Dog Jaunt's new pet travel book is now out! Buy it, or learn more about it here. And please review it on Amazon!

Product review: Sherpa to Go Pincheck Folding Car Seat

Normally when I drive with Chloe in a rental car, I keep her safe with a combination of a CanineFriendly 3-in-1 vest harness and the strap from the PetBuckle seat belt harness kit. The two components fit tidily into the PetBuckle kit bag, and occupy almost no room at all in Chloe’s suitcase. When we reach our destination, it’s easy to grab the kit and click her strap onto the rental car’s latch bar.

On this trip, however, I reconsidered. I knew I’d be driving long distances with her, over the course of a couple of weeks. She doesn’t mind the harness and strap combination, but she’s not able to see out the window when she’s wearing it (in fact, she tends to ride spreadeagled across the back seat, anticipating the next sudden curve or stop). She really prefers her car booster seat, but I’ve been unable to find a booster seat that fits her, satisfies my safety requirements, and can fit in a suitcase. So I was intrigued to see a link to a new Sherpa product, the Pincheck Folding Car Seat. The dimensions looked good, I liked how it appeared to be secured to a car, and the marketing blurb said “Folds down for storage and travel.” On the other hand, although I love how the company’s founder pioneered the use of soft carriers for in-cabin air travel, I have never yet found a Sherpa product that I’ve liked (wondering why? to see my reviews of the Sherpa products I’ve considered, please visit my other blog, Pet Carrier Reviews, and click on “Sherpa” in the Manufacturers list).

I made that weighing motion you do with your hands when you can’t decide which option to choose, and ordered the car seat. Chloe and I have been using it now for the past two weeks, and here’s what we think. From Chloe’s point of view, it’s a smash success. It’s a little smaller, and a little shorter, than her own Snoozer Lookout car booster seat, but she fits comfortably in it (and, indeed, spent much of our trip curled up and snoring), and she can see out the window when she wants to.

From my point of view, it’s a mixed bag. I love how happy Chloe is in it, and for once I have nothing bad to say about the quality of a Sherpa product’s design or construction. The car seat is solidly made and downright attractive, and is held firmly to the back seat of a car with the help of three sturdy clips (one on each short side, and the third on the front). Strangely, these clips don’t appear in the product photo on the company’s web site. The lap portion of the seat belt passes around the car seat, and the three clips hold the seat belt in place. Here’s a close-up of how it works:

I used Chloe’s existing harness and buckle combination to clip her directly to the car, via a latch bar, but the booster seat also comes with a strap that can be used to secure her harness to its back panel. I don’t love that option, because the back panel isn’t stiff, and in an accident would pull forward. I think a lot about whether I’ve left the right amount of slack in her harness/strap combo, and a flexible anchor point throws off my calculations. The attachment is there, however, and can be used in a pinch.

My only complaint about this car seat is that it doesn’t fold up particularly compactly for travel. Here’s a picture of how it arrived from the seller, with an iron next to it for scale (hey, it was the only thing I could quickly lay my hands on that’s pretty much a standard size):

This photo is of one of the short ends of the car seat — I should have taken the photo at an angle that also shows one of the longer sides

As you can see, it consists of a thick foam pad, with a removable and washable faux sheepskin cover, which fits into a fabric- and sheepskin-covered, padded, five-sided box, essentially. You open up the box, drop the thick foam pad inside, and the seat is ready for action. However, it takes up a huge amount of suitcase room. We already travel with an enormous suitcase just for Chloe’s gear — to carry this car seat with me, I had to dig out the suitcase we’ve only used twice, for trips to Antarctica and the Arctic.

The red suitcase is Chloe’s normal suitcase — usually we don’t also travel with the Blue Behemoth

It occupied half of that suitcase, and I packed my clothing and hostess gifts for a three-week trip in the other half. When I tell you that I hoisted those bags into and out of a rental car, onto and off of trains, and up and down friends’ staircases, you’ll understand that I resent how much space the car seat takes up. On the bright side, it is very light — and Chloe did love it. The next time I take this kind of trip (a long driving journey, starting away from home), I will certainly bring the Sherpa car seat along with us.

One note of caution: You’ll find that your dog’s fur isn’t the slightest bit contained by the car seat. You could bring along a car seat cover and install it under the car seat (I didn’t, because I was already panicking about suitcase space), or you could do what I did and buy one of those sticky rollers. You’ll want to roll all the loose hair off your rental car seats before you turn it in, so you don’t get charged a cleaning fee by your rental company.