The Best Pet Carriers of 2018

By Sarah Zorn

If most of us had our way, we’d never be apart from our pups. But thankfully an abundance of portable, soft-sided pet carriers means it's easier than ever for fur babies to accompany their humans on planes, trains, and automobiles. In fact, our favorite carrier on the market, the Sleepypod Air (available at Amazon), is specifically designed to meet all airline and TSA requirements, making your dog a welcome guest on just about any flight.

But when it comes to transporting canines, not all pet carriers are created equal. That's why we evaluated a number of leading options for durability, flexibility, comfort, style, and more. After extensive testing, we're confident we've found the carriers that are not only convenient for you, but safe and comfortable for your beloved pet. Oh, and make sure you remember to pack a leash and poop bags while you're at it.

Here are the best pet carriers, in order:

  1. Sleepypod Air

  2. Pupkiss Pets Luxury Airline Approved Carrier

  3. Texsens BP-24 Bubble Backpack

  4. Pet Peppy Expandable Pet Carrier

  5. Sherpa Original Deluxe Pet Carrier

  6. Natuvalle 6-in-1

  7. PetsHome Leather Pet Travel Bag

— Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

Updated April 30, 2018

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Sleepypod Air Best Overall
Credit: Reviewed.com / Sarah Zorn

Sleepypod Air

Sleepypod air
  • Editors' Choice

Sleepypod Air

Best Overall

While many pet carriers claim to be (mostly) airline compatible, the Sleepypod design specifically addresses all conflicting size and shape restrictions. The Air can compress to fit under a seat during takeoff and landing, but can also expand to allow for extra paw-room during the duration of the flight. If your travels are taking place a little closer to the ground, straps on both sides allow the carrier to be snugly seat-belted into a car... but if you're worried about car safety, take comfort in the knowledge that Sleepypod regularly crash-tests its carriers.

The top and sides of the carrier open completely and are made of polyester mesh, allowing for easy entry, excellent air circulation, and clear sightlines for your pup. Ultra-plush interiors make the carrier ultra-comfy and easy to clean—the padding is machine washable and the polyester liner is water-repellent. The Air folds flat for seamless storage but can also transform into a bed with the help of a snap-on mesh panel. If you really want to make your pup happy, you can even buy a warmer pad (sold separately) to tuck into a pocket underneath. As far as style is concerned, your canine will make quite the chic traveling companion, since the sleek carriers come in eye-popping colors like Orange Dream, Glacier Silver, and Robin Egg Blue.

Pupkiss Best Value
Credit: Reviewed.com / Sarah Zorn

Pupkiss Pets Airline Approved Pet Carrier

Pupkiss
  • Editors' Choice

Pupkiss Pets Airline Approved Pet Carrier

Best Value

Considering carriers can regularly exceed $100, the solidly constructed and cleverly conceived Pupkiss certainly qualifies as a steal. Made of high grade, stain-resistant matt twill oxford (which gives it a classy, tweedy look), the sturdy-bottomed bag boasts three spacious points of entry and breathable mesh inserts on all sides, including a window through which you can feed your pup without removing them from the carrier. Double zippers can be clipped together (preventing escape artist dogs from nudging them open), and a set of removable fleece beds assure long-lasting comfort. The Pupkiss is also flexible enough to fit under most plane seats, making it largely airline compliant. What more could you ask for in a bag for this price?

How We Tested

Natuvalle
Credit: Reviewed.com / Sarah Zorn

The Tester

I’m Sarah Zorn, and I’ve spent almost ten years reviewing dog products, developing pet-friendly recipes, and writing animal rescue stories for outlets like Rachael Ray Every Day and Animal Fair. I reside with my dog trainer husband and our eight-year-old hound mix Rowdy, who is truly living his best life as my official house recipe taster and product tester. Unfortunately, being 85 pounds, he found himself sidelined in this particular round of reviews...although he gamely tried his best to squeeze his way into an assortment of chihuahua-sized boxes.

The Tests

No matter their personality, it’s the rare pup that willingly walks into a carrier. So in order to determine which bags presented the least potential struggle, we worked with both docile and feisty dogs to assess ease of entrance and exit (multiple options are ideal, such as a roomy opening for top-loading, as well as at least two passageways on the side). It's also vital that the carrier be waterproof and washable, since potty fouls are inevitable for a cooped-up pooch on the move. In a perfect world a carrier also shouldn’t be a nightmare to store, since few of us are blessed with enough at-home closet space (let alone ample storage at travel destinations) to stow away big, clunky boxes. Your canine’s comfort is of utmost importance, so we evaluated carriers for size and shape, sturdy but lounge-worthy materials (padding and fleece bedding are nice), and, most importantly, ventilation—there should be plenty of breathable mesh. Durability was another vital factor in determining top contenders; needless to say, a good carrier should withstand the shocks of being wedged on a plane or train and should also be reasonably pup-proof—a chewed or clawed-through carrier could spell disaster.

Texsens
Credit: Reviewed.com / Sarah Zorn

What You Need to Know Before You Buy

The first and most important thing you need to know before flying with a pet is that airlines have their own rules and regulations. While having the right bag is part of it, airlines may have restrictions about when, where, and how many pets may be carried onto a flight. It's crucial that you review your airline's pet policy before you show up at the airport. Check out Bringfido.com to get links to all the airlines' policies.

Soft-sided carriers should be just big enough for Fido to stand up, turn around, and lie down. Having too much room can actually make your pup anxious (dogs are den animals after all), but a carrier should in no way restrict basic movement. To determine ideal size before buying, measure your dog from their nose to their tail and add 2-4 inches for proper length. For height, measure from the top of their head (or ears, if they’re erect) to the ground. For width, allow for 2-5 inches more than your dog’s own measurement. And pay attention to weight limits listed by the manufacturer; if your dog falls between sizes, go for the larger size. As for backpack styles or slings, they should fit snugly around your dog.

Go for a style that’s easy enough for you to carry while keeping your dog safe and supported, whether that means a carrier made of lightweight materials, a backpack, or even a bag on wheels. An included tether is non-negotiable in order to actually keep your dog secured, but keep a lookout for special features that fit your pup and particular lifestyle. Some brands more closely conform to airline restrictions than others (a major consideration for pet parents on the go), and as the name suggests, expandables are all about flexibility. They can contract to fit into small spaces like planes, but extend at will for extra legroom and premium loungability. In fact, they can even serve double duty as beds or playpens when you reach your final destination.

PetsHome
Credit: Reviewed.com / Sarah Zorn

Other Pet Carriers We Tested

Texsens BP-24 Bubble Backpack

Texsens

Texsens BP-24 Bubble Backpack

Approved on most major airlines, this ultra-modern bag is a real looker, sure to be the envy of pets toted in garden variety carriers. Crafted from stiff PU leather overlaid with grommeted air holes and breathable inserts, the standout feature is a round mesh window on the front, which can be replaced with an included plastic bubble in the event of cold or rainy weather. Zippered openings running the length of both sides allow pups to step right in, and adjustable padded shoulder straps make the Texsen comfortable for the wearer, which insures a smoother ride for the dog. Finally, a selection of cool colors from dusty rose to ash black further enhances the carrier's appeal.

Pet Peppy Expandable Pet Carrier

1

Pet Peppy Expandable Pet Carrier

The roll-with-the-punches Pet Peppy is all about economy. Surprisingly roomy and breezy (it's completely surrounded by mesh), the carrier boasts long sides that actually zip out to reveal extra ventilated lounging areas, converting an everyday traveling crate into a pint-sized puppy apartment. Additional homey accents include a window for offering treats, a canvas pocket for storing toys, a washable fleece blanket, and a collapsible bowl. And unlike other expandables on the market, which tend to sag or bunch, the Pet Peppy has a wire frame for extra stability. Even so, the Pet Peppy remains lightweight enough to carry, fits under the front seats of most major airlines, and folds flat for storage. The only thing that gave us pause is that the tether was broken upon delivery, leading to durability concerns.

Sherpa Original Deluxe Pet Carrier

Plum od

Sherpa Original Deluxe Pet Carrier

A dependable leader on “Best Pet Carrier” lists, the machine-washable faux lambskin-lined Sherpa has plenty of mesh windows for ventilation, top and side entries with locking zippers for safety, and adjustable padded seat belt and luggage straps. You might find it especially appealing if you're a frequent flier, thanks to Worldwise's "Guaranteed On Board" program, which assures that pet carriers are in-line with each participating airline’s rules and regulations. In the event you’re denied boarding due to the Sherpa, the company will reimburse both your plane ticket and pet fee. That said, airline compatibility shouldn't be an issue, thanks to the Sherpa's spring wire frame, which allows the carrier to be pushed down to conform to underseat requirements. Unfortunately, this can make the carrier a bit saggy and amorphous, meaning it’s tricky to place a wiggly pup inside.

Natuvalle 6-in-1

Natuvalle

Natuvalle 6-in-1

Crafted from water-resistant fabric with a hand-washable fleece liner, the Natuvalle has reinforced zippers and locks and folds down to about two inches for easy storage. There’s a decent amount of mesh panelling for ventilation, and my dog trainer husband especially likes the mesh pocket on one side, which he suggests would be the perfect place to stick a lavender oil-dotted satchel to soothe your pet.

One downside is that the carrier doesn’t arrive completely assembled, so be ready to get your Ikea on. The top opening is also very small, making it difficult to coax your dog into the carrier. And considering the Natuvalle's selling points include the ability to carry the thing on your front or back, as a shoulder or hand bag, or as an upright or side carrier, we found that the functions didn’t differentiate themselves enough to be truly helpful...In fact, a wheeling option would have been vastly preferred.

PetsHome Leather Pet Travel Bag

Petshome

PetsHome Leather Pet Travel Bag

An undeniably chichi tote, the PetsHome is made from easy-to-clean PU leather that comes in ten sophisticated colors. And though there’s only one entrance, it’s plenty spacious, since the bag unzips from the top all the way off to one side.

A major concern, however, is a marked lack of ventilation. Once a dog is fully zipped inside, they can only breathe (and see) from a few grommeted air holes at the base, as well as two sides outfitted with (tiny) mesh panels. The larger of these panels is fronted by a leather cover, which is meant to be held back with snaps. There’s no ventilation on the roof of the carrier or two out of four sides. As such, we can't comfortably endorse actually enclosing your dog in this bag for extended periods of time, like during plane travel. If you want to use it, it's best kept for just a casual jaunt around town, with your teensy canine peeking out of the partially unzipped top.

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