in the water. The long fins meant it tracked well, too. It just goes to show that no board is perfect for everyone – the CX could actually be one of the best inflatable paddle boards out there for lighter paddlers who want something more compact.
Finding a SUP board that’s suited to your size, height and weight is absolutely crucial, and our testing proves that.
We both really liked the soft, comfortable deck pad and the stylish design – upon closer inspection, we discovered that the deck pad is actually thicker than that of other inflatable stand up paddle boards. The quality of Blackfin’s inflatable boards is top-notch, so I have no doubts that the CX Ultra is durable enough for years of regular use.
The CX Ultra comes with a premium accessory pack. You get an electric pump, leash, pair of fins, and a five-piece carbon paddle with a nylon blade. I particularly liked the backpack. It’s super compact, but the roll-top design means you can expand the capacity to give you extra space for stashing clothes or other gear. There are plenty of pockets, plus a handy pouch for smaller accessories.
If you want a decent around inflatable stand up paddle board that’s compact and suited to lighter paddlers, this could be it.
Check Price of the Blackfin CX Ultra
2. iRocker All Around 11 Ultra—Best for Larger Paddlers
The iRocker All Around 11 Ultra was a more stable board for me. It wasn’t as stable or as fast as the regular All Around 11, but I was happy with its performance given its compact size.
However, my wife found it much less stable than the Blackfin CX Ultra, perhaps because of the extra length or maybe because the board sat higher on the water due to her lighter weight.
Based on our testing, I’d recommend tall paddlers try the All Around 11 Ultra and smaller paddlers stick to the Blackfin CX. Alternatively, shorter paddlers (under 5’ 5”) may find the All Around 10 Ultra to be more stable and easier to paddle.
This paddle board features a cool gradient design on the nose and comes in a choice of 5 colors. I love that the paddle and backpack match the board color and design. The iRocker All Around 11 Ultra is cheaper than the Blackfin CX but you still get an electric pump, so you can save your arm muscles for paddling! It’s a good all around inflatable SUP for larger paddlers who still want a compact inflatable.
Check Price of the iRocker All Around 11 Ultra
3. iRocker Cruiser Ultra
The iRocker Cruiser Ultra is a great beginner board. At first glance, it looks similar to the All Around 11, but it’s shorter (10’6”), wider (33”), and has a broader tail. This makes it a lot more stable.
I wouldn’t recommend this board for advanced paddlers. The shape of the board makes it slower than other models and it takes more effort to paddle. Like the regular Cruiser board, it’s best suited to families and those who want a stable board for practicing yoga or other activities.
Compact boards have lower weight capacities than their regular SUP equivalents. The Cruiser Ultra has one of the largest capacities I’ve seen for a compact board (300 pounds), which makes it a good choice for larger paddlers. You can even use it for fishing, as there’s plenty of storage, plus action mounts to install rod holders.
Check Price of the iRocker Cruiser Ultra
4. Red Paddle 11’ Compact
The 11’ model is Red Paddle Co.’s mid-sized compact SUP, and the one I’d recommend for most users. It’s the same length (11’) and width (32”) as the iRocker All Around 11 Ultra, but much thinner—4.7 inches rather than 6 inches.
Despite this, the board feels really solid on the water. It glides nicely and because it’s so lightweight, it’s easy to get up to speed. The tracking is pretty good too. The capacity is large enough for most paddlers and if you’re tall, like me, you won’t find it too unstable. In fact, I think even a beginner paddle boarder would do fine with this board, as long as you don’t mind a few dunkings during your first couple of trips out!
Red Paddle boards aren’t cheap, but their construction is second to none. This is reflected in the performance, which feels more akin to a regular inflatable stand up paddle board than a compact board.
It’s not just the board that’s more compact. Red Paddle Co has created a five-piece travel paddle that fits neatly in the 22-inch backpack. Even the pump is smaller!
In my opinion, the dual-chamber pump is currently the best SUP pump on the market. I challenge you to test the Titan 2 side-by-side with an electric pump—you’ll be surprised at just how quick and easy it is to inflate your board!
The only downside to this board is the price. It’s definitely not going to be in everyone’s budget, and I think there are other boards that are better value. But if you have the money and want the best of the best, this is it.
Check Price of the Red Paddle 11′ Compact
5. Nixy Huntington Ultra Compact
The Nixy Huntington Ultra Compact is one of the lightest, most compact paddle boards on the market. It has a similar spec to the Red Paddle 9’6 Compact, but is less than half the price.
The board itself weighs under 19 pounds and the total weight including the backpack and accessories is just 30 pounds. This makes it a good choice if you want to take it on a plane. If you remove the board from the carrying bag, you could even pack it and the accessories into your suitcase.
The Nixy Ultra Compact is also a good option for remote SUP adventures. It’s light enough to hike with and comes with a quality manual pump, so you don’t need to be near a vehicle to inflate it.
On the water, my wife found the board maneuverable and easy to glide. It’s a little tricky to balance, but if you’ve been paddle boarding a while, you should find it stable enough.
This board may be small but it’s packed with many of the same features the larger boards have, including action mounts, removable bungee storage, and D rings to attach a kayak seat.
I think Nixy’s boards are great value for money and the Huntington Ultra Compact is a versatile board for small paddle boarders.
Check Price of the Nixy Huntington Ultra Compact
6. Red Paddle 9’6 Compact—Most Lightweight Paddle Board
The Red Paddle 9’6 Compact is the smallest SUP in Red Paddle Co.’s compact range. It’s also the most compact, lightest SUP I’ve found. If weight and portability is your primary concern, this is the board for you.
The board itself weighs just 16 pounds. Together with the backpack and accessories, you’re looking at 28 pounds total weight. While that’s heavier than a day pack, I’d be comfortable hiking with it for several hours—especially if there’s a deserted lake or beach at the end!
That said, for me, personally, this board is a little too short. Red Paddle Co.’s patented Rocker Stiffening System (RSS) means it’s rigid enough to take my weight, even though I’m close to the weight limit (210 pounds), but the 11’ board is more stable and comfortable to paddle.
You get the same premium accessories as with the 11’ Compact, and they all pack neatly into a travel backpack that’s not much bigger than a carry-on bag.
Check Price of the Red Paddle 9’6 Compact
7. Red Paddle 12’ Compact
If you want a compact board for touring or exploring, then this is it. The Red Paddle 12’ compact is the biggest of their three models. It’s 12 feet long and 32 inches wide. The slender design means it cuts through the water smoothly and efficiently, letting you glide effortlessly.
The extra length and weight capacity (265 pounds) also gives you more space to stash the kit. I think this would be an awesome board for paddling long river stretches (where you have to hike to or from the start/end point) or for carrying into remote mountain lakes or beaches.
The backpack is a little bigger than that used for the 9’6 and 11’ models, but it’s still around half the size of a standard SUP backpack. It has the same customizable lumbar support and adjustable height, which means you can tailor the fit, so it’ll be comfortable to carry, however long your walk in is.
Check Price of the Red Paddle 12′ Compact
Why Buy a Compact Paddle Board?
Regular inflatable paddle boards are small and light enough to transport in your car and carry short distances, but if you’re travelling further afield, a compact paddle board may be a better choice.
Compact paddle boards come with comfortable backpacks that are around half the size of a regular SUP backpack. They’re light enough to hike with or carry on a bike, motorbike, or scooter. You may also want to buy a compact paddle board if you’ll be taking it on vacation or you have very little storage space at home.
What’s the Difference Between a Compact Paddle Board and a Regular Paddle Board?
Compact paddle boards have a unique design. The inflation valve, carry handles, and fin are all positioned away from the center line, and the deck pad is often split down the middle. This means that you can fold the deflated board lengthways before rolling it up. Due to the design, compact paddle boards have a different fin setup—2 side fins instead of a center fin.
The paddle is also designed to fit into a smaller bag. With a regular inflatable paddle board, you typically get a 3-piece paddle. With a compact board, you get a travel paddle that breaks down into 4 or 5 pieces.
The boards are typically lighter and thinner than a standard paddle board. This means they have a lower weight capacity, though all the boards in this round-up will comfortably carry a single adult.
How to Choose a Compact Paddle Board for Traveling
Here’s what to consider when shopping for a compact inflatable SUP.
Is The Board Lightweight and Compact When Deflated?
The compact paddle boards in this review weigh between 16 and 22 pounds. This isn’t a lot lighter than regular boards – for comparison, the Atol 11’, my favorite all-around inflatable paddle board, weighs 21 pounds – but every little helps! If weight is a primary concern, then I’d recommend the Red Paddle 9’6 Compact.
If you’re going to be transporting your board on a bike or hiking with it then pack size will be a key consideration. The travel bag needs to be short enough that it allows you to sit comfortably on your bike and doesn’t hang down over your butt when hiking.
That’s the big difference between a compact and regular paddle board. Compact boards can fit in a 22-inch long pack. Travel packs for regular boards are around 38-inches or longer.
Does It Come as a Complete Kit?
Many paddle boards are sold without a paddle or other accessories, so paddlers can customize their setup. If you’re flying or hiking with your board, then you need all your kit to fit in one bag – not possible if you have a standard paddle. However, most compact paddle boards come with everything you need to get out on the water, including a travel paddle.
One decision you’ll need to make is whether you want an electric pump or a hand pump. Electric pumps make it easier to inflate your board, but if you don’t have a vehicle or battery to hand, they become useless.
If you know you’ll be using your SUP in remote locations or taking it on vacation when you won’t have a power source, I’d recommend choosing a compact board with a high-quality manual pump.
Does It Come with a Good Quality Travel Bag?
If you’re planning on carrying your paddle board any distance, you want a comfortable travel backpack. Your board may be lightweight, but it’ll still feel heavy after hiking for an hour!
Look for comfortable, adjustable straps, and a padded waist belt, so you can take some of the load off your shoulders. If you’re short and slim, then the length of the travel bag and adjustability of the straps will be particularly important.
How is the Performance?
The big question is, do these compact boards perform as well as a regular inflatable SUP? Based on my testing, the answer is no.
I was impressed by just how well the boards I reviewed did perform in the water, based on their size, but the equivalent (non-compact) models had the edge in terms of stability, speed, and price. The weight capacity of compact boards is also lower, which may be an issue if you’re a larger paddler or you want to carry lots of gear.
If pack size and weight isn’t an issue, then I’d recommend getting a regular inflatable SUP. However, you won’t lose too much in terms of performance if you pick the right compact paddle board for you.
The performance of a board varies considerably, depending on the weight and height of the rider. My wife and I had very different experiences of the boards we tested. I’ve tried to give an indication in my reviews as to which boards will suit different types of paddlers, but you know your own build and skill level the best!
Can You Travel with a Paddle Board?
Yes, you can travel with a paddle board! I think the Blackfin CX Ultra is the best compact travel paddle board.
What is the Smallest Stand Up Paddle Board?
The Red Paddle is the smallest, most lightweight board for adults. It weighs just 16 pounds and packs into a travel bag measuring 22” x 16.5” x 12.5”.
How Do You Transport a Paddle Board with a Small Car?
The easiest way to transport a paddle board in a small car is to choose a compact inflatable sup. Once deflated, you can pack it into your trunk alongside your other gear.
If you want a compact inflatable stand up paddle board for travelling, I’d recommend any of the boards in this roundup. They’re all excellent boards from manufacturers that I rate.
Your decision will most likely come down to which board you think will perform best for you. This will depend on your size and weight. I rate the iRocker All Around 11’ Ultra for larger paddlers, but for shorter folk, the Blackfin CX Ultra gets my top spot.
What will you use your compact board for? Let me know in the comments!