New to the forum here. Posting under Bikepacking but not sure if this is the best category for my question.

Due to unfortunate circumstances for a friend, I was gifted a custom built-up Niner RLT steel. Size is right.
I have returned to touring the highways, but find myself more and more faced with gravel roads that connect paved highways. I currently ride a Bike Friday Pocket Rocket with 1 1/8th tires so you can see the problem.
The Niner offers the off-road capabilities, and I think with the right tires I can be happy on paved roads too.
The gifted Niner has a low of about 24 gear inches, but I'd like to go just under 20 gear inches. It has a 46/30 and 11/34 with 700c tires.

I am thinking of installing a White Industries VBC crank, probably 42/26.
While some might question the loss of the high end, avoiding knee problems is critical, and frankly, I seldom ride 20 mph touring for any length of time. My total equipment weight is 25 lbs.

So if I am totally off base here, advice welcome. Otherwise, what do you think of this option?

Thanks in advance.
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That's a nice gift.  I don't have much touring experience but you already know when riding with a load for a duration the lower gears mean way more the top ones. I'm running a 42x11 top end and it's plenty fast for me without a load. I'm not likely to spin it out on the flats with a load without sucking a draft. My bike came with a 46-34 double and I found I rarely used the high end of the 46 ring and wanted lower than the 34t.  I took a road triple crank and removed the big ring to get an economical 42-30 double with a 11x32 cassette to gear down.  Works great for me and I believe I can swap in a 28t and still make the shifting work if I want to gear down for some loaded rides.  
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I am using a 46t single up front, and an 11-...46 rear? I am not sure what that works out to GI-wise, but it is plenty of high and low, and moving the front ring down a few should get you where you need to be. Oh, this is on an RLT steel as well. 
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26-42 x 11-32 is a great setup for a dirt touring bike. The extra weight of touring gear affects you more when climbing that on the flats so it makes sense to have a bailout ring for climbing. The smaller range cassette then gives you more options to find the right gear when climbing and especially cruising. It is a big jump from the 26 to the 42 but you'll be able to stay on the 42 for most riding so it's not a priority to have perfect shifting on the front.

For touring a nice crankset option is to use a triple crankset and swap the big ring for a chain guard. Then you can have normal-looking wind or thermal pants without having a greasy pant leg. 
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