Sleepypod Air pet carrier

Best suited for: In-cabin airplane carrier
Also works for: Over the shoulder carrier, car carrier, travel bed
Quality: ★★★★★
Price: $$$$
Overall rating: ★★★★

This is an unpaid and unsolicited review of Sleepypod’s new Air pet carrier. Sleepypod sent me a carrier, at my request, to try out and review. The company has also generously given me a second, unused Air carrier to give away to one lucky reader. The giveaway will start on Monday, March 29th, and will be co-hosted by my other blog, Dog Jaunt, and by Edie Jarolim’s blog Will My Dog Hate Me. Check back on Monday to learn how to enter!

Sleepypod first caught my attention with a combination pet bed/carrier (the “Sleepypod”) that I praised in one of Dog Jaunt’s first posts. When I learned last fall that the company was introducing a carrier specifically designed to work for in-cabin pets (the “Air”), I was intrigued — and asked for a sample to review.

We’ve now used the Sleepypod Air on two separate trips involving several flights on different kinds of planes. It’s an outstanding carrier in ways that I’ll describe below, but it’s revolutionary in one particular way: It’s designed to compress in length from 22″ to 16″. A carrier’s length is always its Achilles heel — you want a long carrier so that your dog has room to sprawl, but U.S. airlines typically require your carrier to be only 16-19″ long (depending on the airline). The Sleepypod Air’s ends and interior padding are structured so that they can be folded up to fit the carrier lengthwise in a 16″ space (if you only fold one end up, it fits in a 19″ space). Once the flight is underway, you can pull the carrier out and turn it around under your legs — the ends fall back down, giving your dog an unusually large amount of room to maneuver.

Photo by Sleepypod

Please note that you can still only bring a small dog onboard — the carrier is just 10.5″ tall and 10.5″ wide — but she’ll have room to stretch, and that’s rare.

Here’s what we like: The carrier is made of a sturdy ballistic nylon and lined with a thick, easily-cleaned nylon. The zipper runs completely around the perimeter of the all-mesh top and ends, allowing the carrier to be collapsed when it’s not in use and allowing the top to be flipped off at the end of a journey, so the sides and bottom can function as a comfortable travel bed. Because the top and ends are all mesh, your dog has plenty of ventilation and you can see her easily from above (there are no privacy panels, so if your pet prefers cavelike solitude, this may not be the carrier for her). If you want to have the carrier mostly closed, but have one of the ends open, each end flap has a snap that can attach to the bottom of the centrally-located handle.

The bottom pad is cushy and washable. If you’re using the carrier as a travel bed for a pet you really want to pamper, you can buy a warming pad from Sleepypod that slips into the carrier’s bottom pad. But what about the cord (leading to either a car adapter or a wall adapter)? Sleepypod has positioned a large grommet in a bottom corner of the carrier, through which the cord threads. Genius!

There is a long pocket on one of the sides — there’s one on the other side, too, but it’s also the slot through which your suitcase handle passes, so I tend not to keep anything on that side. The handle and shoulder strap are both padded and comfortable. There is a harness tether — in another clever move, you can unclip it from the carrier if you prefer (most tethers are not removable, and cry out to be chewed off by a bored dog). The carrier is quite light (4 lbs.), which turned out to be a blessing — Chloe was weighed for the first time in the Air carrier, and easily came in under Jet Blue’s 20 lb. maximum.

Here’s what we didn’t like: Theoretically, it’s not a problem that there’s no dedicated access zipper, since you can position the existing zippers at the top of the carrier and sneak your hand in between them when you need to pat your pup. In practice, that doesn’t work so well, because the edges of the carrier components are fairly rigid. Another side effect of the carrier components being so structured is that this carrier doesn’t easily lose height(this is one place where Chloe’s SturdiProducts bag comes out ahead).

When I looked at Sleepypod’s drawings of the Air carrier, I got the impression that when you wanted to shorten the bag, the ends flipped upand stayed up. In fact, they don’t. They flip up, but only as long as you’re applying pressure to them (as you would be when you’re wedging your dog’s carrier under your seat). It’s not immediately obvious, therefore, that the bag has the ability to be shorter. With that in mind, I’ve kept the explanatory card that comes with the Air bag and tucked it into the side pocket, so that if a ticket or gate agent is concerned about the bag’s length, I’ll have the diagrams to show them. They’re just diagrams, so they’ll work in any country.

It’s just as well that I’ve kept the explanatory card, because I need it every time I have to attach the carrier to a seat belt. Sleepypod has come up with an ingenious set of buckles that fasten the carrier securely to a seat belt, but without the diagrams, I’m lost.

Our last complaint? The carrier slips over the handle of a rolling suitcase by way of a panel on one of the long sides. Double-ended zippers at the top and bottom of the panel allow it to be a pocket when you want, and a slot when you want. So far, so normal. However, the Sleepypod Air panel is 14″ long! I assume the designers thought I’d like to have the option of having a 14″-wide pocket when the slot is not needed — and when the slot is needed, I can close the zippers tightly against the handle of my suitcase. It’s a great idea, but the zippers sometimes shift, allowing the bag to swivel around on top of the supporting suitcase. Happily, Chloe is a dog with a sunny outlook on life, and doesn’t lose sleep over sudden swoops. I suggest looking back frequently as you roll along to make sure everything’s in place.

Please note that the Air comes in five colors. I asked for a sample in Orange Dream, because I’m a total sucker for orange. As always, I recommend that you get your carrier in a dark color (Jet Black or Dark Chocolate) so that it looks as small as possible. That said, however, we took our high-visibility Orange Dream carrier on Jet Blue and Virgin America and neither airline turned a hair over the carrier’s size.

Dog Jaunt’s review policy requires me to give away freebies valued at over $50, and the Sleepypod Air has a retail value of $149.99. I can’t give the carrier I’ve been testing to a reader because it’s been thoroughly Chloe-fied by now. I don’t want to give it away, period, since I like it so much. My solution? I’m sending Sleepypod a check and adding it to Chloe’s Collection of Carriers.

Amazon link:
Sleepypod Air In-Cabin Pet Carrier

Outward Hound “Roll Along Pet Carrier & Backpack”

Photo by The Kyjen Company

Best suited for: Backpack, wheeled transport
Also works for: In-cabin airplane carrier
Quality: ★★★★★
Price: $$$$
Overall rating: ★★★★

The Roll Along Pet Carrier both rolls and converts to a backpack. At 19Hx14Wx10D, it’s larger than the last Outward Hound carrier I reviewed, but it shares many of the same features, including enormous ventilation panels on the front and sides, and roomy pockets — big enough to carry your dog’s leash, poop bags and treats and still leave plenty of room for a wallet and keys.

This carrier handles its various tasks pretty well. Our 13-lb. dog Chloe is at the upper limit of what it will handle, and with her on board the carrier rolls well but shows a tendency to wobble. Carrying her on my shoulders, I wished for straps that were better-padded, but noted with pleasure that the carrier is quite light and its hard bits rest on the back of my hips, which have sufficient padding of their own. (The backpack carrier that I own, Creature Leisure’s Carry Den XT, is a better-quality bag, overall, but throws a structural support uncomfortably across your backbone.) I could see carrying Chloe in this bag for a while — not all day, but certainly for a couple of hours — and it would work well for people bringing their dogs with them on a scooter.

“Great for airline travel,” says the marketing materials — and indeed, a dog park friend of mine who travels the world with her Schipperke is on her second Roll Along Pet Carrier (the first carrier’s wheels “melted” during a particularly rigorous trip to South America). It needs to be pointed out, however, that this bag exceeds every major U.S. airline’s maximum dimensions for an in-cabin pet carrier (it does much better with international airline maximums). As you know from previous posts and comments, most carriers you see are non-complying. Unlike some non-complying carriers, though, this bag looks big, probably because of its large side pockets.

It won’t fit left-to-right under an airplane seat — the handle will get in the way, and the 10″ depth (which will be the height, once the carrier is laid on its back) is structured enough not to flex. It would, however, fit front-to-back, with the narrower part by the handle inserted first under the seat. A few inches of the widest, bottom part would be visible to an alert flight attendant.

From your dog’s point of view, it works as an in-cabin carrier. Even Chloe, a big small dog, had lots of room, and the padding on top of the handle structure is light but sufficient. Negatives? This carrier has no privacy panels, which may be an issue if your pet prefers cave-like solitude when she’s traveling. Some users complain that the front ventilation panel droops onto their pet when the bag is on its back. It does, a bit, but Chloe seemed completely unfazed.

I’d buy this bag in a heartbeat for international travel, and I’d probably risk it, with fingers crossed, for domestic travel too. Frankly, I wish I’d bought it instead of my Creature Leisure Carry Den XT (purchased for outings to farmer’s markets).

Kyle Hansen of the Kyjen Company sent me three different Outward Hound carriers to try out and review. Kyjen has not paid for these reviews, and when I warned Kyle that they might not be love-fests, he said, essentially, “let ‘er rip.” Pet Carrier Review’s policy requires me to give away freebies valued at over $50, and Kyjen has agreed that the products will be given away to Pet Carrier Review readers.

Amazon link:
Kyjen Outward Hound Pet Roll Along Carrier & Backpack, Black

Outward Hound “Backpack Pet Carrier”

Photo by The Kyjen Company

Best suited for: Backpack
Also works for: In-cabin airplane carrier
Quality: ★★★★★
Price: $$$$
Overall rating: ★★★★

I’ll just say up front that I like this product a lot. Outward Hound’s backpack is the same size as a school backpack, but it’s been optimized for your small dog’s comfort and for your convenience.

The sides and top flap consist nearly entirely of mesh panels, so your dog has plenty of ventilation. The side seams have been reinforced, so the bag will not collapse onto your pet if the bag is laid on its back, and since the bottom is stiffened, the product retains its shape pretty well when a dog of the appropriate size (see below) is on board. Nice details include a lanyard inside to clip to your dog’s harness, and a clip that allows you to roll back and secure the top flap, in case you want your dog to poke her head out the top. There are three generous pockets, one of which includes a key clip. The shoulder straps are padded, and there are chest and waist belts to distribute your dog’s weight.

The only downside, from my point of view, is that the carrier is too small for Chloe. I believe it would also be an awkward configuration for a long dog like a Dachshund. If you own a fairly petite dog — say 10 lbs. or under — this is a carrier that might fit nicely into your life. It’s lightweight, which is both its curse (a heavier-weight bag might keep its shape under a heavier load) and its blessing (why add more weight to your back?).

Though it’s not mentioned on the packaging, this would work as an in-cabin airplane carrier for a small dog. The back, which would be on the ground when the bag was placed under a seat, is sufficiently padded and the padding appears to be water-resistant. The mesh panels give you a good view of your dog, and the double zipper around the top panel allows you to unzip it a bit to reach in with treats, ice cubes, etc. And the backpack straps would be a big help during layovers, as you dash outside to reach a pet relief area. Here too the carrier’s lightness is a positive, since it reduces strain on your back and gives you a better chance of meeting an airline’s maximum weight requirements (see Pet Carrier Review’s Guides for details about U.S. and international airlines’ in-cabin pet policies).

Kyle Hansen of the Kyjen Company sent me three different Outward Hound carriers to try out and review. Kyjen has not paid for these reviews, and when I warned Kyle that they might not be love-fests, he said, essentially, “let ‘er rip.” Pet Carrier Review’s policy requires me to give away freebies valued at over $50, and Kyjen has agreed that the products will be given away to Pet Carrier Review readers.

Amazon link:
Kyjen Outward Hound Backpack Pet Carrier Black Small