Ref those side pockets - personally I don't carry any water bottle, not even on any of my trips. Unless I plan to be in the boonies, I can get water almost anywhere. I use the side pockets for other stuff. But it is not about me - a majority of those who have posted photos or replied to threads do so, so as a product developer I have to keep that in mind. Ref top EDC pocket - the new prototype is lined with such a fabric. Unfortunately I'm not the type to put 'sensitive items' in that pocket. It's a quick stash and retrieve of items that I need all the time. The last thing I would do, for example, is to leave my glasses in there. I know some do but I am not going to stash my custom Roka Phantom TI's in there!! When I'm coming in and out of transit airports in foreign countries, I dump all the change in there while on the move and I will organize all that stuff when I get to destination. If you plan to dump keys in there, keep in mind that this fabric is not as durable as say nylon. Ref the second cinch strap - I have to look at the hardware available but making it removable is a possibility although I don't see most removing it if they don't have.