So I visited a music store
When I started working on bending I switched a couple (few?) guitars to 9's. Everything else still has 10's. Definitely easier on the bending. But I'm not sure I hear any change/loss in tone. My original thought was after I get some finger strength built up and made some progress on the bending I would go back to 10's. Now I'm not sure that I will.
I remember hearing at some point how SRV had such thick strings for the tone. Maybe at some point I'll try 12's or even thicker just to see if there really is that much difference. But not anytime soon.