Best Portable Paddle Boards [2023]: Compact + Travel Ready

Published on

Aren’t all Inflatable SUPs Portable Paddle Boards? I hear you ask. 

Yes and no.

There is no doubt that inflatable paddle boards have made accessibility easier to most people including apartment dwellers. I don’t need to tell you that.

But there’s a segment that’s growing at a rapid pace in the inflatable paddle board community and that is Compact/ Portable/ Travel paddle boards. 

These boards are meant to be even more compact than their original inflatable kin thanks to the ability to fold in half lengthwise. This makes the board more compact which means the bag can be almost half the size lengthwise. 

This difference can save a lot of space which could mean the difference between taking the board more easily on a bus, train, or plane than not. 

For our full list of the Best Inflatable Paddle Boards check it out here. 

Table of Contents

Best Compact and Portable Paddle Boards 

Below are some of our favorite compact SUPs that make traveling and transportation that much easier. I’ve made sure to choose brands that I’ve tested or that have worldwide respectability coupled with fantastic customer service

Best Portable Paddle Boards List:

  1. Blackfin Ultra CX – (Intermediate Paddler Pick)
  2. iRocker All Around 11 Ultra – (Tall Paddler Pick)
  3. iRocker Cruiser Ultra – (Stability Pick)
  4. Red Paddle Compact 12′ – (Touring Pick)
  5. Nixy Huntington Ultra Compact – (Small Paddler Pick)
  6. Red Paddle Compact 9’6” – (Lightweight Pick)

1. Blackfin Ultra CX (Intermediate Paddler Pick)


  • Dimensions: 10’6” X 32.5” (Really 31.5”) X 6”
  • Material: Fusion Laminated/ Cross Threaded Drop Stitch
  • Weight: 19.8 Lbs
  • Maximum Capacity: 320 Lbs
  • Bag Dimensions: 10″ X 16″ X 21″
  • Package Weight: 33.3 Lbs

Why is it a Good Portable Pick?

The Blackfin Ultra CX is my number 1 pick for the best portable SUP due to a few reasons. It’s a well-made board that has incorporated a lot of good technology inside and it’s a really swift board to paddle! The responsiveness of this SUP is probably one of my favorite qualities about this board

I had an absolute blast testing it out against windy conditions at the Nickelmekl river. It felt like a SUP that I would never get bored of. Why’s that? I’ll explain below. 

On-Water Performance

I’ll get this out of the way now for some of you newer paddlers. If you are looking at this board as your first SUP it can be a good pick, BUT your learning curve will be steeper. When we are talking about the stability of the board it’s an area that lacks a bit compared to the All Around Ultra 11 or the Cruiser 11 Boards. I put this down to the SUP’s narrower shape, smaller tail and it’s width being about an inch less than what the manufacturer states. 

Now onto the things that I loved about this SUP. It’s just super responsive and does exactly what you want it to do from a maneuverability standpoint. When doing a 360 using sweep strokes I was about to do it in 3.5 paddle strokes and 13 smaller side paddles to do a 360.

The aspect that I was most impressed with was its responsiveness when it came to going around/ dodging parked sailboats in the marina. I could be paddling ahead and just put the blade in the water and the board would turn on a dime. 

In terms of tracking and speed, this SUP did very well for a SUP of its size. Especially when paddling against the wind. Although it won’t be the best tracking nor the fastest paddle board on this list. It does a great job despite its average All Around paddleboard length. 

Board Features and Design

The Ultra CX has too many features and designs to specifically talk about in this small section so I’ll get to the best parts (Also check out the Blackfin Ultra CX Review!). Something that I really appreciated about not just the Blackfin but all the other Ultra paddle boards is the fact that the accessories are very well thought out. 

Firstly, the bag is very well designed. Because of this design, we were easily able to fit this SUP and a regular-sized All Around 11 board into my small Hyundai trunk with SUP gear and tennis rackets. Something you could not do with 2 regular-sized SUP bags. 

Another thing I really appreciated was the inclusion of an electric pump. Sometimes SUP manufacturers will have sales where electric pumps come with the board but this inclusion is permanent. The iRocker inflatable pump is also rated as one of the Best SUP Pumps so it’s a bonus they included this. 


  • One of my favorite “all around” SUPs I’ve paddled to date
  • Very maneuverable and responsive in the water
  • Accessories that come with the board are very well throughout and put together
  • This board is a looker, especially the grey edition
  • Speed and Tracking are pretty good for a board of its dimensions


  • Not the most stable SUP on this list
  • Maybe a bit more difficult for a brand-new paddler to master

2. iRocker All Around 11 Ultra (Tall Pick)


  • Dimensions: 11’ X 32” (Really 31”) X 6”
  • Material: Fusion Laminated/ Cross Threaded Drop Stitch
  • Weight: 21.4 Lbs
  • Maximum Capacity: 290 Lbs
  • Bag Dimensions: 10″ X 16″ X 21″
  • Package Weight: 33.3 Lbs

Why is it a Good Portable Pick?

For those of you who are taller and newer to the world of stand-up paddle boarding. This board will probably be one of the best picks you can choose for a compact SUP. Although that’s not to say it’s the most stable board in the world because it’s not. In fact, when I did a test between the Ultra 11 and the All Around 11 2020 model I found the former felt more stable in the water.  

The All Around 11 Ultra, like the Blackfin Ultra CX, offers very well throughout accessories like the inclusion of the electric pump, and the custom-made bag that feels like a giant drybag backpack (it’s not a dry bag). Most importantly the portability of this package as the full bag dimensions with SUP inside is 10″ X 16″ X 21″. 

On-Water Performance

The All Around 11 Ultra is a good jack-of-all-trades SUP in the sense that it does all the on-water performance aspects fairly well but does not excel in one specific thing. Which is a bit of a different approach from something like the Blackfin Ultra CX or the Red Paddle Compact 12 board

I’ve put in at least 10 hours paddling this board in both coastal and lake conditions and it performed well in most conditions. The two-fin set-up in my mind definitely gives the board more responsiveness but takes a tad bit off of tracking ability. Although in our testing compared to the All Around 11 regular SUP the differences were not super noticeable. 

The only condition where I thought this SUP was a bit more susceptible to being bullied was during windy days. This in my mind, is due to the board’s longer length and its lighter weight which made it a bit difficult to paddle against the wind. Although if you are a beginner paddler you shouldn’t be out in these conditions, to begin with ;). 

Board Features and Design

In the Blackfin Ultra CX round-up, we talked about the accessories, so in this section, we will talk about the board itself since many onboard features are similar between the two. 

The All Around 11 Ultra Features:

  • 15 D Rings
  • 2 Detachable Fins (With tether lock)
  • 3 Action Mounts
  • Spit Deckpad
  • 5 Rows of Removable Bungee Deck Webbing

Folding the SUP can be a bit tricky the first few times, especially when you come to realize that the SUP won’t fold exactly in half lengthwise. But it’s more than achievable as the bag is made to zip all the way open to allow the full SUP to fit. 

The Ultra 11 has solid D-ring placements that allow you to add a kayak seat. Its deck bungees are big enough to stow a good amount of gear. I like to bring a cooler or deck bag with water bottles at the front and I like to place my little speaker and sandals in the rear of the board. 

One thing I was not super keen on with the Ultra series was the 5 piece paddle. I understand they want to make it a 5 piece to make the paddle more compact but you do notice more play compared to a 3 piece SUP paddle. This is not so noticeable when doing some casual paddling. But when you are up against the wind, or you want to go faster you definitely feel the extra movement in the paddle thanks to the extra connection points. 


  • Well-thought-out Accessories
  • The board does most on-water performance metrics well
  • The board is more responsive compared to the original All Around 11
  • You can fit a good amount of gear on this SUP
  • Deck bungees are removable which gives you customization options


  • Does not track as well as All Around 11 Original SUP
  • Takes a few tries to figure out board folding pattern
  • The handle does get in the way of your knees when kneeling on the board

3. iRocker Cruiser Ultra (Stability Pick)


  • Dimensions: 10’6” X 33” X 6”
  • Material: Fusion Laminated/ Cross Threaded Drop Stitch
  • Weight: 21 Lbs
  • Maximum Capacity: 300 Lbs
  • Bag Dimensions: 10” X 16” X 21”
  • Package Weight: 33.3 Lbs

Why is it a Good Portable Pick?

The iRocker Cruiser is probably the best “All Around” pick on this list in that it will be the best pick for a wide variety of paddlers that have different shapes and sizes

The board’s 10’6” length coupled with its wider shape allows both small and large beginner paddlers to feel comfortable when first paddling this board. To boot this SUP has one of the highest maximum capacities on this list. 

The Cruiser, like the All Around 11 Ultra and the Blackfin Ultra CX, comes in a tidy package. It includes a well-thought-out bag, the iRocker electric pump, 5 piece carbon shaft nylon blade paddle, a color-coded leash, and a repair kit. 

On-Water Performance

The Cruiser line from the beginning has always been about getting newcomers into the water and getting them comfortable quickly. The wider tail does a good job of adding extra stability, especially when compared to the All Around 11 Ulta and Blackfin CX Ultra boards. At 33” wide it provides more stability than most compact boards can provide for a broad range of different-sized paddlers. 

Being a cruiser-type board, the Cruiser Ultra won’t win any races, but it also won’t lag too far behind other Ultra boards in the iRocker line-up. In my experience, the twin fins give the board a bit less tracking ability compared to the original but it makes them more responsive than the original Cruiser series

Board Features and Design

The Cruiser features a split deck pad that allows you to fold the board in half relatively easily. When folding the board in half lengthwise don’t expect a perfect fold, especially when you get toward the fins. As long as the board has been properly drained of air and mostly folded in half it will fit back into the bag. 

The Cruiser is an underrated pick to pack some gear onto. It features 5 rows of removable bungees which allows you to customize what you put on the board. The Cruiser’s 300 lb “suggested” capacity also gives you a bit more freedom to put bigger items like coolers on top. Despite the heavy capacity this won’t be the most efficient board to tour due to the board’s wider shape and dimensions. But it’s great for a solid day’s paddle. 


  • One of the best picks on this list for beginner paddlers
  • The board’s wider shape allows it to support a wide range of paddlers of different shapes and sizes
  • Removable bungees make the board fully customizable
  • I really like the cords attached to the fins that avoids you losing them


  • Won’t be the fastest board on this list
  • The 5 piece paddle has more bend due to more attachment points
  • The handle can get in the way of your knees when kneeling on the board

4. Red Paddle Compact 12′ (Touring Pick)


  • Dimensions: 12’ X 32” X 4.7”
  • Material: In-house MSL Fusion Lamination
  • Weight: 22.3 Lbs
  • Maximum Capacity: 265 Lbs
  • Bag Dimensions: 22” X 16.5 X 12.5” 
  • Package Weight: 34 Lbs

Why is it a Good Portable Pick?

This board is best for the touring enthusiast who wants a portable paddle board to boot! The Red Paddle Compact is a great choice for those who want a bit more performance out of their SUP while maintaining a decent amount of stability. 

The Compact 12 is one of the few touring paddle boards that fold in half lengthwise. This makes this an excellent pick for those more serious paddle boarders who want to explore not just their local area but the world without compromising the on-water performance they may be used to. 

On-Water Performance

Being a touring board, the Red Paddle Compact 12 will be the best on the list for tracking and its glide due to its 12’ length and slender frame. Its stability is not half bad either though as it maintains the 32” “All Around” width and 12’ frame will make the board stable enough. The board’s 4.7” thickness also gets you closer to the water which adds some extra stability, especially for taller paddlers.  

One thing that also unlocks its on-water performance is the fact that it has a twin FCS fin box. Meaning you can swap the twin fins for just about any other paddle board or surf fin that has the same designation. Meaning if you are paddling in shallower destinations you can swap for river fins, or if you are doing coastal touring you can go for touring fins that track straighter. 

Board Features and Design

While the deck pad squares may not be the sleekest thing to look at they do give you direction on where to fold. Which I found was a very underrated feature with compact paddle boards. This will also save you time when packing up as you already have a guide on how to fold the board right to begin with. 

In my opinion, Red Paddle makes some of, if not the highest quality paddle boards around, and the Compact should be no different. This comes from the fact that they use their own private facilities to manufacture the board. This means unlike the vast majority of SUPs out there, they have control of the whole manufacturing process in its entirety. Red Padds also boasts a .02% return rate as a result of the process.


  • Great for Paddlers who want a compact touring board
  • Has the best tracking and glide of anything on the list
  • Board is 32” wide and 4.7” thick so it boasts some stability too
  • Has twin FCS fin boxes for more customization
  • The entire manufacturing process is made in-house


  • The bag is bigger than other Compact bags
  • I wish the board had a narrower profile to really grasp the touring angle

5. Nixy Huntington Ultra Compact (Small Paddler Pick)


  • Dimensions: 9’6” X 32” X 6”
  • Material: Dual Layer Fusion Laminate w/ woven drop stitch
  • Weight: 22.3 Lbs
  • Maximum Capacity: 265 Lbs
  • Bag Dimensions: 25” X 19” X 12”
  • Package Weight: 30 Lbs

Why is it a Good Portable Pick?

The Nixy Huntington Ultra Compact is a great pick because of its smaller packaging thanks to the 9’6” frame for the SUP. It is labeled as a small paddler pick because it is ideal for folks that are about 5’10” and under. It’s also a great pick for adolescents or pre-teens and was in fact listed as one of the Best Kids SUPs

Back to the question, the Nixy Huntington is a great casual SUP whose package takes up little room. In fact, you can take this SUP with you on a bike, bus, train, plane, or even your smart car!  The Huntington Ultra Compact gives smaller paddlers a board that custom tailors their specific height and weight needs without being too bulky to paddle. 

On-Water Performance

The area where this SUP will shine will be maneuverability. This is a great SUP to take in shallower rivers or mangroves where you need some maneuverability capabilities to navigate the area. The Good thing with the Ultra Compact board is that it has an FCS fin box designation so you can easily swap the 9” fins that come with the board with smaller 4.5” speed fins or 3” river fins. 

The Huntington Ultra Compact G4, despite its weight, will be one of the slower SUPs on the list due to its shorter length. Although it must be said that the twin 9” fins do help the board track better than the single-finned Huntington series. Which is the non-compact version of this board. 

In terms of stability, the board will be best suited to smaller folks. Taller folks that are 6’0 will have a bit more trouble on this SUP if they have limited experience with paddle boarding. 

Board Features and Design

The Huntington G4 Ultra Compact backpack has actually taken an inch off over previous models in length, width and thickness. While this does not sound like much you will be thankful for the lesser dimensions as you are packing the board away with a trunk full of stuff. 

The Huntington Compact offers a wide spacious deck pad which may be a good pick for those SUP yogis who want a good amount of room to place their feet or hands on deck.

The board features 3 action mounts and 5 rows of deck padding that allows you to add a good amount of gear on the SUP. Although be wary if you are a bigger paddler, the Ultra Compact has a maximum capacity of 250 lbs


  • Great board for maneuverability
  • Will be better suited to smaller paddlers
  • 2 Fins are FCS which allows a bit of on-water customization
  • The deck pad is wide and expansive, a good travel pick for SUP Yogis


  • Not the best board for taller folks like myself
  • Will be one of the slower boards on this list

6. Red Paddle Compact 9’6” (Lightweight Pick)


  • Dimensions: 9’6” X 32” X 4.7”
  • Material: In-house MSL Fusion Lamination
  • Weight: 16 Lbs
  • Maximum Capacity: 209 Lbs
  • Bag Dimensions: 22” X 16.5” X 12.5”
  • Package Weight: Not specified

Why is it a Good Portable Pick?

If you are looking for the lightest weight package possible and tracking is a bit of a second thought then this will be your correct pick. The Red Paddle Compact 9’6” features a bag that is almost exactly the size of a small portable suitcase. It’s all packaged in a well-made high-quality bag. In my experience, Red Paddle does not skimp out on anything when it comes to its SUPs and accessories. 

The Compact 9’6” has a bit of a thinner rail compared to the other 6” boards on the list. This makes the Compact 9’6” an underrated surfing pick! This won’t be better than the Whip series for that purpose but its shape and size will be more surf-friendly for the average surfer to catch a few small waves on. 

On-Water Performance

The 9’6” Compact is a great SUP for smaller paddlers that crave some maneuverability from their SUP. Like the Huntington Ultra Compact, this SUP has a shorter length. However, this SUP will be better for maneuverability due to its rounder tail and wider nose which allows it to be a board where you can catch waves while paddling by the sea-side coast. 

Of course, this wider profile will have its disadvantages, especially when it comes to glide and tracking. I would limit this SUP to day paddles or something to use while on the surf.

This SUP won’t be ideal for taller paddlers who are just finding their legs due to the shorter length. You will always be on edge. If you are a shorter paddler with some SUP experience then you may love the options that this SUP provides.

Board Features and Design

Like the 12’ Compact, the 9’6” takes the guesswork out of the folding process due to the deck pad squares. It also comes in a more compact package than the 12’ model, as you would imagine when comparing a package that is two and a half feet shorter. 

The 9’6” Compact gives you room to store medium-sized items upfront like drybags and has a separate loop on the bottom bungee row. However, in my opinion, this would not be my pick for bringing gear along. 

The fins are click-and-go but can be compatible with FCS-made fins too which gives this SUP a bit more customization compared to the SUPs on this list with proprietary systems (iRocker). Being a hybrid surfboard this opens the doors to some fin experimentation. You can use traditional surf fins for surfing and then swap them with bigger touring fins when paddling longer distances. 


  • Underrated Surfing pick
  • The board would be a great trick/ maneuverability specialized board for medium to smaller paddlers
  • Deck pad squares take the guess work out of the folding pattern
  • Both fins are FCS compatible
  • The lightest weight board in the list makes it easier to carry to the shoreline


  • Despite FCS designation, the boards size will not be great for longer-distance paddling
  • Will not be a great pick for beginner paddlers who are tall
  • Not the best board for hauling lots of cargo onboard

Portable Paddle Board Buying Guide

Below are some factors that I feel are important when choosing a Portable SUP. 

Brand Reputation and Materials

This is often very overlooked but it could end up being the most important decision you make as it pertains to how long your SUP will last. 

When looking at a compact/portable/ travel SUP you want a brand that has experience making high quality boards. If you choose something like an Amazon-style compact board then the materials may not be up to par which means you get a board that has a much shorter life span. 

All the boards I’ve recommended on this list have had years of experience producing high-quality boards. But if you want to do some searching on your own I’d recommend looking at SUPs that have:

  • 2 Year warranty on manufacturing defects minimum
  • 30 Day return period 

Amazon/ Big box SUPs won’t cut it as they are usually made of single layer PVC. This may allow the board to last a few years normally but if you add extra folds into the mix then it will start to wear away the materials over time. 

Most Compact SUPs have a dual-layer fusion PVC material with cross-threaded drop stitching which means the PVC is machine laminated together and uses less glue and manual labor. The Cross threading in the drop stitch makes the SUP stiffer and makes the threading denser. Allowing the SUP to be used more and therefore last longer over time. 

Size of the Compact Board

The size will determine who and where you will use the SUP. If you were to compare the longest SUP, the Red Paddle Compact 12’ to the smallest, Red Paddle Compact 9’6” you will see that their on-water behaviors will be vastly different from each other.

The Compact 12’ will go in a straighter line, have more speed due to its longer length, and will be able to be used for longer distances. 

The Compact 9’6” SUP will be used for smaller paddlers who want to go for shorter journeys. It would also be a more optimal paddle board to use in tighter waterways like mangroves or smaller windy rivers due to its maneuverability. 

I personally cannot tell you that one specific size is the best because there is no such thing. Everyone is made of different sizes and shapes which means one board will be ideal for one paddler compared to another. 

One thing I will say is that if you were looking for a board that encompasses most sizes reasonably well then 10’6” boards like the iRocker Cruiser are a great board to start off with.

Editors Notes 

You can find out more about Paddle Board Sizing Guides here. 

Portable Paddle Board Shape

The shape of a paddle board will determine what purpose it will best be used for and how it will handle certain conditions. 

Most of the boards on this list are “All Around” paddle boards that are used as a Jack of All Trades kind of board. That is they can be used for many different activities, purposes, and waterways. As of now, there are not too many “Compact” specialty boards just yet as it is still a relatively new segment in the inflatable paddle board industry. But I reckon that will change in a few years. 

Still, Some All Around boards will have slightly different shapes from others. If you were to compare the Blackfin Ultra CX to the iRocker Cruiser Ultra you will notice that their dimensions are very similar. However, you will notice that the Blackfin Ultra CX looks thinner as it has a more pointed tail and nose. 

This small difference will make the Blackfin Ultra CX faster and track a bit better compared to the Cruiser Ultra. But the Cruiser Ultra will have the edge stability-wise as it has a wider surface area and a wider tail that gives you a bit of a wider platform to stand on. 

Package and Board Weight

One of the main reasons you are getting a compact board is so that it takes up less space right? Most compact paddle boards will weigh no more than 25 lbs if made correctly. Their packages will usually hover around 30 to 35 lbs weight. They tend to be much lighter compared to bigger/ heavier boards like the Blackfin XL which weighs almost 30 lbs and has a package weight of 45 lbs plus. 

Most of the weights of compact paddle boards on this list are fairly comparable with the Red Paddle Compact 9’6” being the lightest weight of the bunch at 16 lbs heavy. 

Quality of Accessories

This is actually a pretty underlooked detail when people purchase portable paddle boards. But it’s just as important as any of the other factors we listed. 

You don’t just want a lightweight paddle board, but you want a package that is comfortable to transport. Meaning the manufacturer doesn’t skimp out on the bag or any of the accessories included with the SUP.

A personal example that I like to use is the iRocker Ultra series. I think the way they designed their packages is brilliant. The bag zips completely open, is easy to get back in, has comfortable back padding, and includes an electric pump with a pouch.

BUT the 5 piece paddle can be flimsy when you put more powerful strokes into the water. This is not the biggest deal in the world, but it’s just an example of things that a manufacturer can get right and other things they can improve upon.

Editors Notes 

Compact SUP FAQs

Below are some common FAQs or problems I’ve encountered with portable SUPs.

What Are The Best Portable Paddle Boards?

According to on-water testing and deep SUP research that I conducted. The best portable paddle boards go as follows:

Blackfin Ultra CX – (Intermediate Paddler Pick)
iRocker All Around 11 Ultra – (Tall Paddler Pick)
iRocker Cruiser Ultra – (Stability Pick)
Red Paddle Compact 12′ – (Touring Pick)
Nixy Huntington Ultra Compact – (Small Paddler Pick)
Red Paddle Compact 9’6” – (Lightweight Pick)

The Blackfin Ultra CX was my favorite pick because of the responsiveness of the board in the water coupled with how well the board and accessories were put together. 

What Is The Best Compact Paddle Board For Beginners?

I would give the nod to the iRocker Cruiser Ultra as it is the widest SUP on our list and also features the widest tail. These two features give the board the best stability, which is one of the most important aspects a beginner can have when starting out. 

How Stable Are Portable Paddle Boards?

Portable paddle boards can feel a little less stable than some of their original inflatable cousins due to their stiffer construction. But they are more than manageable when you put some time into paddling them. 

Why Are There Creases On The Board? 

Some boards from the Ultra line I have noticed have creases already in them when you receive them. They won’t affect the performance or composition of the paddle board as they are mostly cosmetic. This often happens to boards that are launched as a new series.

How Do I Properly Store A Compact Paddle Board? 

It’s best to store your compact paddle board in a dry area that is close to room temperature. It is also best to not keep the boards squeezed supremely tight as this can affect the materials of the board and its life span.

Photo of author
Hey, My name is Derek and I'm the owner of Inflatable SUP Authority. I've had over 20 years experience with watersports. My new-found passion is learning about and testing SUP's. I love teaching people what to look for.