This was a really interesting article! Especially interesting were the results of the various pad configurations. I always wondered about the coiled vs. folded CCF pad. Since I can't use a CCF pad but only carry a 20" x 30" CCF pad for my dog (plus an inflatable for me), I never had a chance to try the coiled CCF pad. I appreciate your including these configurations in your testing!
My own pack is a discontinued SMD pack (2005 model Comet, smaller version of their Starlite), used with the removable stays. The closest to the packs you tested would be the SMD Traveler. I did, on one occasion, carry 35-36 lbs. in it--that was with the stays and with my dog's CCF pad folded in thirds in the pad pocket. My shoulders, back and hips were fine, although my knees and feet were screaming! Re the load lifters--in my SMD pack I do find that they contribute to load transfer, although for me their most important function is to keep the shoulder straps from putting pressure on my extremely pressure-sensitive shoulders.