Please note that this post should be read as a supplement to a more recent one about a newer, larger Kobi Pet Carrier (introduced in early Spring 2013). As you’ll see, some of the features of the current bag are the same as I’ve described below, so you’ll want to come back to this post — just start with the newer post, and remember that the measurements provided in this post are no longer relevant.
A Dog Jaunt reader named Marc asked me in a comment if I’d seen the new Kobi pet carrier, which caught his eye — and quickened my pulse — because its end unzips to release a mesh gusset, expanding its length on demand. I hadn’t, so I contacted the company and asked for a sample to review. They kindly sent me one, and I have now had a chance to check out its features. I have not been paid for this review, and I did not promise (and Kobi did not request) that it would be positive. Because the Kobi carrier costs more than $50, I will be giving it away to one lucky Dog Jaunt reader (total value: $95). I’ll provide the giveaway details in a separate post on Monday, March 19, 2012.
Owners of pets weighing under, say, 10 lbs. have it easy. They can buy a small SturdiBag (my preference) or a medium Sherpa bag (the first soft-sided pet airplane carrier, and still popular), and their worries are over. Their bag will fit under the seat in front of them. Agents will wave it by without a second look. The rest of us, blessed with pets in the 10-20 lb. range, are always looking for a carrier that will satisfy the eagle eye of a ticketing agent, or a gate agent, but will expand onboard to give our pets a bit more leg room (or start out large, like the large SturdiBag, and flex enough to fit under a seat). Look back through the “Product reviews” section of this blog, and you’ll see me rhapsodizing over the large SturdiBag, of course, but also Creature Leisure’s Pet Pilot XL (gussets), the Sleepypod Air (ends that fold up on demand), and, in the right context, the Smart Space carrier (pop-up “tent”).
The latest addition to the list is the Kobi Pet Carrier, which starts out at a respectable — and very workable — 18″L x 13″W x 10″ H (the regular size; please note that the Kobi carrier also comes in a size Small, which is 17″L x 10″W x 8.5″H). While you’re waiting in the gate area, or once your plane has taken off, you can unzip one of its ends and a mesh gusset expands to give your pet 3″ more length (as well as a significant additional source of ventilation). Here’s a video of the bag in action (take my advice and turn the sound off).
It’s a beautifully-designed and well-constructed bag. It’s made of ballistic nylon, with sturdy nylon mesh ventilation panels, and plenty of them (even when the expansion gusset is closed). One of them is on top, which pleases me because it lets me see down into the bag — when you’re flying with a pet, she’ll mostly be at your feet. Each ventilation panel has a privacy cover, secured either open or closed with sturdy snaps. Your pet can enter from either end, or from the top. Two straps along one long side let you secure the carrier around a seat belt; a pocket runs the length of the other side, providing generous space for treats and a roll of poop bags (though you’ll need to fold your pet’s paperwork in thirds to fit). The shoulder strap is sturdy and has a loop built in to one end so it can function as a leash in a pinch. The pad can be coaxed over the strap’s buckle, so it remains centered over your shoulder.
There is a small tether inside, which can be completely removed if you prefer. The padded bottom is secured by Velcro strips to the inside of a shallow nylon tray. The stiffener that provides the tray’s structure is sewn in, and cannot be accessed. I asked for an all-black carrier, since I like to minimize the perceived size of a carrier, but it also comes in charcoal with black trim, and chocolate with pink trim.
The main gripe I can come up with — and it’s a stretch — is that the zippers tend to stick a bit, especially on the expanding gusset. I think a spritz of graphite would solve the problem. The carrier also does not have a luggage handle panel, but the carrier’s handles are long enough that they can be pulled over a suitcase handle (keep an eye on your pet while you’re walking, because there’s nothing to stop her carrier from shifting sideways on top of your suitcase). I can’t get too worked up about this issue because the large SturdiBag, which is Chloe’s preferred carrier, also lacks a luggage handle panel; the SturdiBag’s own handles work fine for the purpose.
Although I’m enthusiastic about the Kobi carrier’s quality and features, I won’t be buying it for myself because it’s just too short for Chloe. She’s about 12″ tall at the shoulders, and this carrier tops out at 10″ tall. It could certainly handle her weight (currently about 14 lbs.). Please note that while the carrier’s ends are firmly structured, the middle of its top isn’t, so it flexes in height quite a bit — if you encounter an under-seat space with some obstructions, you might well be able to angle the carrier around them.