I'm in the process of upgrading my Surly Troll commuter for touring, and need a stronger set of wheels. Current wheels are Mavic Crosstrail 26", which are fast and light, but probably not strong enough for loaded offroad touring, with only 24 spokes and fairly narrow width. I rode the C&O Towpath last summer with a very light load, and the wheels were fine, but an upgrade is clearly needed for carrying a load.
Most riding will be on the C&O Towpath and GAP for now, with a little more rugged singletrack in the future. The total weight of bike, gear and rider will max out at around 250 pounds for longer rides.
Here is a photo of what I have so far from a trial run this weekend. Still tweaking the OMM Sherpa racks so the front fender will fit, but this is close to completion.
I'm thinking Salsa Gordo or Mavic EN 521 36-hole rims with XT disc hubs. Currently running Schwalbe Big Apples 26 x 2.35, so the rims should accomodate a tire width of 2.0-2.5. Trying to keep the price reasonable, around $400-500 including rotors and cassette.
May try building these myself, or have them built by a pro, but either way, any suggestions would be most appreciated.