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Product review: New, larger Kobi Pet Carrier (and luggage wrap)

Just over a year ago, I posted a very positive review of the Kobi Pet Carrier: I liked its features, and loved how it expanded on demand (with a zippered gusset) from 18″ long to 21″ long, but regretted that even the larger of the two sizes available was too short, at 10″ tall, for Chloe (who’s 12″ tall at the shoulders). Kobi kindly let me offer it as a giveaway, and it went to reader Debra Lee, whose pup is 8″ tall at the shoulder. A happy ending — but then I heard again from Kobi this spring, and learned that they’ve redesigned their carrier and added another, larger size. Would I like to review it and give it away? I most certainly would, I told them, and the carrier promptly arrived. Please note that I have not been paid for this review, and I did not promise (and Kobi did not request) that it would be positive. I will provide the giveaway details in a separate, later post.

That was, what, two months ago. Embarrassed by my delay, I decided to give the new, large Kobi Pet Carrier all my attention, and Chloe traveled in it last week from Seattle to Tampa. The short story is that it’s an excellent carrier, and one that I plan to buy for myself for use on long-haul trips (under my own rules, I cannot keep a carrier sent to me for review if it costs more than $50, and the large Kobi carrier costs $114). Here’s the longer version:

Much about the large Kobi carrier has not changed since my last review, and that’s good. I still like its design and construction — sturdily made of ballistic nylon twill, the carrier has solid zippers and hardware, plenty of mesh ventilation panels, and a truly capacious side pocket. Privacy panels on each end fold tidily away into a shallow pocket when they’re not needed; the privacy panel on top can be rolled back and snapped to the bottom of the carrying straps (a neat solution, and one that I haven’t seen elsewhere). I believe there was, previously, a similar solution for the privacy panel on the long side of the carrier; in the current version, the side privacy panel is secured, when rolled up, only with a single magnetic snap, and tends to roll down.

I still like the mesh ventilation panel on the top of the bag — as you know from other reviews, I feel strongly that you should be able to see down into your pet’s carrier, since she’ll be at your feet for most of your trip. I wish the panel were closer to the bag’s end, however, since it disappears under the seat when your pet is fully tucked in for takeoff and landing.

I like how the provided tether is removable, I like how the shoulder strap doubles, in a pinch, as a leash, and I like the carrier’s seatbelt solution (two straps at either end of the long privacy panel can be passed around the lap portion of a car’s seatbelt and secured with hefty chunks of Velcro). There is still no built-in luggage handle strap, but Kobi sent me their new solution: The Luggage Adapter is a mesh corset (you wrap it around the carrier, securing it closed with a long Velcro strip; because it’s mesh, air still reaches your pup) with two Velcro-lined ballistic twills straps you can slide over your luggage handle. It’s a little unwieldy — it works best  to lay it on the ground or another flat surface and secure it closed with both hands, and you’ll need both hands to loosen the Velcro that lines the handle straps. The pay-off for all that work, though, is that the Velcro lining on the straps molds them around any configuration of luggage handle, which means no slaloming around for your pup. And the quicker, less secure solution still remains — the handles are long enough to loop over your luggage strap (just keep an eye on your pup and make sure her carrier remains balanced on your suitcase).

First step: Lay the mesh wrap on a flat surface (note that there are two Velcro strips; the wrap works for all of the Kobi carrier sizes)

First step: Lay the mesh wrap on a flat surface (note that there are two Velcro strips; the wrap works for all of the Kobi carrier sizes). Folded, the wrap fits comfortably in the long side pocket of the carrier (visible in this picture).

The wrap has been secured around the carrier, and I'm showing you the two Velcro-lined strips now positioned on one of the long ends

The wrap has been secured around the carrier, and I’m showing you the two Velcro-lined luggage straps.

 

The wrapped carrier on one of our suitcases -- please note how the Velcro lining lets the luggage straps conform to the shape of the luggage handle -- and indeed, the carrier was held securely in place

The wrapped carrier on one of our suitcases — please note how the Velcro lining lets the luggage straps conform to the shape of the luggage handle — and indeed, the carrier was held securely in place.

The main new feature, though, is the larger size. The carrier I reviewed last year was 18″L x 13″W x 10″ H; in the new line-up, the medium Kobi carrier is just about that size, at 18″L x 12″W x 10.5″ H. The new large size is advertised as 18.5″ x 12″ x 12″ (a hair longer than the large SturdiBag, but otherwise comparable). Tape measure in hand, I checked, and that’s accurate. However, the bag’s weight (it is noticeably heavier than the large SturdiBag) and a long day of use means that sitting here on my in-laws’ couch, the bag falls into a wider, lower shape, more like 11″ tall and 14″ wide. That’s no problem from your pet’s point of view: When she wants to stand up, she’ll push the carrier “roof” up to the full available 12″ (and beyond) if she wants to. I actually don’t mind the effect, since Chloe really spends all of her travel time lying down, and she appreciates the extra width.

The zippered end gusset (and that zipper really could use a lubricating shot of graphite) adds a full 3″ in length to the bag, which Chloe took full advantage of. We gave her the extra room in the gate area, zipped the gusset closed for boarding and takeoff, unzipped for the flight, then rezipped for landing. While the large SturdiBag has some features I prefer (lightweight, a flexible rib supporting the bag’s middle, a “floor” that can be shortened, a top mesh panel you can reach through while the bag is under an airplane seat), it simply cannot get any longer — this carrier can, and those extra three inches are a dream. Two other carriers I’ve reviewed, the Sleepypod Air and The One Bag, can also be extended in length (well, the Sleepypod Air starts out long and can be shortened, but the available length is what I’m focusing on), and they each have admirable features. The large Kobi carrier is unique, however, in providing the extension option in combination with a generous, but still workable height and a workable basic 18.5″ length.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, however, and here’s a picture showing the carrier in action on one of our recent Southwest flights:

The large Kobi Carrier, end gusset zipped closed, in a window seat on a Southwest 737-300

The large Kobi Carrier, end gusset zipped closed, in a window seat on a Southwest 737-300

The large Kobi carrier, still under the same seat, but now with the end gusset unzipped. Because the center of the bag needs to squish a little to dodge the under-seat fixtures, the ends are pulled inwards and you can't see the entire gusset.

The large Kobi carrier, still under the same seat, but now with the end gusset unzipped. Because the center of the bag needs to squish a little to dodge the under-seat fixtures, the ends are pulled inwards and you can’t see the entire gusset.

Still unzipped, but this time I’m pulling forward on the upper edge to show you how much room the gusset actually adds. You can just see Chloe’s white snout and black nose through the mesh, to the right of my hand.

The carrier comes in charcoal, with black trim, and chocolate, with pink trim. The all-black option I reviewed last year has been discontinued, but the charcoal is very discreet (because the carriers I use are pushing, or busting, the upper limits of most airlines’ stated maximums, I choose them in slimming black).

20 comments

  • Bentree's Momma

    I have a question. I’m shopping for a carrier, and of course I’m leaning toward the Sturdibag. Do the long sides have mesh vents? I was thinking they are covered up, but have the option of rolling down, but the photos show otherwise. Does the back have a mesh vent too? The reason why I’m concerned is because I have a pom with very thick fur, and we’re moving to the tropics. I read one of your reader’s post that his dog got warm during the flight, so I’m thinking of bringing a mini, portable fan. I don’t think my dog will like the breeze into his face though, and I’m also thinking about future use. He will probably only fly this one time, but I’m sure we can use the carrier during car rides, vet visits, etc. and am concerned about the heat and the carrier’s “breeziness.”
    Thank you.

  • Lisa

    Thank you so much for the wealth of resources! We traveled with my pup, a Havanese, twice last fall without a problem in a medium Sherpa bag. However, he has now outgrown his Sherpa bag (and both of his parents…) weighs 15 lbs, and is about 11.5 in at the shoulder. He still loves his sherpa bag and is content in it for hours, but he can no longer stand up in it comfortably so it’s time! I’ve been so worried that we wouldn’t be able to fly with him anymore– particularly since portability was one of the many draws of the breed!! I’m so heartened to read all of your reviews and was thinking about ordering the large Sturdibag, but now I saw this review! What would you recommend (one note is that he does look bigger than he is because we keep him in a long puppy coat so he’s very scruffy)? Do you think one is more unassuming than the other? I would never be able to put him under the plane (separation anxiety… In addition to the fact that the idea of having him in cargo sounds terrible regardless) so want to make the safest choice possible!

    Thank you!
    Lisa

  • Hi, Lisa — Both of the bags look pretty unassuming. The post goes through the pluses and minuses of each — you might prefer the Kobi since your pup is a little larger than Chloe, and might appreciate the optional extra length all the time, not just on long-haul trips. I plan to use both bags, but for different purposes — the SturdiBag is lighter, and will work continue to work nicely for shorter and mid-length trips, and I’ll use the Kobi for long-haul and international flights.

  • Hi, Bentree’s Momma — Of course you caught me without my SturdiBag (we’re in FL with the large Kobi carrier instead), but I know for sure that one long side of the SturdiBag has mesh ventilation and a privacy panel that rolls down (we always have it up). Both ends do too — the entrance end entirely, and half of the back end (the lower half is a pocket). The entire top is also mesh, and it too has a privacy panel. We’ve never been concerned about airflow with the bag. I like the mini-fan idea — another reader suggested it, and I plan to put it in an upcoming post. You could also pull his carrier out nto your foot area and direct your (and your companion’s, if you’re traveling with someone else) air down at him.

  • Lisa

    Hi!
    Thanks for the quick reply! You mention that this bag is heavier than the sturdibag… Do you know what it weighs? I can’t seem to find that on the Kobe website! Given Charlie’s weight, and the fact that several airlines seem to follow the 20lb max (they weighed him in the carrier when we flew delta), we definitely don’t want something too heavy, though I love the idea of letting him spread out!

    Thanks,
    Lisa

  • Hi, Lisa — An excellent question, and one I couldn’t answer at my in-laws’ house, since they don’t have a package scale (and their scale for humans is very iffy). Now that I’m home (sorry for the delay in answering!), I can tell you that with the floor tray and pad, but WITHOUT the strap, the carrier weighs 4.6 lbs. You’d take the strap off if you were challenged on the weight by a ticketing agent, of course — but for your own walking-around purposes, you should know that WITH the strap, the carrier weighs as near to 5 lbs. as makes no difference. [I should also mention that in all my time of flying with Chloe (we typically fly on United, Virgin America, Southwest and JetBlue), she’s only been weighed once, about 3 years ago, by a JetBlue ticketing agent. We’ve been asked a handful of times how much SHE weighs, and they’ve accepted our answer (13 lbs.) without verifying.]

  • Sarah

    I’m so excited that you posted this review! We have a small Kobi from our “single dog” days, for our 4.5lb, 8in high pom. We got a second dog earlier this year and have been searching for a bag to take both of them to Turkey this summer (Bartok is just shy of 4lbs). I’m so excited about the new larger Kobi! It is such a wonderful bag! We have had nothing but great experiences with the small one, but obviously it wont fit both pups (without a lot of effort and certainly not for transatlantic travel).

    I have a couple questions: I went to the Kobi site and it looks like the black is not yet discontinued, but I also could not find the luggage wrap. Is the launch of this larger bag slated for a bit later this spring? Again, thank you for reviewing this! I think we will be able to go with what we know and trust and stay with Kobi. They really are beautifully made bags.

  • Hi, Sarah! How nice to hear your excitement about the new bag — it is really great. Now then, despite appearances (and I see that check-box too), the large bag is not available in the stealth black. Go with the charcoal, which is the one in my review’s pictures — it’s a pretty dark grey, and I think you’ll like it. The luggage wrap is not available yet, but will be soon. I don’t know how soon. I’ll be posting my giveaway post for the packet I reviewed (large carrier plus luggage wrap) probably at the end of next week, so you could take you chances with that OR you could order the carrier and wait to order the luggage wrap OR you could order the carrier and go with this alternative, at least in the short term: http://www.dogjaunt.com/2012/08/securing-your-pets-carrier-to-the-top-of-your-wheeled-suitcase-the-bag-bungee/

  • Hi, Ice Pony Girl — You can, but not yet. They sent me a pre-release product, it turns out, and I don’t yet know when it will be on their site for sale. I’d keep checking, because they may not remember to tell me right away.

  • Chloe

    Hi! I have yet another question. Since you suggested this Kobi bag to me in your answer on another post I have been rethinking ordering it to try. We are leaving on our first flight in 2 weeks and I can’t seem to decide on a bag. I bought a cheaper Petco bag that I like because its slightly longer than the sturdibag and that I can load her from the top, however, its really quite flimsy when I carry my crazy pup. I really like the sturdibag because even if she is moving around in the bag it doesn’t flop all over like my cheaper bag. I also like the cartrying strap on the sturdibag because she is very heavy to carry all day. How is the kobi bags sturdiness and is it a comfortable bag to carry? I did see that its slightly heavier but if its carrying strap is comfortable then I would consider trying it.

  • Hi, Chloe! The strap is comfortable (and converts to a leash — very cool), and the carrier is as solid as a rock. The top ventilation panel is on the small side, but it does zip open, so you could conceivably load your pup in through there (I recall that your pup prefers a top entry to the side entrance). No question, the Kobi is a good-quality carrier.

  • Chloe

    Thanks! Yes. Top loading I can trick her in. That’s the only downside to the sturdibag is I have to fight to get her in. I’m going to medicate her so I think loading her in the side may be a little easier with some meds. I like the expandable length with the kobi so may be worth ordering and trying. Thanks so much!

  • Chloe

    I ordered the Kobi bag and tried for the first time this morning and immediately it was the winner. It’s top entry is slightly smaller than most but works great and the bottom is very solid so the dog doesn’t cause the bottom to sag. I’ve very glad I decided to order it. Thanks for the suggestion!

  • Oh, happy days, Chloe! I always wring my hands a bit over recommendations, esp. when there’s a chunk of $$ involved. SO glad it’s a winner!

  • Susan

    Thanks so much for this post. We will be flying our dogs Southwest and it’s nice to know that the large bag works under those seats as ideally I would get that size for one of our dogs.

  • Sad news from Kobi! Prompted by a reader’s inquiry, I just checked Kobi’s website and saw only the Small and Regular sizes for sale. What happened to the Large, I inquired, and here’s what I got back: “Yes unfortunately, our large size is sold out and will be discontinued due to low demands. Please feel free to update your blog post and inform your readers.”

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