I'm a photographer too, and I have bought a lot of small cameras over the years. Objectively, my best backpacking camera is the little Panasonic P+S camera, I think it's the ZS1, with a 25-300 (eq) lens with optical image stabilization. Fits in a shirt pocket, takes reasonably good photos, cost about $120 at Costco (so I don't really care if I trash it.) I should love this camera for hiking. Meh.
I also have the much larger and heavier Canon G7, with plenty of manual controls. But the image quality isn't really much better -- all the little sensor cameras start to suck pretty hard at ISO 400, and it's noticeable even in small prints. They have effectively infinite depth of field, lots of noise even at base ISO, and lousy dynamic range. The G7 was my hiking and travel camera for years, and I was never really satisfied with it. I don't think that there's much difference in image quality between the expensive models and the cheaper versions when you are looking at those tiny sensors.
So. The camera that actually goes with me on most trips is my Panasonic GF-1, with the 20mm f/1.7 lens and the optional viewfinder. Sure, it has no zoom range, and it's heavy and bulky and expensive. But the image quality from the micro-4/3 sensor is very good, I get much more control over the exposure and DOF, and I'm much happier with the final prints. So far I have resisted the urge to bring any other lenses with me, but if I did it would be the 14mm, and I would love to own the 7-14 zoom.
Hope this helps.