I was getting myself excited about a leftover Novara Randonee, then justified the LHT complete to myself, then I came to my senses. I should start out with a summer of touring on the bike I have.
I have a 2006 Kona Jake, which is my daily 3 season commuter that already has a rear rack and full fenders. This bike sees no salt, I have a winter bike for that. I'm comfortable on the bike for long distances, and ride it loaded regularly with 15 - 40 lbs in rear panniers. If my first year of loaded touring will consist of 3-4 rides lasting 3-5 days each, any reason not to just use what I have, even though I've got the bug to buy a touring bike?
For touring use, I'd consider swapping in a higher rise stem, clipping on a front rack/panniers to dist weight, and somehow add a handlebar bag. I wouldn't change the gearing or shifters.
Here are some pros and cons that come to mind:
heel clearance with panniers is fine.
geometry is relatively slack, and handling isn't "twitchy"
strong, true Sun rims with Deore hubs that have held up to potholes for a year now.
comfort and fit are very good
gearing is 30/42/52 front, 8speed 12-25 rear, which I like for fast commuting and use the high gears.
I can only fit 28mm tires under my fenders
center of gravity is high compared to a more traditional bike, which might be fatiguing