> how well do mesh shoes hold up to the off trail travel you do?
Ah well, that depends entirely on the mesh. Some early runners, like the MT100 if I remember correctly, did shred badly. But they were RUNNERS, not trail shoes.
My favorite UL joggers are Australian KT-26s. They have exposed mesh and some suede. I have worn the soles off many pairs - many. I slashed one shoe open on the Larapinta Trail in Central Australia, but that was done with glass-hard (and glass-sharp) rock. It may have been volcanic glass for all I know. Otherwise the mesh has never failed me.
On New Balance shoes, the mesh has also been pretty good. Some earlier models suffered just above the rand on the sole where the shoe flexed: you can see that in some of my reviews. But it should be remembered that ttypically those models had spent a solid 2 months continuous walking in very harsh limestone country, and only showed much damage right at the end. 'Harsh limestone' is a bit like walking through a thicket of bastard-cut horse files. It's bad.
As for damage from sticks or sharp branches - nope, never had any trouble at all. Some of the Australian scrub is harsh beyond belief - especially the fire-burnt stuff. Legendary stuff in fact. But it has never given us any trouble. The sticks break before the nylon is damaged.
The suede covers you get on some shoes may be more abrasion-resistent than the nylon mesh, but the suede can dry out, shrink and crack, with pretty horrible results on the feet inside. (We have been there, and it was ugly.) I prefer straight nylon mesh over suede for this reason.
Summary: damage from sharp sticks is so far down my (our) list of worries that it gets completely ignored.