I finally got a decent dummy load today. Just tested one of these tiny switching regulators.
It's rated for 3A. I can get about 2.4A out of it before it starts to go into thermal shutdown. That's pretty good for a steady state output. Still got 600mA of peak headroom for coping with transients.
I could compress the components together in my reference design but it would be harder to solder (well, harder to clean up after soldering - getting the excess paste balls out after reflow), and it would be smaller than an LM1117.
You could say I was in lust with them