American Adventurist Down Under

Halls Gap

A seven day solo motorcycle adventure touring Australia’s Grampians National Park, Great Ocean Road, and Blue Mountains National Park with resources and advice on what to bring, what not to bring, and suggestions for what to do when you get there.

Day 1: Arrival and Picking Up the Bike

BMW R1200GS Rallye

I had reserved a BMW R1200GS with BikeRoundOz since I currently own and ride the same bike. I wouldn’t be dealing with becoming familiar with it or how it handles while at the same time getting learning to ride on the left. What I didn’t know was that they had set me up with a Rallye. This is a sweet bike.

One reason why I brought a JetBoil was that I knew Anaconda in Melton had the fuel. I would have to leave the fuel behind when I flew home, but the stove itself would be free of fuel residue and I could bring it back. I spent some time in the hotel checking everything again before repacking it on the bike.

After the bike was packed I needed to pick up the few things I could not bring with me. Isobutane fuel for my JetBoil, etc.. After that I’d head back to the hotel. Get something to eat. The next day I hit the road early.

Anaconda is a relatively small store and I wasn’t expecting the gold mine I found inside. A far cry from the average sporting goods store back home in the states.

Anaconda Watergardens
Dometic. Dometic everywhere!

Day 2 & 3: Grampians National Park

Habits and Grampians National Park
Something wrong? Yes. I’m on the right (wrong) side of the road.

Finally! After months of planning and waiting, after endless mundane logistical details, I’m on the open road in search of Adventure in Australia!

This was the first area that I set out to explore. Dirt roads in every direction beckoned me and tempted me to explore further. I did some exploring, but I had to remind myself that I was there riding solo, that even though I did have a Spot 3 satellite GPS messenger with me that I wasn’t invulnerable. Alone in a foreign country it’s always wise to use the KISS principle and stick to your plan as much as possible.

I camped at Smiths Mill Campground in Grampians National Park. Very close to the MacKenzie Falls which requires a reservation. Plenty of trees for the hammock and providing shade. There’s even a bush shower.

Grampians National Park
Smiths Mill Campground in Grampians National Park

The second day was a hike down to the base of MacKenzie Falls is about 1.6 miles (2.6 km) round trip. It’s an in and out trail with narrow steps that will allow only one person to pass at a time in either direction. The total descent is approximately 270 feet. After my day hike it was time for packing up and heading out.

MacKenzie Falls Grampians National Park
MacKenzie Falls Grampians National Park, Victoria, Australia

On my way out of Grampians National Park I encountered an Emu wandering down the middle of the road. One piece of advice given to me was avoid traveling at night because Kangaroos and these guys like to hang out on the road and can ruin your night.

Grampians National Park Mount William
Grampians National Park Mount William, Victoria, Australia

You’ll also notice the black fire scars on almost all the tree trunks here. Late evening on 19 January 2006 a lightning strike on Mount Lubra (later renamed to Mount Warrinaburb) started a bush fire. By the time it was extinguished it had burned for approximately two weeks and covered approximately 130,000 hectares of land.

Day 4: The Great Ocean Road, Rain, and a Malfunction

Apollo Bay Great Ocean Road
Apollo Bay Great Ocean Road
Great Ocean Road
Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road, Victoria Australia
Great Ocean Road
Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road

Of the two days I encountered rain I would compare both to the spin/rinse cycle of a washing machine. It would pour. Then the sun would come out and I would quickly dry off. Then it would pour again. Rinse. Repeat. Thankfully, I did get a chance to visit the ocean again later and in much better weather.

I camped at Parker Hill in Great Otway National Park. This is an awesome campsite overlooking the beach and reservations are required. Given the inclement weather I had arrived cold and wet and it took me a while to dry out. Thankfully, the hill is protected by substantial tree cover that helps shield against ocean winds.

Being Prepared

In my previous article Choosing the Right Tent The First Time, I stressed anticipating dramatic changes in the weather and this is why. Seasons are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere so January and February are Melbourne’s hottest months with the interior seeing temps of 110° F. Given that I have limited carrying capacity on a motorcycle, I had contemplated bringing just the Klim mesh suit but that left me without rain protection so that thought was immediately dismissed. The BMW Rallye suit would be hotter and uncomfortable at times but I would have to deal. This decision paid off with the unseasonably cold and wet weather. After putting the rain liners into the jacket and pants I was warm again and drying out.

Day 5: A Pit Stop to Change Bikes then on to Wagga Wagga

Parker Hill camp the next day. The bike wasn’t liking the weather either. In the morning the bike’s throttle was sluggish and the check engine light came on. After breaking camp and packing I let the bike idle for a bit. A few miles later things were back to normal but the code wasn’t clearing. Nothing but guesses as to the cause. As I rode on I had an internal debate about the merits of heading back to Melton to swap out bikes and losing a day, or continuing on as-is with a check engine light on. The entire time the debate raged in my head I was heading back to Melton. I will miss the Loch Ard Gorge and the day I had planned to tour the coast.

The Melton Pit Stop

BikeRoundOz had me back on the road pretty quick. From rolling into the depot on the R1200GS Rallye, to moving panniers and everything over to an F800GS, to rolling out was only an hour and 30 minutes. The trip back to Melton itself had cost me most of the day. I’m quite familiar with marathon miles on a bike. 500-700 miles in a day is my typical ride in the states. I could make up the lost time if I hustled and that was my plan. I made reservations at the Prince of Wales Motor Inn over in Wagga Wagga New South Wales and hit the road. The weather had turned for the better and I was feeling good with the wheels turning and the miles stacking up behind me.

F800GS on the A41, Evans Plains New South Wales

(At this point I also decided to swap the helmet camera to time lapse. The SD card was filling quickly. Battery drain for video was also an issue.)

I rolled into hotel’s parking lot at 9:40 pm with about a half gallon of fuel in the tank. I was on fumes as well. The proprietor had stashed the key to my room and told me where he hid it. There was even milk for tea. Every battery was in need of a full charge, and I was in need of a hot shower and sleep so I wasted no time.

Prince of Wales Motor Inn

Day 6: Blue Mountains National Park

Boroka Lookout Grampians National Park
Boroka Lookout Grampians National Park, Victoria, Australia

The small part of Grand Canyon track lays ahead of me. The Blue Mountains are a hiker’s paradise. The trails date back to 1825 and features one of the most extensive trail systems in Australia. What little exposure I give it here does not do it justice!

Evans Lookout, New South Wales Australia
Blue Mountains National Park, Evans Lookout, New South Wales Australia
Evans Lookout Sundial Blue Mountains National Park
Blue Mountains National Park Grand Canyon Walking Track, Victoria, Australia

This night I stayed at Murphys Glen campground in Blue Mountains National Park. It’s a free primitive campground reachable only by 2 track or 4WD.

Murphys Glen campground in Blue Mountains National Park.
Murphys Glen campground in Blue Mountains National Park.

Day 7: Wagga Wagga Again

Getting There. Old School
Getting There. Old School

Packing up at the Blue Mountain campsite, it was time to head back. When I get back in to Melton I will have covered 1764 miles, but first I had one more night. I decided to spend that night at the Prince of Wales Motor Inn again. Making sure I had a room when I rolled in late the first time was appreciated. I felt choosing to stay there again was a good way to show that appreciation. And perhaps showing up at a reasonable time too.

But I can’t say my motives were entirely altruistic. The first time I stayed there I noticed a brewery was right next door. When in Australia one must do as the Australians!

Prince of Wales Motor Inn
A celebratory conclusion at the Prince of Wales Motor Inn

Logistics Again

The gear
MSR, JetBoil,Hennessy, and BMW Motorrad gear

Back at Melton and BikeRoundOz it’s time to get back into street clothing and unpack the bike. Time to deal with the explosion of gear everywhere and then the repacking for the trip home. Cheers to BikeRoundOz for tolerating the use of your garage and office space for this. I also found out what happened to the Rallye. They had brought the bike to a dealer and had it serviced. After the code was cleared they couldn’t find anything wrong with the bike. Damn the luck.

An Epilogue to an Adventure

The first half of this adventure ends here. The second half of my trip was for the wedding of my Brother and his Fiancée. I’ll skip the wedding photos but there are parts that are relevant and would fit in well with any adventure tour of Australia.

Healesville Sanctuary

Healesville Sanctuary
Healesville Sanctuary, Victoria, Australia

Formally known as the Sir Colin MacKenzie Sanctuary, it is located in Badger Creek, Victoria, Australia. About an hour’s drive east north east of Melbourne. Healesville Sanctuary specializes in native Australian animals. Keeper talks offer an opportunity to hear about the animals, their care, and the conservation work being done for various species in Australia.

Mount Martha Victoria, Australia

Mount Martha Victoria
Mount Martha Victoria, Australia

The town dates back to the 1840s and today it’s a vacationer’s beach town. If you are planning on following the Australian coastline on your Oz adventure it’s a good place to swap things up from camping and still put your toes in the sand and get your feet wet (far better than a cold and wet rain storm too).

Highway Travel in Australia

I stayed on the backroads as much as I could. I found it refreshing. The temptation to get from point A to B the fastest possible way to maximize your time is really strong. As a result you can make your way across the entire United States on our interstate system isolated from the local communities stopping only at gas stations, hotels, motels, and dining on fast food and chain restaurants. Honestly, you miss a lot of the U.S. that way. An Adventure isn’t just full throttle point A to B. It’s about exploring the spaces in between as well. Take the main streets of small towns.


Stick to the speed limits
Stick to the speed limits

Don’t. There isn’t the leeway you will find here in the U.S., and there is no such thing as going 5 or 10 over the speed limit and being “ok”. The police are extremely rigorous when it comes to speeding, and speed cameras are used in cities and on the major highways. So keep to the limits and obey all traffic laws.

Dangerous Environments

You’ll hear the phrase “everything in Australia can kill you” before you go. Yes. It can happen but it’s rare. There are some simple things you can do to keep yourself out of trouble when in the wild. Most importantly if you see a sign warning you to avoid an area then don’t ignore it.

Wear appropriate boots that protect your ankles and toes from snakes when walking in the bush. Armored ADV boots are perfect. Snakes usually avoid being out in the open and are often hiding underneath bushes, stacks of leaves, or other ground debris.  Keep your body parts off, out, and away from these areas and always look before you sit anywhere. If you are not a meal snakes will prefer to leave an area and avoid the encounter. Announce your presence by walking heavily.

Make it a habit to always keep mosquito net zipped up by closing it behind you as soon as you exit/enter. Don’t leave your gear outside your tent at night. Spiders or other critters may make a home out of them. If keeping your gear inside a tent isn’t an option then check the gear before putting it on or stowing it. Don’t place a hand inside or underneath. Flip and shake out your boots. Grab a camp chair by the back and flip it over to expose the underside before folding it up.

Getting There

Dawn UAL98 Over The Pacific
Dawn UAL98 Over The Pacific

There is simply too much for me to cover every item and situation when traveling to Australia. What’s included here is the information that I needed for my trip, some general advice, and a list of basic resources to give you a head start for your Australian Adventure.

AU Government

AU Parks

AU Camping

AU Gear

US Government

Traveling With Medication

You must declare medication on your Incoming Passenger Card (IPC). Don’t bring someone else’s medication. Ensure the medication remains in its original packaging with the dispensing label intact. All medications containing codeine will require you to bring the prescription from your Doctor. Just to be on the safe side it is advisable to have a letter or a prescription from your doctor or practitioner. You will need special permission to bring more than a 3 months’ supply of medicine into Australia.


This was my carry-on. Why not? Right? In it I had placed my spare (uninstalled) lithium batteries. Spare lithium batteries (both lithium metal and lithium ion/polymer) are prohibited in checked baggage. My personal hygiene kit. My Spot and Garmin GPS electronic devices. Contact your airline in advance. Ensure the backpack conforms to their carry-on size restrictions. I don’t recommend it but if checking your backpack then ask if it can be placed in a container or use heavy duty wrapping plastic to secure the straps to keep them from getting caught in the conveyor belts and to deter theft of opportunity. Also consider how you will accomplish this if checking your backpack on the return trip as well.

Camp Stoves

Camp Stoves must be free from fuel fumes emitting from the stove. Camping fuel, burning paste, etc. are prohibited for obvious reasons. These items must be obtained at a camp store after you arrive.

Insect Repellent

It’s a must-have. The liquid limits apply when carrying these in your carry-on bags so pack it in your checked baggage.

Australian Biosecurity

Australian biosecurity laws are very strict. This is to protect agriculture and unique wildlife from invasive species and diseases. Check with the Australia Department of Agriculture and Water Resources for what you need to declare. When in doubt just declare it. Also make note that you must declare on your Incoming Passenger Card (IPC) if you have visited a rural area or been in contact with, or near, farm animals in the past 30 days. Clean your tent spikes before you pack!

Food Items

I brought freeze dried camping food and declared it on my Incoming Passenger Card (IPC) and had no issues. I could have gone through customs faster though so just leave food items at home. Plan on stopping by a camping store like Anaconda and/or a market after you arrive to get fuel, insect repellent and camp food.

Camping equipment, including backpacks

To protect Australia’s livestock industries from foot-and-mouth disease and African swine fever the biosecurity officer will be inspecting items for soil and/or manure that is being carried with them. Thoroughly clean and dry your equipment before you travel to Australia. Don’t forget to clean your tent pegs.

Freshwater recreational and water sport equipment

Didymo (Didymosphenia geminata) is a cool, freshwater algae that forms thick mats which smother river beds. It is almost impossible to eradicate and takes just a single live cell to establish and spread. While not present in Australia, it has invaded rivers and lakes in Europe, Asia, North America and New Zealand. Special care is therefore required when bringing equipment into Australia that has been used in fresh water overseas. You must declare freshwater equipment on your Incoming Passenger Card (IPC). It must be thoroughly cleaned to remove any algal clumps, and be completely dried for inspection in Australia.

Choosing the Right Tent The First Time

Tent in the snow

The right tent can make all the difference on a trip, and there are many different styles of tents and modes of travel to consider before making a purchase.  Choosing the wrong tent can be an expensive mistake, and make your camping experience memorable for all the wrong reasons.  If you are new to all of this, or just buying a tent for the first time, these are some of the most important questions you will want to consider before you spend your hard earned cash.

How are you getting to camp?

Or what activity are you planning?

If it’s human powered then you’re walking/biking/climbing/etc. there.  You’ll want a lightweight and compact backpacking tent since you will be carrying it and everything else you need to live.  Ideally it should weigh about 2 pounds per person and fit inside a pack.  Lightweight is GREAT.  Groups can carry larger multiple person tents by splitting the load (and perhaps the cost) between people.  Distributing the weight equally between packs and rotating the duty of carrying the heaviest components makes for a better trip.  Another super lightweight option you may want to consider is a hammock, we’ll go over those later.

If you’re using a motor vehicle then you’re rolling up to the campsite and unloading from your car/UTE/motorcycle/etc… There is a temptation to throw caution to the wind and get the biggest tent you can fit in your vehicle.  Don’t do this without considering how long your stay is going to be.  If you plan on setting up a base camp from which you’ll be exploring from over the next few days then a tent with an emphasis on livable space and comfort makes sense.  If you like overland style trips and move camp every day then do you really want to spend the time and effort setting up your ultra mega tent just to pack it away every morning?

When and where are you going?

The time of year, climate, and altitude at your destination are important considerations.  You’ll see two basic types of ratings, 3-season and 4-season tents.  A 3-season tent is best for mild conditions: spring, summer, and fall.  They’re not suitable for winter camping.  They are almost always “double-walled” tents.  A 4-season tent is somewhat misleading.  The construction that makes them ideal for winter camping tends to make them miserable in milder seasons as they are most often single-walled tents with less breathability.  Most importantly, you should always pick a tent with the expectation of seasonal bad weather.

Single Walled Tents

Single-walled tents offer weather protection in the tent body via a single waterproof, but not breathable, shell.  This makes them better at heat retention.  Single wall tents are also much more resilient against high winds because of the solid fabric wall to the ground without a rainfly to catch the wind.  The lack of a second shell also makes them lighter and faster to set up when compared to a comparable sized double-walled tent.  In a winter/alpine environment where the weather can get bad fast, a quick setup is really crucial.

Drawbacks for single-walled tents:

  • The way the tent is constructed means condensation is a possible issue.
  • As mentioned previously they can be miserable in milder / humid seasons.

Double Walled Tents

Double-walled tents consist of the tent body, which includes the floor and walls that are often a mesh, and the rainfly which covers the tent body and offers protection from the wind and rain.  This construction of an external waterproof but not breathable cover with a breathable but not waterproof inner shell offers better ventilation and has less issues with condensation.  There are some drawbacks.

  • They don’t retain heat or resist wind as well as single-walled tents.
  • They require more staking and attention to guying out the rainfly.
  • Rainfly fabrics, particularly nylons, can stretch a little when exposed to moisture and require re-tensioning of the rainfly.
  • They are typically heavier due to more materials/parts.

What type of ground will you be camping on?

Tent stakes are not all the same.  You’ll need different stakes depending on the soil conditions.  You don’t want to have to pound in a two foot long, broad tent stake designed for sand into the rocky ground or vice versa – a stake designed for rocky soil will not do anything for you in sand.  The goal here isn’t to overwhelm you with every type of tent stake there is so I won’t be listing all the different types.  The goal is just to make you aware that they exist and perhaps carrying different types will be necessary.  Join the discussion Let’s talk tent stakes… if you have questions.

Tent Footprints

Tent footprints protect your tent.  Specifically the tent floor by preventing the wear and tear of your tent against the ground.  Instead they take the abuse.  They are often sold separately from the tent so you need to check if one is included if you want one.

They are also two distinct types of tent footprints.  The type most typically found are a solid material and act as a barrier to ground moisture for the tent.  But under the right (wrong?) conditions you can end up with water pooling on top of the footprint under your tent.  Because of this some give the advice that a footprint is not necessary.  That since most tents have waterproof floors a waterproof footprint is redundant.  Take note though that if you choose to forgo the purchase of a footprint you’ll need to avoid placing your tent on top of anything that can damage it.  Another type is a mesh material.  This allows moisture (and debris like sand) to pass through and prevents pooling of water between the tent and footprint.  You retain the ground protection and avoid the potential for water pooling between the footprint and tent.

Whether you choose a solid or mesh footprint, it’s always best to get into the habit of picking a campsite with good drainage and avoid areas where water will flow and pool.

What am I going to do if the weather gets bad?

An important note that can not be emphasized enough is that you need to educate yourself about the environment you will be camping in, and exposing yourself to.  Get weather forecasts and anticipate dramatic changes in the weather.  Choose equipment appropriate for the conditions and altitude – there’s a BIG difference between camping in the woods at sea level versus 4,000 feet elevation.  The right gear can make the difference between being mildly inconvenienced, or becoming a participant in a rescue operation over the weekend.  Despite the weather forecast, always ask yourself and have an answer for this question: What am I going to do if the weather gets bad?

Okay. I get it. But what if it just rains?

Additional Resources

MSR has excellent articles going into much detail about fabrics and waterproof ratings.

Tent Fabrics Part 1: Fabric Specs
Tent Fabrics Part 2: Waterproof Ratings

Most tents made today use polyester fabric that, by itself, is not waterproof.  To resist water penetration one or more polyurethane coatings are applied.  This resistance to water penetration is measured by how high a column of water in millimeters (mm) can be held up against the fabric for one minute before a single drop of water seeps through and begins to form.  There is a caveat here.  No international standard defines a tent fabric as waterproof but 1500mm is widely accepted as a minimum and able to withstand almost all rain conditions.  A rainfly rated at 1500mm means that a 1500mm, almost 5 feet, column of water will take at least 1 minute before water penetrates the fabric and a drop begins to form.

The floors or groundsheets of tents are often a heavier material.  They take the most abuse.  Polyester and Nylon floors should have a higher mm rating than the tent walls ranging from 1500mm to 10,000mm.  Optionally they can also be made from a waterproof and non-breathable material such as polyethylene or heavy duty PVC.  Most tents today also have bathtub floors.  This is a type of floor design where the floor material extents up the sidewall of the tent a short distance forming a tub.  This minimizes the chance of water entering into the tent.

Some tents will have storm flaps and skirts. These extend from the side of the tent at the base and direct water out and away helping to keep water out from under the tent.

Something to make note here is that unless the tent is made entirely from a non-breathable material your tent will leak given a long enough exposure to water.

How many are going?

Use the number of people a tent is rated for as a guide but pay attention to the floor space and peak height.  Are you bringing your dog(s)?  Don’t forget them during your selection process.  Keep in mind that the rating is sort of a maximum occupancy under normal conditions.  Two people in a two person tent will mean you’ll most likely be spooning with your camp buddy when you bring in all your gear to escape the rain.

In general you’ll want to at least +1 the number of people when selecting a tent.  If you can, lay out your gear and sleeping bags on the floor of your home to know how much floor space you’ll need.  Often this isn’t an option when first getting into camping but you can still guesstimate how much of your gear will count as an extra person.

Make yourself comfortable

The peak height is the distance between the floor and its highest point.  This is an important number to pay attention to in regards to livability.  Depending on your height it denotes whether or not you’ll be able to sit up, crouch, or stand inside your tent.  If your plan is to set up a base camp you’ll want to be able to stand in your tent. The Shiftpod pictured above is a great example of an overland style tent with plenty of peak height with room for everything and everyone.

Keep in mind that extra space comes with a cost to portability.  This isn’t as much of a concern if you are getting to your camp via 4WD vehicle, but if it’s you expending the energy to haul that extra space around on your back you should try to select something lightweight and compact and deal with a smaller tent.

Additional Resources

TentPole Technologies can repair damaged poles and create custom pole replacements. A much better alternative than buying a new tent should you break a pole.

Nemo Equipment offers advice on how to store your gear.

REI provides great information to help you keep your tent for years.

Tent Care Basics
How to Repair a Tent

What else is there to consider?

More on tent construction

Vestibules are a nice feature that we look for in a ground tent. This space does not cost much in terms of portability or weight of the tent and is extremely useful for storing gear, and for providing a storage space for wet/dirty boots and gear.

Freestanding tents are not required to be staked to the ground as the tent structure supports itself.  Generally heavier than non-freestanding tents, they are more popular.  They can be moved easily if you discover you’ve placed your tent on an uncomfortable spot and they come with a bunch of nice features.  They are dependent on the poles that come with the tent though, so consider carrying a repair kit for your tent poles.

Non-freestanding tents are required to be staked to the ground.  Even with the higher learning curve they can be faster to set up when compared to a comparable sized freestanding tent.  Non-freestanding tents either totally forgo tent poles, significantly pare down their tent poles, or allow you to improvise tent poles by using trekking poles, trees etc.  This is why hammocks were mentioned previously.  Some of them also double as non-freestanding tents. Hennessy Hammock is an example of such providing a tutorial to set up on the ground. If you want as light a pack as possible, but still require a shelter, then you should look into non-freestanding tents.

Other stuff

Hammocks can make good backups for your tent in mild weather and a easy alternative for short stays giving you the option of leaving the ultra-mega tent in your vehicle or at home.  Join the discussion in Of Whoopie Slings and Tarp Worms..Hammock Camping Discussion if you have questions.

Ask a question about any particular tent you are considering in Ground tents… An open ended discussion or about any Camping Gear and Equipment. Take a look at our North America Field Guides for ideas for your next adventure.

Full Disclosure:  American Adventurist was not paid for the contents of this article. Any and all endorsements or opinions in this article are unsolicited and based on the real world experience of the author.