Mountain Buggy’s Bagrider is a sturdy suitcase on wheels with a detachable seat for transporting your toddler and their belongings through airport terminals in one compact package. It can be used for children from nine months old (or when your child can sit unaided) until three years old (or 15kgs).

The Bagrider has been designed with international travel in mind, to be used from check-in (where you usually have to leave your stroller) until you reach your seat on the plane. (Obviously, you’ll have to remove your child when going through security and when using stairs and escalators!)

Everyone that lays eyes on the Bagrider says the same thing: “such a great idea!” While I agree, the Bagrider has some drawbacks you should know about before buying.

Set-up

The cushioned seat is easy to slip over the extendable handle (and has a handy pocket on the back for travel documents), but you have to unzip the suitcase slightly to hook the crotch-strap into a tab inside the suitcase.

Now to the first drawback … The Bagrider has a clunky dial mechanism for switching between bagrider mode and cabin-bag mode. I found it took considerable force to move the dial and it kept getting stuck in bagrider mode. To lock it into cabin-bag mode, I had to lay the suitcase flat and press on the back. This would be awkward in the narrow aisle of an aeroplane.

Ease of use

I took the Bagrider for a spin with 15-month-old Oliver, who weighs 11kg, and three-year-old Rosie, who’s just shy of the Bagrider’s 15kg weight limit, and it coped well. The harness fitted both snugly and was easy to adjust.

With a child on board, it was easy to pull behind me and felt surprisingly steady when rolling over smooth surfaces but felt awkward and unwieldy when I tried pushing it — mostly because the handle wobbles when fully extended.

The Bagrider has two sets of wheels — the second set are on a “kickstand” that flicks out the back and locks into place. The wheels are small so it feels unsteady on even the smallest bumps — like going between carpet and tile flooring. This limits its use outside of airport terminals.

Safety

Mountain Buggy has done what it can to make riding atop a carry-on suitcase safe: the five-point harness fits snugly and the back legs can’t click back into the suitcase without first lowering the pull handle. The absence of a brake is a good thing: if it had a brake, users may feel it’s OK to let go of the handle while a child is strapped in.

As long as you use common sense and follow every airport’s number one rule to never leave your baggage unattended, no toddlers should come to any harm.

The major drawback

The Bagrider’s most obvious, and annoying, drawback is its 5kg starting weight. That leaves you a mere 2kgs, assuming you want to stay under the standard economy-class 7kg weight limit for carry-on baggage. I packed it with a few toddler essentials for a long-haul flight — a sleep sack, several changes of clothes, nappies, snacks, a favourite toy and a couple of books. There was room to pack more (it has a 35L capacity) but I’d already reached 7kg.

Some airlines have different cabin baggage allowances, so check the allowances of airlines you fly with regularly before buying. You may also get caught out by the Bagrider’s linear dimensions (length + width + height). It fits within Air New Zealand’s maximum (118cm) but is too big for several other airlines that fly from New Zealand including Jetstar, Emirates, Qantas and Virgin Australia.

If Mountain Buggy could shed a couple of kilos off the Bagrider it would be much more useable, especially once your kids have outgrown it as it can be used as a regular carry-on suitcase.

Verdict

If your toddler’s a regular international traveller, the Bagrider could come in handy (as long as you pack lightly or fly with airlines with generous cabin-baggage allowances).

If you decide to buy, practice using the dial mechanism and attaching/removing the seat before taking your Bagrider on its maiden voyage.

Bagrider

Price: $149
Age range: 9 months (when child can sit unaided) - 3 years
Weight: 5kg
Maximum load: 15kg (a child on a bagrider)
Dimensions (HxWxD): 520mm x 380mm x 260mm
Suitcase volume: 35L

First Looks are written from the perspective of our product experts. Our lab-based tests offer truly objective product comparisons.

by Libby Manley