What's the least annoying extroot config?

I want to use a small device with extroot in the least annoying way possible.

The recommended way seems overly convoluted and annoying to update.
Like smallest amount of change in the build system to automatically build it in my CI.
Least time overhead to update the thing.

I need to build a custom image anyways.
Most config defined at build. Opkg and dynamic stuff hardly interesting.

I wish I could just directly boot from any usb storage.
(TL-WR902AC v1)
Did anyone test that with the standard bootloader?
What's the canonical way to set bootloader environment?

Could you recommend me some stuff?

Depending on how well the device can be opened and closed I wonder If I should just solder a huge flash chip in it. Maybe even RAM if feasible. Got sop8 SPI and a pile of desktop dimms to butcher. But that doesn't smell time effective and the case seems to be not made for opening again.

The be frank, the least annoying extroot config would be a device that doesn't need/ configure extroot in the first place, fortunately devices with >=16 MB flash are available these days (including on the used markets), but obviously doesn't help you with the TL-WR902AC v1. extroot does add annoyance by its very nature (in the sense of it becoming invalid over a sysupgrade and the need to re-setup it again), given the hardware constraints - what you consider too much of an annoyance or acceptable is subjective though.

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Boot loader questions are kind of OT here, we use them, but we seldom modify them.