First, I tried a Voodoo Tactical Matrix pack. It is a great design with lots of great pockets for easy access to often needed items. Problem is that it has a weird carry-handle. It is on the strap assembly and is positioned such that the pack can only be comfortably worn by someone with a major bulked-up muscular set of shoulders, a large dowager's hump or severe curvature of the spine. I couldn't believe it when it came in the mail. I figured it would no longer whack me in the cervical vertebrae once I load it because surely no pack would be made to have that weird handle smacking the back of the wearer's neck. Boy was I wrong. About 5 minutes of wearing this thing gives me a headache.
Back to Maxpedition for me, and the Falcon. Pockets and pouches are not as well done as the Matrix, but it had a normal carry-handle, as opposed to the migraine Matrix. The Falcon has the room I need but not a whole lot more than the Pygmy II -- just a slightly larger version. Because of that, the straps aren't as comfortable as the Pygmy, either. At least it does not fit a female frame the same way the Pygmy Falcon does. I am really stumped.
Anyone have/recommend a 1600 Cubic Inch pack that works for a female around 5'6" tall? How about someone who solved the Matrix problem, perhaps with scissors and thread? I'm afraid to just cut the handle for fear of ruining the pack for return or resale, but I sure can't use it as is. I prefer not to have a pack with a frame for several reasons, but really want the hydration system and a waist belt. Help?