From PJ's write-up...
"A second "crab", for me at least, is the inaccessibility of the pad for use as a sit-pad during the day at rest stops. An external pad pocket would have been my preference. However, having said that, the ease of loading/unloading and the accessibility provide by this front-loader, might (???) cause me to fetch the pad from the inner recesses of the pack for use if the rest stop was to be of an extended nature. I would never do this with a top-loader that didn't have an ext. pad pocket."
I have found I take fewer breaks (a bad thing) when I don't have access to pad. Given the panel load design, and a healthy use of stuff sacks, access the pad in the Essense should be a fairly quick, and painless(?), process compared to rucksack packs. I'll be interested in seeing how pad access plays out with this pack.
I also think this particular pack lends itself to placing very little inside main body. Which ought to make for unloading/loading it far more easy than a top loader.
Thinking/dreaming out loud...
* insulation layer, hat, gloves, glasses in top lid
* rain jacket under flap or side pocket.
* wind shirt in side pocket (or top lid until I get it all sweaty)
* lunch in side pocket.
* fuel in side pocket.
* TP/gell in side pocket.
* water in side pocket.
* compass, map, camera, journal, pen, snacks, AM in hipbelt pockets.
Which leaves, "evening pouch" (headlamp, 1st aid, fire starter, etc.), other food, stove/pot, bag and shelter inside. Or if I go tarp the shelter outside. Either way that's only 3-4 small-medium SS on the inside on "top" of the pad.
It also seems a bit odd that in Ron's crazy mind didn't come up with a means to provide access. Maybe a Essense mets Starlite type thing??