Come on peoples... don't be a lurker... post something
Good luggage is a great thing, but I would check with some current volunteers or others that have served in Madagascar to see what they recommend.For me, I have some various Eagle Creek stuff that works great...but remember, anything he brings he may have to lug around long distances and over not so nice terrain. Some 'luxury' luggage has issues, especially if it is wheeled and the wheels are not designed for rugged environments (I'm NOT saying no wheeled - I had wheeled luggage in West Africa, but they were designed for rugged use).This is the wheeled bag I have and have used travelling around: http://shop.eaglecreek.com/orv-trunk-30/d/1279_cl_2364.EDIT: Link doesn't seem to work - name of the bag is Eagle Creek ORV Trunk 30.If this isn't a suprise gift, and he knows you are buying stuff, you may want to grab a copy of his invite, as lots of companies give great discounts on things. I was able to get the above trunk for a significant discount through Eagle Creek's Peace Corps discount.I've never actually been to Madagascar, so I would definitely recommend seeing if you can contact anyone there or who has served there (Future Peace Corps Volunteers Facebook page is a great place to network).
That is awesome that you are so supportive of your friend. I can't say much about luggage, as I went with a second hand suitcase and a backpacking backpack (the pack was the best decision because it made it much easier to carry around). However, I can say some about how much you and your friend can visit. In general, your friend will not be able to have visitors or leave their site during training (3 months) or at the first three months of service, so 6 months in total. However, some posts make an exception about the having visitors during the first three months of service part, so you might be able to visit him a little bit earlier, like the 5th month. After that, volunteers build up 2 vacation days a month, and they can usually borrow 6 months ahead (so, 12 vacation days). However, weekends when they are out of country count as vacation days... so, if your friend has 12 days of vacation, that means that he can leave the country for 12 days- not 16 days like you would be able to squeeze in with a normal job. This makes going back to the states difficult, but if your friend can afford it, it is not impossible. There was one volunteer in my group that went back to the US every other month for a weekend. Of course, that is extreme and is not the norm. Many volunteers make 1-2 trips back to the states and then have people from the states visit them. You can usually stay for about a week without any approval from the peace corps. However, if you are staying with your friend for, like, a month over summer vacation, then pc will have to approve that and your friend will have to explain how you will not disrupt his work and social bonds while you are there. BUT, you can visit as often as you like. One final thing- your friend wont be able to leave the country for the last 3 months of his service, either. So, try not to make any fun plans right before he finishes up.