The Best Piece of Luggage for a Six Year Old
My son really needs a decent piece of luggage to travel with. His favorite knapsack has a gaping hole by the zipper, which developed due to massive zipper stress any learning hands will create. Plus, I say he’s ready to handle a more substantial bag with heft and even some wheels to help him along.
Sure, I can get him a cheap rolling soft suitcase that’s specially branded with his favorite cartoon character. Amazon is filled with them.
But I doubt any are really built to last. And perhaps more importantly, I worry they’d provide enough protection for their contents.
Protecting Possessions on the Go
You might be wondering how much protection a few kid’s clothes really need.
But I’m not talking about his shirts and pants. I’m thinking about his prized possessions “de jour” he likes to travel with. In the past, that used to be a few of his favorite stuffed animals. But now, he’s almost six years old, and his favorite toys are clearing evolving into the delicate electronic realm.
Remember that Carrera RC stunt car I got him over the holidays?
And that crummy family Nikon COOLPIX S32 camera?
(He absolutely loves it.)
This is the type of gear he likes to keep close when he’s packing. And I imagine unless my boy suddenly becomes a Luddite, there’s more future tech that’s going to need protection while we travel.
And I’d rather him not use cute luggage made for kids that could disintegrate at any moment.
Sure, one solution is simply to carry his delicate gear in my own luggage until he’s eighteen.
(But how realistic is that?)
I think the better choice is to get him an adult piece of luggage that’s tough enough and simply small enough for him to handle…
(The down side is decent luggage is usually pretty pricey…)
REI or Bust
I’ve always loved shopping at REI. Not that I’m a huge outdoors guy. But I like their stuff. It’s good quality, and yes, I’ve been known to hike a small mountain or two in my time. (Massachusetts’ peaks aren’t very high.)
These days, my wife is leading the way in our family camping experiences.
You may recall my Goal Zero Sherpa 50 battery back-up purchase last summer in advance of our first family camping trip.
(I also picked up a beefy Thule Covert Camera Backpack.)
The REI downside is it isn’t the cheapest place to shop. But I think that economic reality is more reflective of the camping/hiking market anywhere.
(Unless you’re shopping at Walmart… and that inventory is entirely different.)
One factor that softens the REI sticker shock is the 10% rebate you get every year on all of the regular-priced purchases you make as an REI member.
Even so, you don’t go to REI looking for the best prices. You’re there, because you want the product to hold up under tough conditions…
(I think my five year old fits that equation. Plus, he won’t outgrow a piece of luggage any time soon!)
I first took a look at rei.com and perused the wheeled-luggage section. It seemed clear that the 22” bags designed as airplane carry-on luggage would be the right size for my young traveler.
Beyond that, we would need to evaluate the options in person. So it was time for a little father-and-son shopping excursion…
At our local store, I found three similar rolling bags made by Osprey, Eagle Creek and REI:
Osprey Ozone 22”
4 lbs, 5.9 oz
22” x 14” x 9”
Eagle Creek Load Warrior 22” Wheeled Duffel
4 lbs, 13 oz
22” x 14” x 9”
REI Wheely Beast 22” Wheeled Duffel
6 lbs 2 oz
22” x 14” x 9”
I found the biggest difference between the three was the weight differential.
The Osprey was the lightest.
It was really only seven ounces lighter than the Eagle Creek, but my son noticed it immediately.
The REI Wheely Beast was the best deal of the bunch, but it was also almost two pounds heavier than the Osprey! Now that may not sound like a lot, but believe me, when my son picked the heavier REI bag, it was clear what the right choice was.
Not only was the Osprey the lightest. It also has a cool, neon green interior.
That doesn’t quite shout, “This is a cool kid’s bag!” But it definitely has that ‘fun’ vibe.
Plus my son liked the red surface color.
(It also comes in light blue and black.)
…and he also called out the osprey image stitched on the front.
(Which he thought was a bald eagle)
(REI didn’t have chip-card readers installed yet.)
My boy’s tech gear is now safe.
No, I didn’t buy him a hard travel case that can withstand a playdate with a guerilla. But I feel a whole lot better knowing the Osprey will hold together for the foreseeable future.
Plus, when my son outgrows it, it will find a second life as a perfect overnight or day trip bag… for me.
Yes, I like it too.
(Is that so wrong?)
…Just thinking about the future.