The dual accessory pockets were great for pens or an old school Nokia phone, but I especially liked the central zip pocket perfect for storing extra coins from world currencies. They didn't clutter up the floor of my bag, and I believe me when I say nothing gets me more urked than reaching into my bag and fingering through undergrowth of pen caps, food, coins, and gum onto get a rogue crumb lodged under my finger nail. Pure hell.
Quilted sleeve fits 15" laptop
The laptop(s) always slept soundly in this rear compartment, which obviously had adequate padding (though I sometimes worried about the bottom of the bag and the impact of placing it on the ground. It's also a nice place for folders and papers.
Fully padded back panel with ventilation channel
The center of the backpack's back has a little air canal amidst mounds of padding for your left and right shoulder/lat areas.
Tricot lined V-loft pocket
I don't know what that description is really talking about, but I enjoyed the soft lining and convenient positioning of the pocket on top. Quite shallow and easy to access, this was perfect for ear plugs, eye cover, aspirin, and anything else I utilized on transportation. Large enough to hold iPods and decks of cards, I really appreciate any bag with a little specialized pocket, for which you can apply a much-needed purpose.
Side water bottle pocket
Also good for catching dirty tissues when your hiking with the swine flu, roll of toilet paper in hand.
Reflective details for nighttime visibility
Yes, this bag can see in the dark.
Side compression straps keep pack close to the body and manage the load
These straps certainly keep the load to the body for enhanced movement, and they also create instant cleavage.
Padded grab handle
When this bag is packed to it's 30.32L capacity, it can be a little too much load for one feeble and travel-weary back. That's when having a padded grab handle comes in handy. Without cutting into your hand as you walk around the airport or museum, you can only blame your discomfort on your poor upper-arm strength.
The Pro/Con Balance
How many runway models, jet-setters, and local inhabitants do you see wandering around cities with backpacks on if they're not business men who bike or obviously going/coming from school? Not many. In certain destinations, backpacks are incredibly vulnerable to petty crime (e.g. bag slashing in Zanzibar's Stone Town). In others, it's just an easy indicator of an out-of-towner, and this sometimes-unavoidable distinction can create more difficulties for the toter.
However, wandering Kata Tjuta's massive, red formations is a perfect opportunity to utilize a bag like the Air Kirkwood. And what was beneficial for me, someone who likes having all their valuables and entertainment nearby, was the fact that the two straps put the load across my entire back and not on one shoulder (like a messenger bag would). Not to say this bag didn't add stress to my frame, but evening out the load makes things much easier on an already fatigued back.
A backpack is, well...to put it brilliantly, a backpack: it must be taken off to be inspected; it can never come across as a purse or a man bag; it immediately makes any ensemble look sporty or ultra-casual. It all depends on how you function on your travels. If you're always running across rocks and plains, hiking up clay-like mud heaps and carrying heavy loads, the Air Kirkwood would fit your needs quite well. However, it's no fun placing your backpack on your front when walking through a crowd or a notorious area for petty crime. Museums hate backpacks and make you store it or hold it at your side.
It's also something to think about how your day pack is carried when you wear your large backpack. I found my combined JanSport Klamath and Air Kirkwood duo was quite uncomfortable while in transit, and I wouldn't want to walk around a city or even an airport too long like this.
The Real Travel Situations
Even fully loaded, this bag fit in every overhead compartment and under every seat in front of me.
The lack of accessories on the front of the pack enable this surface, as well as the padded back, to be used as an impromptu pillow while waiting for transportation or trying to sleep on a plane.
A travel partner in South Africa, to put it nicely, blew chunks (maybe that wasn't such a nice way to put it) all over this fully packed bag. It came out victorious, barely soaking in any of the moisture and keeping my articles dry.
After washing the bag for the first time in the washer, it came out smelling like dirty feet. I don't know what that was about...