MTB for touring
I am in India and do some touring among the hills/mountains in the North. Most roads in the interiors need MTBs, and I have been touring on an Indian-made steel 'Hercules' mountain bike that weighs way too much. Cro-moly frames are not available here, so I have been thinking of getting an alloy frame bicycle.
Recently, there have been lots of companies coming in here (Trek, Merida, etc.), but all of them have bicycles that are not suitable for loaded touring. I am looking for an MTB with a hard tail and rigid fork. The store near where I live can get a Trek for me (models which they do not normally stock - they have the 3700, 4300, etc. etc.). So, I have been going through the Trek website and the only model that caught my eye was the 3500. My budget will not go beyond the 4300, so there are probably not many options. So here is my question. How is the 3500 for touring with panniers? I will be using mostly rear panniers but need the option of a front rack as well. Also, is there any other similar Trek model probably not on the website?
Thanks a lot in advance.