#3
I just use the lightest gauge I can without bending the strings at all while fretting them. so I usually tune down to D standard with 9's. My strat is almost always in Eb standard and I use 9's for that as well.
#4
I'd use 13's. Might be a little loose though.
Gear...
Peavey 5150, Squier, Ibanez RG2EX2, Yamaha F150, Ibanez RT150, MXR noisegate