Just start doing it. For the first few panos, forget the tech stuff entirely, simply go for some result however imperfect. It will all make sense after the first few exercises. Nothing is more informative than the perspective that comes from actual experience.
On screens of every description all the unmapped hdr files I have viewed have been represented like a regular file with brightness and contrast max'd out.
No matter how many "bits" a monitor may have, they all pretty much have the same brightness range, which on a calibrated monitor is typically a few hundred to 1. Larger monitor bit counts simply adds more gradation, not more dynamic range between bright and dark. And in most if not all cases, hyper-fine monitor gradation will not affect image appearance. Also, most cameras are hard pressed to give you 14 to 16 bits in each channel, and the fine bits are rather noisy in the best of cases. That puts an upper limit on the bit resolution that is meaningful to carry through post. And like it or not, most printers are limited to 8 bits, maybe a few can handle 15 or 16.
And yes, with every additional technical step you lose quality. Don't use hdr unless it will make the image better. Only focus stack when you need to. Compromises are involved, on an image by image basis one must decide whether a certain level of post work will give you a better image, or merely the fun of spinning one's techno gears at the expense of the final result.