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CampNL 2023 by OF4WD

Posted on August 29, 2023

CampNL just saw it’s 19th year, and although I’ve known about it for about 10 years, this was the first year that I could attend. It was one hell of an event. Each year the Ontario Federation of 4WD Recreationists (OF4WD) host this event with it’s small army of volunteers.

Like many others, I arrived at the venue on Thursday to setup my campsite, which included my new travel trailer, and my usual canopy to store all my stuff. This was the first of three nights at the Kinmount Fairgrounds of which would serve as Basecamp for hundreds of like minded off-roaders.

The organization was absolutely top notch. From registration, to meals, to trail guides, sponsors, and donations to the event…everything was damn near perfect for an event of this size. Okay sure, they’ve had many years of experience putting on this event, but one would still expect a couple snags here and there. Okay…the zip-up hoodies hadn’t arrived Thursday night as expected, but they were there the next day and handed out to those who had ordered the. Hardly a big deal.

Friday was the first of three days on the trails of which you had to register for the night before, and boy did spots fill up fast. I had chosen a trail not ordinarily available (due to it’s proximity to private land) called Norland (it ran right beside the town or Norland). They really should have called it Pinstripe trail though because it was rather over grown. Other than the minor scratches from overgrown bushes and branches, it was a rather nice trail. Unfortunately one of the guys from our group suffered an exploded U-Joint leaving him with only 2WD. It wasn’t a big deal but he did need to be pulled up some of the steeper hills.

The rain throughout the day had certainly made the trails far more difficult than everyone was expecting. All of the groups were expected back at Basecamp in time for dinner around 5pm, but one unlucky group had a really rough day…and night. They didn’t get back until 1am, and many rigs suffered a wide range of damage, including three blown winches, a broken axle, window, damaged U-Joints, doors, and damaged A-Piller. I was very fortunate that I hadn’t chosen that trail for Friday, because without my medical supplies, I would have been in deep trouble.

Saturday was a different trail…Gooderham. This was a trail that I hadn’t done yet this year so I was looking forward to it. I didn’t realize when I signed up for it though that it was being catered towards Newbies. I actually found the day quite frustrating for a few reasons. I’ve personally hosted a few Newbie Runs but this one was especially slow. One of the contributing factors was that, in my opinion, Newbies shouldn’t be on a level 3/5 trail. Most of the attendees had jacked up rigs, with larger than stock tires and lift kits that provided extra ground clearance, but they still managed to get hung up on some of the obstacles. I don’t blame them though, they didn’t have the experience to tackle such a hill. The organizers just should have never selected that trail to begin with.

The other frustrating part was the lack of communication. We shouldn’t be sitting on the trail idling for over five minutes at a time with no idea as to why. This is when radios come in handy. Unfortunately, the trail guides are still using CB radios, which don’t really do the job. You can buy a pair of FRS/GMRS radios for $40 now, and they are far superior in every way over CB radios. When the trail guides can’t even talk to each other because they are too far apart, there is a problem. It’s one that can be easily remedied though, and even most of the attendees showed up with their own FRS/GMRS radios because most off-road clubs use them now.
As it would turn out, I would end up doing the same trail a week later with a similar sized group. And even with having to do full winch recovery of a truck that got stuck in in a mud hole, our pace was nearly twice as fast.

Once back at Basecamp, and putting aside the frustration of the days events, the groups started trickling back in. The rest of the night was chock full of games, a huge feast (everyone says it was quite good), prizes, and a campfire that kept a lot of people socializing late into the night.
Important note…thanks to the efforts of all the volunteers, sponsors, and the attendees, the OF4WD was able to donate $100,000 to the Haliburton Hospital Health Foundation (HHHF). Well done!

With Sunday being our last day, I had decided on a trail that I know well…one that was quite chill, and not overly difficult…Pencil Lake.

I was happy to see that my trail guides from Friday, and some of the other attendees from Friday, had also signed up for this trail. We made excellent time on the trail, stopped for a few photos, and made it to the main feature The Wall. It was here that I was able to put the drone up and get some aerial shots of the area, and some of the other drivers tackling the steep incline. I opted to avoid the climb, because I didn’t want to push my luck. Especially since so many other people had suffered various degrees of damage already over the weekend, and I wanted to end the weekend without any mechanical drama.

Once again, a huge shout-out to all the volunteers, and the sponsors without whom this event couldn’t happen. I even won a full set of metal fender liners from Rough Country that were donated by Deleyes Automotive and Performance from Simcoe, Ontario.

All-in-all, it was a great event, and I met a lot of great people. Hopefully I’ll meet up with some of them again, without having to wait for the next CampNL.

If not, we’ll all see each other again at CampNL 2024.

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