The most defensive and careful build I could think of: It has both strong pets and is suitable for kiting. The key skill is probably Haunt. Yup, Haunt. That skill nobody seems to like.
Kill speed is slow, survivability extremely high. Its my first HC char and spirit vessel was never triggered (maybe on one disconnect with three elites near me, I wouldnt know). I made it to 50 in patch 1.0.3, did 50-60 once they fixed the pets. Never changed the build except for the runes as they became available.
It worked for a friend of mine too. Also his first HC char, also made it to 60 no problems. He later died to a disconnect.
Some comments on skill and gear choices:
Pets and spirit walk are obvious choices in HC
Grasp of the Dead - Better source of dps than one might think if the pets keep monsters in place. Helps with the kiting if not.
Splinters as the main source of dps - bad for crowds, good for elites. The former mostly kill time, the latter might kill me. 'nough said.
Haunt - the universal solution to everything, if you're willing to take your time. Anything can be successfully kited at minimal risk with haunt.
Spirit Vessel: no brainer
Jungle Fort: no brainer
Blood Ritual: keeps me up when kiting goes less than perfect
Gear: loads and loads of Vit. Apart from the obvious, it makes Blood Ritual better. Not quite true to the Maginot line mentality of this build, I could never get myself to use a shield.
Things I'd change if I ever go into Inferno:
Probably change jungle fort to fierce loyalty now that incoming dmg and jungle fort was nerfed. The reason is the same as leeching beasts over life link: The idea is to have strong pets as the first line of defense. As soon as that is breached, breaks down or isn't working (teleporting elites), go into full kiting mode with haunt. That solves every problem. Just takes a while. In cases of vortex and/or teleporters, just run around a medium sized obstacle and keep out of line of sight.
Depending on the amount of kiting I'd need to do, I'd change the haunt rune to grasping spirit. With the extra slowing and some GotD thrown in, kiting is utterly trivial.