September 16-18, Summersville, West Virginia.
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; narr.com). 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).
Kokatat drytopKokatat Trinity Drytop
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; kokatat.com
Merrell Trail Glove Shoes
Merrell shoesMerrell Trail Glove shoes
For day hikes, swap out your Chacos for the more protective but equally light and breathable Merrell Trail Glove shoes. At 6.2 ounces, these barely-there kicks are almost entirely waft-friendly mesh, save for the scramble-ready Vibram sole and fused toe bumper. $110; merrell.com
Primus Profile Duo Camp Stove
Grill pancakes on one side and brew coffee on the other with the stainless-steel, propane-powered Primus Profile Duo camp stove. The burner cranks out 12,000 BTU per hour, the grill 9,700. $120; primuscamping.com
Big Agnes King Creek 6 Tent
Avoid the din of all-night drum circles by pitching your Big Agnes King Creek 6 tent in the most remote grove of trees. The 110 square feet of vestibule space accommodates loads of wet gear, while the 87 square feet of floor space lets you host your own exclusive after-party. $450; bigagnes.com
Aire Outfitter II Kayak
Take it easy on the seven-mile Class III middle stretch of the Gauley in the Aire Outfitter II, a 12.5-foot tandem inflatable kayak with large-diameter tubes, a low center of balance, and almost 19 inches of bow and stern rise for quicker turning. $1,392; aire.com
Mountain Hardwear MegaLamina Bag
After a day of soaking and squelching, crawl into the two-person Mountain Hardwear MegaLamina bag. Welded construction eliminates sewn-through cold spots, dual footbox zippers let bootie-saturated feet breathe, and an extra-wide cut allows tossing and turning. $200; mountainhardwear.com