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Product review: SturdiProducts’ Incognito Pet Carrier

I was asked about this carrier — which I hadn’t seen — by a reader who has a larger small dog, like Chloe, and was looking for an around-town tote. Large totes are hard to find (I use Wagwear’s canvas tote or an OllyDog Olly Tote for the times when Chloe can be visible, and PetEgo’s messenger bag for the times when she can’t), so I was eager to see this new bag, made by the same company that makes Chloe’s beloved SturdiBag, in person. SturdiProducts kindly sent me a sample to review. I have not been paid for this review, and I did not promise (and SturdiProducts did not request) that it would be positive. The Incognito tote costs more than $50, so I will be giving it away to one lucky Dog Jaunt reader (total value: $65). I’ll provide the giveaway details in a separate post on Monday, June 25, 2012.

SturdiProducts makes no bones about the purpose of this carrier: The product tag says “Designed for discrete pet travel” (that should be “discreet,” but you get the idea) and “Because forgiveness is easier to get than permission!” They’ve achieved their goal. Aside from a subtle tag on the side bearing the URL “www.PetCarrier.com,” there is no way to tell that this bag — once all the mesh ventilation is concealed behind privacy panels — contains a pet.

The carrier is 14″ tall, 16.5″ long, and 8.5″ deep (at its deepest — narrowing to 6″ deep at the top of the bag). These are not the dimensions that SturdiProducts provides, but I rechecked with my tape measure, and that’s what’s in front of me. It comes in black (which I requested), maroon (which I got), and several cheerful patterns (including a very tempting cheetah print).

You can see the little label on the side, which can be turned towards your body instead. The long black strap is still attached in this picture, and the top mesh panel is flopped back over one of the ends. Chloe has her head out, but it's a stretch for her, even though she's a relatively tall small dog (picture taken before I realized that one of the ends has a hatch your dog can poke her head through).

One end opens completely with a double zipper, and the other opens halfway. Two metal clasps are provided that you can use to clip the zipper ends together. The top half of each end has a mesh ventilation panel with an optional privacy panel; when they’re not needed, the privacy panels can be tucked down into the large pockets on each end.

The carrier is generously provided with pockets — aside from the two on the ends, there are a couple of really enormous ones on each long side.  This is a bag that will easily hold both your dog, her leash and poop bags and your wallet, car keys, phone, etc. That’s rare, let me tell you.

There is one more big mesh ventilation panel across the top of the bag, which can also be opened completely with a double zipper. It too has a privacy panel, which either covers the top of the bag (held in place with a couple of Velcro strips), or folds away (a little awkwardly) into a slot above one of the padded handles. There are two of those, and they’re fairly comfortable. Alternatively, the carrier comes with a long nylon strap — long enough to carry the bag cross-body if you prefer — with a good-quality shoulder pad. The nylon strap detaches, so you can tuck it away and use just the padded handles (which look more purse-like).

A thick and comfortable pad is provided for the bottom of the carrier, and there is a loop at the bottom of the bag to which a lanyard with clips on both ends (provided) can be attached, to keep your pet from leaping out. There is a luggage slot on one of the long sides, through which you can also pass a seat belt, to secure the carrier in a car. [This would not be a great choice for an in-cabin airplane carrier. It could be done, I suppose, but the bag would have to lie on its side (you’d move the pad so that it was available to your pet in the bag’s new orientation), giving your pet only 8″ — narrowing to 6″ — of headroom. The SturdiBag is a much better size and shape.]

The carrier is very well made. The zippers are of good quality, and move easily. A lot of thought, clearly, has gone into the design, and as you can see from this picture, once all the privacy panels are closed, you simply can’t tell there’s a pet inside.

Label turned to the inside. Using handles, not strap. All privacy panels closed. Luggage slot just under my elbow. Fierce clashing between maroon bag and fuchsia shirt.

What don’t I like? There’s no designated place for the top mesh panel to go, if you’ve decided not to zip it closed. You can let it drop into the body of the bag (I wish there were a Velcro tab that would hold it in place against the inside wall) or you can let it flop outside the bag, which is unsightly.

My main concern, though, would be the effect on Chloe of using this tote in the heat of summer with all the privacy panels closed. They are loose enough that in cool weather, or in an air-conditioned building, she would be comfortable and supplied with sufficient air. She fills the carrier, however, and since I would buy it in black, it would be a heat sink. If you buy this tote (I will, for sure, especially since it’s on sale at the moment), keep part of your mind focused on your pet’s state of being and minimize the time she’s in the sun, or in the heat, in full stealth mode.

13 comments

  • Emily

    Mary-Alice, thanks for your review of this bag! I am moving to NYC and am new to using a carrier to travel with my dog, as I’ve always just be able to put her in the car with me! This looks like a good bag for cross-town travel on the subway, more discreet than the large Sturdi-Bag I purchased for plane travel, and more functional as it can hold my personal items as well! I will definitely consider purchasing one as I am SO pleased with my first Sturdi purchase 🙂 thanks again!

  • You’re so welcome, Emily! Small pets in carriers are allowed, no problem, on the NYC subway, so your pup needn’t be stealthy, but I agree that this would be a better subway configuration, just as the large SturdiBag is a better plane configuration. Just keep the privacy panels down on steamy subway days, so your pup gets as much air as possible!

  • Catie Rhodes

    Thanks for reviewing this bag. It seems to have it “all.” As you said, a lot of them don’t have outer storage…or if they do have outer storage, something else is missing.

    I was impressed with the wide variety of patterns in which this bag is available. I’m seriously considering one of the butterfly prints. I also like the Crazy Kitty print. My hesitation on it is that Sturdi doesn’t have a picture of the bag in Crazy Kitty print. While the little square of the print is cute, it might look hideous as a bag.

    Confession: I went over to the Sturdi site yesterday and looked at the bags, which were on sale for half-price. I wanted to think about it overnight. Imagine my disgust (at myself) when I went back this morning and the sale had ended.

    Question: I’ve noticed you often opt for black as color choice in the bags you order. Is that just a color-coordination thing or do you have another reason? I’m thinking about airline regulations, traveling incognito, and stuff like that.

    Also, I sent you an email some time back. I wanted to make sure you got it. If not, I can resend.

  • Hi, Catie! Does it help at all to see the pattern on a SturdiBag? http://sturdiproducts.com/products/sturdibag-wild-side I think it might be cool — I like the marbled-paper look of it. I always choose black because I think people just look past black, plus it makes things seem smaller. Also, I wear a lot of black. You totally did send me an e-mail, and it’s starred (important!) and I’m determined to get to it — in fact, I’ll get to it RIGHT NOW. Look at me go. The lack of storage space IS the big drawback to that Pet Ego messenger bag — you can tuck stuff in the big interior pocket, but it impinges on your dog’s real estate, and with a dog as big as Chloe, I don’t want to do that. The Fundle was just too small for Chloe — even the big size. I like the idea of the Smart Pouch, and it looks like it looks cool on the bag, too, but the bag itself is just too snug. Your pup sounds a fraction smaller than Chloe, but still — I wouldn’t do it. Thank you so much for the Pet Flys feedback — may I post it as a comment on the post about that carrier (attributing it to you, of course, as “reader Catie”)?

  • Catie Rhodes

    Thanks for the reply, Mary-Alice. Thanks also for posting the picture of the SturdiBag with Crazy Kitty print. That does give me enough of an idea to know whether I’d like carrying a bag in that print as a faux purse.

    Gotcha on the black. I am the same way with chocolate brown–or really any shade of brown. I wear brown clothes a lot. Also, I get what you’re saying about people looking past black.

    Really, my biggest drawback with the black (and even dark brown) is that we live in Texas where there are two kinds of weather: hot and hotter. I worry that Cosmo would ultimately be too hot, even during the months that pass for cooler weather.

    I had hoped if I picked something that looked more like a purse, people would sort of look past it. They might think it was a purse. But your reasoning on the black might be more correct.

    That was one thing I liked about the Pet Flys bag. It really looked like a purse. A nice one. (And, yes, you may post my feedback in comments section of the post about the Pet Flys carrier. I even have pictures of Cosmo in the Pet Flys bag if you need them.)

    Many, many thanks for the comments on the Pet Ego bag. The problem I see with using the interior pocket of the bag is that, if you are going for stealth, you will have blown your cover once you open the bag to access the inner pocket. Also, the little dog might see it as a great chance to attempt an escape.

    And thanks also for your comments on the Fundle. I was really hesitant on that bag, wondering how well Cosmo would actually fit inside it. Additionally, I read a review on Amazon by a reviewer from Houston, Texas. She said the Fundle was too hot for her dog most of the year. Fundle has come out with some more breathable summer fabrics, but then I’m back to the fact that Cosmo may not fit well in it.

    Again, many thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with me. I love your blog because I get so many ideas here.

  • Susan McHenry

    Thank you again, Mary-Alice, for an informative review. The Incognito looks good and I think would go unnoticed most of the time. Well, until my westie, Murphy, decided to let out a loud bark! We are still working on that one! lol

  • Linda

    I ordered both the black and the Chetah (after all, the sale meant two for one!) and I’m really glad I did. This is a wonderful bag!

    My Jazzie is a Cavalier Spaniel and Bichon mix. She’s about 13 pounds, 10 inches tall and 15 inches long. She fits perfectly in the bag and pokes her head out the half-side when we’re not incognito.

    I tried the PetEgo messenger bag but it was just too big for the both of us. This one is light-weight and comfortable to carry.

    Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful review!

  • Olive

    Thank you for this thorough & informative review. I was having trouble finding a quality stealth bag for my lanky, 10 pound papillon mix, for less than $100. Seeing the real life pictures of your own “larger small” dog in this carrier was very helpful in my decision to order it. I am happy to report that it is just big enough for my dog to fit comfortably.

  • Kristina & Kara

    Hey MA,

    I saw you revives this bag, and I really wanted to purchase. Given more thought, I honestly don’t think this bag is as comfortable for our babies as the Petego. Meaning, the mesh and ventilation available one the ego is far superior, and the dog can see out and breathe against the mesh, while still being unassuming to the world. Do you agree? I think Kara would have a difficult time in this bag with all walls up, no immediate breathing panel, no light and she is a very great traveler. Is there anything I’m missing from the photos/description as far as ventilation? Maybe I’ll still purchase to see.

  • Hi, K&K! I agree, the PetEgo messenger bag has more ventilation, and in better locations (right by Chloe’s nose when she’s lying in its bottom). It would be my first pick on a hot day, for sure. On a cool day, though, the Incognito would work, even with the privacy flaps deployed — though I’d only deploy them briefly, myself, because you’re right — how boring for Chloe. The PetEgo bag isn’t perfectly stealthy — a keen eye can see fur and an eye or two through it, and the poop bag attachment is a little hard to explain — so I’d use the Incognito in situations where you really need to be subtle. If I had to buy one or the other, I think I’d go for the messenger bag. If I was a guy, I’d go for the messenger bag. (I’m a gear freak, though, so I buy bags for every situation!)

  • erika

    Hi,
    I read this bag can hold only 10 pounds of dog. I have a 12 pounds dog and it fit well in it as for dimensions. Do you thing I can use it, or I’ll break it? Thank you.

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