I was about ready to pull the trigger on the SMD Traveler now that it has the hoop stay, but I wanted to make sure I had done my research0. I finally bought a BPL subscription so I could read Will Rietvelds, and frankly, it's got me a little gun-shy. The review mentions the pack performs great with a CCF pad and buklier loads  but doesn't do so well without the CCF or lesser volumes [end edit].
When I first started the hunt for the perfect pack, I had a bulky kit, was looking to carry 20 to 30 pounds regularly, and was willing to carry an extra CCF pad to protect my air mat. I have taken a LOT of advice from these forums, and now I'm down to a 12-13 pound base weight (assuming a 2 pound pack) and don't want to carry that CCF pad. My mid-summer kit fits in my kids school book bag now WITH my giant Taj Mahol of a tent (barely). For Philmont, I imagine I'll still need to carry 25 pounds at times (they issue some pretty heavy food and have some dry camps), but for my weekend trips, I shouldn't ever top 18 or 19 pounds.
To the folks with some miles on the SMD Traveler: What's the functional limit without a CCF pad (but with stays)? Any techniques for compressing the pack when your kit is less bulky? Maybe pack the tent, rain gear, and some other stuff in the mesh pockets when I have a full food load, and move them inside as needed to fill in holes?
I know this is the third or fourth thread I've started on this pack... I just can't afford to go wrong on a purchase this big ($220+ shipping). I appreciate the patience and advice.