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Red 9’6” Compact Paddle Board: Half the Size

Red Paddle Co. have been making some of the best inflatable paddle boards in the world since 2008. In 2020 they launched a completely new system for making the inflatable boards, dropping weight and making them half the size.

Inflatable paddle boards are made from multiple layers of PVC plastic glued together. The upper and lower sections are stitched together on the inside to hold the shape.

All those materials add up, giving the board its weight. Red have been using their MSL process for years to create boards with less PVC, less glue and stronger stitching which results in a lighter, stronger board.

Now with the new PACT process that came out in 2020 the boards like the Red 9’6” Compact paddle board can be even stronger and lighter again while folding down smaller.

What does the new PACT system do to the size and weight?

Red manufacture their own boards and have complete control of the process. And they have been tinkering with it.

New new PACT process created a new way of weaving all the threads inside the board that hold the top to the bottom. The threads inside connect at all angles and are extra-high-tensile which means super light but super strong. Reducing the weight of the threads means the board is lighter.

The outer layers of the board is another required but heavy component to the board. Red have reduce the weight of those too. A thinner, more supple, outer layer also means it can be folded and rolled easier.

The last improvement is a quad-stringer system. This just means 4 pieces of stiffer material runs down the board under where you stand, creating a stronger platform to stand and paddle from. If you’ve ever ridden a really cheap or deflating board, they curve like a banana when you stand on them in the water. The quad-stringer system does the opposite of that.

The new system makes a board that can be folded in half and rolled up smaller than any other boards out right now. The Compact boards are also lighter to carry in the pack and in your hand.

Board Length Board weight Bag, pump and board weight
Nixy Huntington G4 9’6″ Ultra Compact 9’6″ 8.5 kg
18.75 pounds
13.6 kg
30 pounds
RED 2021 9’8” MSL Ride 9’8″ 8.6 kg
19 pounds
13 kg
29 pounds
RED 2021 9’6 Compact 9’6″ 7.4 kg
13.6 pounds
12.7 kg
28 pounds
Boardworks SHUBU Kraken 11 11′ 9.5 kg
21 pounds
15 kg
33 pounds
2021 RED 11’ Sport MSL 11′ 9.7 kg
21.3 pounds
14 kg
31 pounds
RED 2021 11’0 Compact 11′ 8.5 kg
18.7 pounds
13.8 kg
30 pounds

9’6” Compact Paddle Board Specs

  • Board weight: 7.4 kg / 13.6 pounds

  • Everything weight: 12.7 kg / 28 pounds

  • 2 Twin Click Fins

  • 8’ Leash

  • 32” wide

  • 222 liter volume

  • 4.7 inches / 120mm thick

  • Titan II pump

  • 3 Flat bungees on bow

  • 5-piece carbon paddle

  • $2,199 CAD ($1,899 USD)

How small is the Compact Bag?

The best part of the 9’6 Compact is how big the bag is. With the new PACT process the board, and the bag, is a lot smaller. It’s about 22 inches tall and 16.5 inches wide instead of the previous 38 inches tall and 13 inches wide.

Instead of backpack straps that looks like an afterthought, they put some time and effort into the back panel. The straps and panel are very comfortable and easy to wear for long periods of time. There’s waist belt that keeps the pack from flopping around but is removable if you don’t want to take it.

RED Compact 9'6" Bag

RED Compact 9'6" Bag straps

Carrying the RED Compact 9'6" Bag

Carrying the RED Compact 9’6″ Bag

The bag comfort and size are much better than previous models and other brands. I still think it could be improved with a sternum strap to keep the shoulder straps from sliding apart.

Another design feature I’d like to see updated is the location of the zippers. The backpack has to be put down on the ground on the back panel and straps to open it and get the SUP out. This is fine if it’s a nice clean dock or concrete walk way. But when you have to put your SUP down in the dirt or the mud, then the brushed cotton back panel is sitting in the mud. I’d like to see them adopt a photography backpack design where you put the bag down on the back of it and zip open the side with the straps.

Another design feature I’d love to see with the bag is some extra space or pouches for other gear. If you take anything with you paddle boarding, then you have to take another bag with you. This is usually a dry bag or waterproof duffel so you don’t get anything wet. It would be great to have a spot to sore this in or on the SUP bag. All SUP bags I’ve tried so far are like this. They just fit the board, paddle and pump but nothing else.

How does the paddle fit in a Compact Bag?

A 5-piece carbon fibre comes with the 9’6” Compact. It’s extremely light and easy to put together. The 5 pieces break down and fit right into elastic areas inside the bag. Red has drawn outlines of the paddle parts in the bag for where they go so there’s no thinking required to put them away.

The bungees are tight in the bag so it takes some bending of the bag to get them back in there. They fit but it’s tight.

The ends on 3 of the pieces are cut at 45 degrees to prevent twisting of the paddle while you’re paddling. This works very well when you’re paddling but putting it together it’s a bit rough on the hands. The 45 degree cuts aren’t as smooth as just a regular flat cut.

RED Compact 9'6" 5-piece Paddle

RED Compact 9’6″ 5-piece Paddle

Does the 9’6” Compact have new fins?

The 9’6” Compact have a different type of fins from previous Red boards. The new Twin Click fins slide into place, click backwards and then are held in place by 2 very small Allen key screws. A small Allen key is in the waterproof pouch included with the board.

Once you know to push the fins back to seat them, it’s an easy install but a bit tough on the hands. Pushing the fins back requires pushing on the thin leading end of the fin. Screwing in the Allen key screws with the included wrench is a bit though with an inflated board. There’s not a lot of room for your fingers. I found adding and removing the fits with the board un-inflated a bit easier. The board bends out of the way a bit.

RED Compact 9'6" Bag

RED Compact 9’6″ Bag

What is the max weight for the 9’6” Compact?

The max weight of the rider and gear for the 9’6” Compact is 95 kgs (210 pounds). This lower limit is often similar on the smaller boards. If you’re heavier or want to carry more gear you can size up to a larger board which has more air inside. The Compact 11’ for example can hold 108 kgs (240 pounds).

What sizes are there in the Compact series?

The Compact series currently had 2 boards in it, the 9’6 we had a look at in this article and the slightly larger 11’. They both have the same bag, paddle and Titan II pump. The 11’ is slightly larger, more air inside and can hold more gear. It’s also slightly heavier at 8.5 kg (18.7 lb) compared to the 7.4kg (16.3lb) of the 9’6.

The length of the 11’ will help it track a bit better. There isn’t any design difference between the two boards but just the longer waterline keeps it a bit straighter.

Should you buy a 9’6” Compact paddle board?

If you love paddle boarding but don’t have the space to store a large board then definitely. 2 Compact bags can fit in the space of 1 of the larger bags now so storing them in your car trunk, apartment closet or RV is much easier now. The boards are so similar to the previous versions just smaller. They do cost a bit more than a standard board but if it means getting out more on the board it might be worth it.

Should you upgrade to the 9’6” Compact if you have an older Red board?

The Compact boards are all about that small backpack and storage size. If that means you can get out more because it’s easier to take to the beach, across town on the bus or to work for a lunchtime paddle then it would definitely be worth it. The Compact boards won’t offer any more in performance or touring capability.


The new Red Compact 9’6” paddle board is an amazing step up in the packability of an already small inflatable paddle board. It’s easy to take it hiking, on the bus, or to work for a paddle at lunch. There are a few improvements I’d love to see in the future, but as usual, Red nails the required parts to a paddle board. The backpack is comfortable, the board is lightweight and durable, the paddle is stiff and easy to put together.

Even if you don’t get a Compact board now, keep an eye on Red in the future. With their private manufacturing facility and constantly improving Tec Air process, they will be making big upgrades with their paddle boards.

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