The Best Airline Approved Pet Carrier and Dog Bag. Sleepypod Air vs. Teafco Argo

From the first day we got Mia, who is a "Yochon" or Yorkshire Terrier & Bichon mix, we wanted her to be accustomed to travel and adventure. Although she's spoiled and wears her small dog syndrome as a badge of honor (barking, territoriality, disdain for large dogs and small kids), she is no delicate flower! In fact, she's downright tough for being only 12 pounds and nine years old. She may be spoiled but we've always introduced her to new experiences and stimuli. She'll bark at intruders but not at fireworks. She'll hike as far as her senior hips allow. And she has more frequent flyer miles than must people.*

In her nine years of flying, we've only purchased two styles/brands of dog carriers. We've never needed a hard crate at home because we gently introduced her to these soft-sided dog bags that she actually enjoys spending time in. We needed these carriers to provide her with the most leg room yet still be airline approved to fit under the seat in front of us.

The first bag we used for several years was Teafco's "Argo" in the large size. This sturdy soft-sided bag has front and back vents for breathability, and front and top zipper openings for accessibility. It has a padded shoulder strap and a side pocket for doggie bags and vaccination documents (required for international travel).

When we encountered a zipper malfunction with our first Argo bag, the company was kind enough to replace the entire bag. They are a great company with many styles of carrier bags and accessories. Our large Argo bag has softened over time and currently measures 19" long x 9" high x 11 wide. It is stained and faded (i.e. well-loved) but still serves as our backup bag.

Click photo to open Teafco's Amazon product page

Click photo to open Teafco's Amazon product page

Our primary dog bag is now the Sleepypod "Air". We had our first Air for 3 years before it wore out from very frequent use. With either brand of bag we'd suggest being patient with the zippers, as they see the most wear. Now that we know to be gentler with the hand strap and the zippers, we think our new replacement bag will last even longer. Despite the shorter lifespan of our first Sleepypod, we still feel that their Air beats out the Argo on features, customization, privacy, and convenience. Not price. At $157 for the Air on Amazon vs. Argo at $103 , the Air is the bigger investment but one we're willing to make for all the convenience it provides.

Below are photos of our new Sleepypod Air as well as Sleepypod's features as listed on their site.

The Sleepypod Air arrives folded and buckled so you can see it's space-saving configuration. It comes with attached buckles that hide away when not in use. These buckles are used for securing seat belts during car travel.

The Sleepypod Air arrives folded and buckled so you can see it's space-saving configuration. It comes with attached buckles that hide away when not in use. These buckles are used for securing seat belts during car travel.

The carrier has a rectangular footprint with approximate dimensions of 22" long, 10" wide, and 11" tall. Because it has a rigid but somewhat flexible frame, some maneuverability is possible for stowing a pet under an airplane seat. In most cases the bag sticks out a few inches from the seat. A picky flight attendant might ask you to push the bag in further. It would be difficult to push the bag under the seat 100% due to the rigidity of the frame. On only 1 flight out of hundreds has an attendant asked us to push the bag in further. (How I get around that, plus other tips, will be shared in my upcoming travel tips blog.)

The carrier has a rectangular footprint with approximate dimensions of 22" long, 10" wide, and 11" tall. Because it has a rigid but somewhat flexible frame, some maneuverability is possible for stowing a pet under an airplane seat. In most cases the bag sticks out a few inches from the seat. A picky flight attendant might ask you to push the bag in further. It would be difficult to push the bag under the seat 100% due to the rigidity of the frame. On only 1 flight out of hundreds has an attendant asked us to push the bag in further. (How I get around that, plus other tips, will be shared in my upcoming travel tips blog.)

When laying on her side, in her natural sleeping position, Mia stretches about 21" long. The bag therefore provides plenty of room to sleep in her natural position with extra space on either side to turn around. The bag is on the heavier side, weighing in at 4.9 lbs (sans dog). Add her 12 pounds and it makes for some sore shoulders with prolonged use. The wide should strap helps and it's length can be adjusted. The hand strap across the top is a vital feature for airline travel, as it allows you to aim the bag under the seat and maneuver through the aisles. Also notice the zipper on the side above the logo. This is a generous sized storage compartment where we keep her travel documents, potty bags, paper towel, and a potty pad. Ok, I'll be honest, we also store a couple pairs of chopsticks and some napkins in case we have an impromptu picnic.

When laying on her side, in her natural sleeping position, Mia stretches about 21" long. The bag therefore provides plenty of room to sleep in her natural position with extra space on either side to turn around. The bag is on the heavier side, weighing in at 4.9 lbs (sans dog). Add her 12 pounds and it makes for some sore shoulders with prolonged use. The wide should strap helps and it's length can be adjusted. The hand strap across the top is a vital feature for airline travel, as it allows you to aim the bag under the seat and maneuver through the aisles. Also notice the zipper on the side above the logo. This is a generous sized storage compartment where we keep her travel documents, potty bags, paper towel, and a potty pad. Ok, I'll be honest, we also store a couple pairs of chopsticks and some napkins in case we have an impromptu picnic.

Air comes with a 1" thick removable plush pad for ultra comfort. The outer plush pad liner zips off for easy washing. The inner pad is nylon and therefore moisture resistant. One of my favorite features (not visible) is the attached interior harness/collar strap. This removable 7" strap clicks onto any harness and allows your pet to remain loosely buckled into the bag with the front flap open. We love this feature when we're dining at dog-friendly restaurants. We can sneak her a treat with the front flap open but we don't have to worry about her running off. Plus it's the perfect length to still allow her to lie down in the bag.

Air comes with a 1" thick removable plush pad for ultra comfort. The outer plush pad liner zips off for easy washing. The inner pad is nylon and therefore moisture resistant. One of my favorite features (not visible) is the attached interior harness/collar strap. This removable 7" strap clicks onto any harness and allows your pet to remain loosely buckled into the bag with the front flap open. We love this feature when we're dining at dog-friendly restaurants. We can sneak her a treat with the front flap open but we don't have to worry about her running off. Plus it's the perfect length to still allow her to lie down in the bag.

This is a dog's view from inside the bag and yet another favorite feature. Double-mesh fabric runs along the entire length of the bag from front to back. It provides breathability yet also offers plenty of privacy. In fact, time after time people are surprised (or downright startled) to find out Mia is in the bag because they are not able to see her through the mesh. This has come in handy on many occasions when we've needed to sneak her into a building and didn't want anybody raising a fuss. Unless someone's a savvy dog owner, the carrier tends to look like a nondescript shoulder bag. Unless of course you buy it in a bright color.

This is a dog's view from inside the bag and yet another favorite feature. Double-mesh fabric runs along the entire length of the bag from front to back. It provides breathability yet also offers plenty of privacy. In fact, time after time people are surprised (or downright startled) to find out Mia is in the bag because they are not able to see her through the mesh. This has come in handy on many occasions when we've needed to sneak her into a building and didn't want anybody raising a fuss. Unless someone's a savvy dog owner, the carrier tends to look like a nondescript shoulder bag. Unless of course you buy it in a bright color.

By opening a piece of Velcro in the front flap, you can slide an included piece of black plastic between the two layers of mesh. This provides an added layer of privacy for your pet. The plastic panel completely blacks out the mesh on 1/2 of the bag. If you wanted to black out both the front and back mesh, you'd have to purchase an extra plastic panel from the company. We have indeed purchased an extra piece for those times when we didn't want Mia visible or we didn't want her to feel anxious about her surroundings. But be cautioned: using two blackout panels will reduce the amount of air getting into the bag. The pet would still get air through the top mesh, but the reduced ventilation can quickly cause the interior to become hot and humid. The panels should only be in the down position for short intervals. When not needed, they simply slide up towards the top of the bag leaving the front and back mesh exposed.

By opening a piece of Velcro in the front flap, you can slide an included piece of black plastic between the two layers of mesh. This provides an added layer of privacy for your pet. The plastic panel completely blacks out the mesh on 1/2 of the bag. If you wanted to black out both the front and back mesh, you'd have to purchase an extra plastic panel from the company. We have indeed purchased an extra piece for those times when we didn't want Mia visible or we didn't want her to feel anxious about her surroundings. But be cautioned: using two blackout panels will reduce the amount of air getting into the bag. The pet would still get air through the top mesh, but the reduced ventilation can quickly cause the interior to become hot and humid. The panels should only be in the down position for short intervals. When not needed, they simply slide up towards the top of the bag leaving the front and back mesh exposed.

With the blackout panel slid to the top, Mia is barely visible yet has plenty of ventilation and can view her surroundings.

With the blackout panel slid to the top, Mia is barely visible yet has plenty of ventilation and can view her surroundings.

During the day, whether we're home or not, sometimes Mia will climb into her bag for a rest. She absolutely loves her Sleepypod...it's her safe space and her home within our home.

During the day, whether we're home or not, sometimes Mia will climb into her bag for a rest. She absolutely loves her Sleepypod...it's her safe space and her home within our home.

Sleepypod Air color chart and feature list via Sleepypod.com

Sleepypod Air color chart and feature list via Sleepypod.com

In addition to all these great features, we're happy to report that Sleepypod is a California-based company with a retail store in their Pasadena headquarters. For us, that means shopping local. Yay!

However, as with any product, there are a few potential drawbacks with the Sleepypod Air:

Offgassing: Because this product is primarily nylon, it will likely have a plastic odor when it first arrives. I'd suggest airing it out overnight before introducing your pet to the bag. You wouldn't want them associating the bag with a bad odor. It actually took Mia several weeks to transition from her Argo bag to her Air. Once she began voluntarily using it there was no looking back.

Weight: Like I mentioned, at 4.9 pounds this carrier is on the heavy side. That's a sacrifice we're willing to make because it's so feature rich and heavy duty. The Argo bag is not significantly lighter at 4 lbs (including a liner we added aftermarket).

Velcro vs. Snap Closure: In their latest model, Sleepypod has swapped out a metal snap for a Velcro closure in order to keep open (fold inward) the front flap. While the Velcro works for now, I felt the metal snap was plenty secure and didn't run the risk of getting full of fuzz and hair like Velcro does. Only time will tell if the Velcro wears out and we have to replace it.

Longevity: As I've mentioned, be gentle with the zippers in order to extend the life of this bag. Additionally, the stitching that affixes the hand carrier strap to the top of the bag did wear out on our first bag. While we could have gotten this repaired, it's still a potential vulnerable area to monitor. The bag has a 1 year limited warranty.

So this is probably the longest blog you've ever read dedicated to the review of a pet carrier. But because good quality pet carriers are expensive, we feel it's a purchase that's well worth the research. Although designed for air travel, the right bag may just end up being your pet's favorite accessory. If you're ready to try the Sleepypod, keep reading for a discount on your purchase.

Province does not have any endorsement deal, affiliation, or get free products from Sleepypod or any other product mentioned in this article. Upon purchase of our Sleepypod we were provided with a coupon code to use on our next purchase. Because the code is public, we're happy to pass it along to readers. For 10% off your next purchase on Sleepypod.com use code AR14. We get nothing when you use the code. In fact, we'd be grateful if you buy on Amazon through our affiliate link. Amazon affiliate sales help pay to keep this site running and you'll probably save a few bucks too.

Stay tuned for a future post in which I share our best pet travel tips. Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for the latest @ProvinceJournal.

*Curious where Mia has traveled? Our intrepid explorer has trekked Canada from Victoria Island in the West to Prince Edward Island in the East and everywhere in between from Banff to Montreal to Halifax. For all her love of the provinces, she's an urban hound at heart and has lived in Portland, Oregon, Detroit, Chicago and Los Angeles. She rode a dune buggy on the shore of Lake Michigan and ascended the winding elevations of Mt. Hood and Yosemite. She's sniffed the seabreeze of the Northumberland Strait and island hopped the Florida Keys. She has spent countless nights at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills and is probably the first and only dog to walk the red carpet with Robert Duvall and Neil Patrick Harris. She's been pampered poolside atop a skyscraper in Miami and has barked in the Embarcadero. But it's her humble life at home she perhaps loves the most. Mia howls with wild abandon when we pull into the driveway after time on the road. At home she's a sun worshiping, lizard chasing, squirrel terrorizing, messy haired, DOG who lives to sniff the dirt and collapse in a human lap from exhaustion of a life well lived.