Gauley Fest

September 16-18, Summersville, West Virginia.

May 12, 2011
Outside Magazine
Kokatat drytop

Kokatat Trinity Drytop

Every third weekend of September, some 5,000 paddlers descend on a field by the Gauley River for a weekend of white-water, camping, music, and Woodstock-like debauchery coinciding with a 2,800-cubic-feet-per-second release from the nearby dam. Unless you're an expert kayaker, the best way to enjoy the relentless Class IV–V rapids of the Upper and Lower Gauley is by raft, with North American River Runners ($130–$180 per person; Leave behind the barbecue—there's great brick-oven pizza and local Summersville smoked brisket at the food booths—and prepare for the unexpected: manufacturers give away boats at roshambo tournaments, bands play until the wee hours, sporting events include sumo-suit battles, and mud-wrestling matches occur without warning (don't forget your rubber boots).

Don't sweat the rapids, bro. Kokatat's Trinity drytop, a Gore-Tex shortie with latex gaskets, is just the right amount of layering for the 55-to-60-degree water coming out of the Summersville Dam. $380;