If most of us had our way, we’d never be apart from our pets. But, thankfully, an abundance of portable 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 furry friend. Oh, and make sure you remember to pack a leash and poop bags while you're at it.
These are the best pet carriers we tested, ranked in order:
Pet Peppy Expandable Pet Carrier
Mr. Peanut’s Double Expandable Tote
Texsens BP-24 Bubble Backpack
Natuvalle 6-in-1 Pet Carrier Backpack
Sherpa Deluxe Pet Carrier
PetAmi Premium 4-Way Entry Pet Carrier Backpack
Sherpa 2-in-1 Travel Backpack
Frisco Basic Dog & Cat Carrier Bag
EliteField Soft-Sided Pet Carrier
PetsHome Leather Pet Travel Bag
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While many pet carriers claim to be (mostly) airline compatible, the Sleepypod design specifically addresses all conflicting size and shape restrictions. The Air compresses to fit under a seat during takeoff and landing, but also expands to allow for extra paw-room during the duration of the flight. If you’re traveling a little closer to the ground, you can secure it in a car, using straps on both sides... and if you're worried about car safety, Sleepypod says that it regularly crash-tests its carriers to keep the precious contents as safe as possible.
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. 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 and also transforms into a bed with the help of a snap-on mesh panel. If you really want to make your pup happy, consider 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, as the sleek carriers come in eye-popping colors such as Orange Dream, Glacier Silver, and Robin Egg Blue.
The Sleepypod carrier is recommended for pets up to 18 pounds, and up to 15 inches long and 10 inches tall.
The roll-with-the-punches Pet Peppy is all about economy and pup comfort. Roomy and breezy, it's completely surrounded by mesh. The carrier boasts long sides that unzip to reveal additional 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. Unlike other expandables on the market, which tend to sag or bunch, the Pet Peppy’s wire frame offers 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. Compared to our top pick, it’s also a real steal at around $40.
Despite its capaciousness, the Pet Peppy carrier is recommended for pets up to 15 pounds, and up to 18 inches long and 10 inches tall.
I’m Sarah Zorn, and I’ve spent nearly 10 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 6-month-old rescue mutt, Zander, who is following in his brother Rowdy’s pawsteps as official house recipe taster and product tester.
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 is waterproof and washable, since potty fouls are inevitable for a cooped-up pooch on the move. 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.
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.
What You Should Know About Pet Carriers
The first and most important thing you need to know before flying with a pet is that airlines have various rules and regulations. While toting the right bag is part of it, airlines may restrict 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 one. As for backpack styles or slings, they should fit snugly around your dog.
Opt for a style that’s easy enough 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 to 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), while 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.
Other Pet Carriers We Tested
Mr. Peanut’s Double Expandable Tote
This roomy and versatile carrier has racked up honorifics on multiple best-of lists. And it performed well on our tests—in fact, our teeny terrier tester was loath to come back out. Surrounded by breathable mesh, this lightweight tote fits under the seats of most airplanes. It's constructed with nylon that’s also used for military-grade parachutes, and should hold up to wear and tear. The waterproof fabric is easy to wipe down, and its plush fleece bedding is removable for hand-washing or dry cleaning. Before and after take-off, it expands on two sides for improved comfort and superior lounging when in the airport or at a hotel. It’s a bit pricier than our value pick (another expandable product), but still a solid all-around choice for a tote.
The Mr. Peanut’s carrier is recommended for pets up to 15 pounds, and up to 18 inches long and 11 inches tall.
Approved on most major airlines, this ultra-modern bag is a real looker. It’s sure to be the envy of pets toted in garden variety carriers, from its stiff PU leather overlaid to 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 run the length of both sides and allow pups to step right in, plus adjustable padded shoulder straps make the Texsen comfortable for the wearer, which ensures a smoother ride for the dog. A selection of cool colors from a dusty rose to graphite further enhances the carrier's appeal. When selecting a backpack carrier, keep in mind that dogs (or cats) are intended to sit, instead of lie down, for the duration.
The Texsen is recommended for dogs up to 18 pounds, and up to 11 inches long and 15 inches tall.
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 paneling 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 handbag, 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.
The Natuvalle is recommended for pets up to 16 pounds, and up to 17 inches long and 11.5 inches tall.
A dependable leader on other best pet carrier lists, the 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. Plus, it’s faux lambskin liner is machine-washable. You might find it especially appealing if you're a frequent flyer, because this carrier earned the Worldwise Guaranteed on Board program, which assures that pet carriers are in line with the rules and regulations of participating airlines such as Delta, Southwest, and United. In the event you’re denied boarding due to the Sherpa, the company will reimburse your plane ticket and pet fee. That said, airline compatibility shouldn't be an issue due to a spring wire frame that pushes down to conform to underseat requirements. On the other hand, this can make the carrier a bit saggy and amorphous, meaning it’s tricky to place a wiggly pup inside.
The Sherpa Deluxe is recommended for pets up to 16 pounds, 16 inches long and 10 inches tall.
Approved by the Guaranteed on Board program
Flexible wire frame
Sags, making it difficult to place dogs inside of it
This airline-approved entry has a wire frame that can be compressed for underseat storage and features top and side entries secured by locking zippers, plus a trio of mesh windows for ventilation. The primary selling point is that the 2-in-1 is intended to convert from a standard carrier to a backpack. Yet it’s less than easy to reconfigure the straps, and to be frank, the Sherpa didn’t blow us away in either form. While the fabric seemed durable, the structure felt soggy, buckling over with a dog inside.
The company isn’t clear about maximum weight and size capacity, but this diminutive carrier–backpack is obviously intended for the smallest of dogs (it couldn’t accommodate our leggy, 6-pound poodle tester). The carrier measures 18 inches long, 13 inches wide, and 10.5 inches tall.
Our favorite parts of this bag are its locking zippers that can only be manipulated from the outside as well as a small “petting” window that lets you comfort your pup. Make that a palm-sized pup, or better yet, a kitten, as even the larger-sized model we tested is exceedingly small. This no-frills (and again, super small) carrier is lightweight and machine-washable, which are definite pros. But as expected, the value price largely represents the quality of the materials, and the overall durability of the build.
The Frisco carrier is recommended for pets up to 10 pounds, 15 inches long and 10 inches tall.
We appreciated that this carrier comfortably accommodates leggier dogs, and liked the generous size of its pockets. It comes in multiple attractive colors, has a built-in leash for securing the dog to the carrier, and sells for a good price. That said, the EliteField left much to be desired. Besides its pretty basic design, the construction felt flimsy as the sides tended to collapse when lifting it with an animal inside. It also lacks a few helpful features: There’s no way to keep the pockets closed, no option for top-entry—often an easier way to deposit unwilling pets inside of a carrier—and the structure and straps don’t seem like they’d stand up to long-term use.
The company doesn’t give clear specifications for recommended weights and sizes, but the carrier measures 17 inches long, 8 inches wide, and 12 inches tall.
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 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.
The PetsHome carrier is recommended for pets up to 17.5 pounds, 15 inches long and 8 inches tall.
Sarah Zorn is a food writer, cookbook author, and product tester for Reviewed, Wirecutter and the Food Network. She regularly contributes to outlets such as Saveur, Esquire, and Civil Eats, and has very much passed her food obsessions down, as her beloved rescue hound, Rowdy, regularly deglazes his kibble bowl.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.