Portable Camping Refrigerator: What's the Best Portable Refrigerator Freezer You Can Camp?

When I was a kid – back in the Stone Age – we relied on ice-filled eskys to keep food and drinks cold during camping trips.Far from ideal, especially when you are away from civilization for more than a day or two in the hot Queensland weather, as the ice melts, no matter how well the sky is protected from direct sunlight and from the worst effects of the heat.

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Thankfully times have changed dramatically, and while eskies* certainly still have their uses, portable camping refrigerators have become a more versatile solution to the problem of keeping food and beverages fresh and chilled, so it has become the preferred choice The equipment is suitable for on-road and off-road travelers.(*Fun fact: New Zealanders call an esky a reefer; South Africans call it a reefer. There you go – never say I never taught you anything.)

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The portable refrigerator market is huge, filled with every kind of portable refrigerator and portable refrigerator-freezer you can think of, at all price points and, like everything, in quality.
Most popular portable refrigerator compressors are powered by either 12V power (from your car battery or the RV setup of your RV refrigerator or solar panels) or 230V.You can also choose to buy a three-way refrigerator or a gas camping refrigerator, but we’ll focus on the on-board 12V refrigerator in this yarn.
The best camping refrigerator or camping refrigerator-freezer for you comes down to several factors (including what size portable refrigerator or freezer-freezer do you need, what power source you will use primarily, etc.), so in order to demystify what can be confusing choices, this is our guide to portable camping refrigerators.

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If you’re looking for a 12V camping refrigerator/12V car refrigerator, your options are spoiled, but it’s important that you take the time at this critical stage of the buying process to focus on the size of the car refrigerator freezer you need.
Gary Kottmann, director of Melbourne-based and Australia-owned family-owned Bushman Fridges, told CarsGuide: “We always advise you to buy the smallest fridge, not the biggest you can fit in your car.
“Choosing compact camping gear is a great way to make loading and unloading easier, especially if you’re tired from long drives, a small to medium camping refrigerator will help with that.
“For most campers, a refrigerator between 40 and 60 liters is a good choice. This makes the refrigerator large enough to hold a lot of items, but not too heavy to carry and doesn’t take up the car too much precious space inside or consume a lot of electricity.”
According to Gary, any small refrigerator of 15 to 25 liters “is considered small and best suited for one person’s daily use or at most a weekend”.
40-60L (medium refrigerator) is the most popular size for young families or couples when camping.
“You can live two or three days in such a big fridge, so it’s perfect for long weekends,” he said.
“Anything over 80 liters is fine for bulk storage, but keep the extra weight in mind when deciding where to place your refrigerator,” he said.
Fridge freezers, like this 35-52L 12V Bushman Refrigerator, can make your camping game even more exciting (Photo: Bushman Fridges).
The next thing to consider is which interior configuration will suit your lifestyle needs: single-zone (one section can be used as a refrigerator or freezer) or dual-zone (two sections can be used as a refrigerator or freezer).
Single-zone refrigerators – which have one main compartment and can be used as a fridge or freezer – are the most popular type and are usually set to 4˚C as a large refrigerator.
“If you freeze meat—removing oxygen from the packaging to extend shelf life—you can keep it in the freezer section,” says Gary.
“However, if you decide you want to use both the refrigerator and the freezer — not one or the other — then a dual-zone refrigerator is for you. Dual-zone refrigerators are usually divided into two separate sections. Each section can be used as a refrigerator or freezer .”
The refrigerator can be run from the vehicle’s starting battery, but the refrigerator will continue to draw power from it even when the car is turned off, so you may drain the main battery.The lesson here?Running a refrigerator on a car battery can get you into conflict.
To avoid this – and a better 12V refrigerator arrangement – you need at least an auxiliary battery that can run your refrigerator and any other 12v accessories and keep everything charged and running, preferably with a battery charger well or battery packs, so read the battery-related articles in Adventure for guidance on these topics.
The second type of battery campers need are deep-cycle batteries, says Gary Kottmann of Bushman Fridges.
“Batteries are measured in amp-hours (Ah). It is important to know that deep cycle batteries can only draw up to 60% of their rated output.
“For this reason, we generally recommend a 120Ah battery for a medium-sized camping refrigerator rated for 1Ah per hour of usage. This will give you three days of runtime without fully draining the battery (1Ah per hour x three days = 72Ah).”
When you’re out and about, your camper refrigerator relies on 12-volt power, usually from a dual battery setup in the vehicle (again, to avoid draining the vehicle’s starter battery), as well as power from the solar panels if you’re traveling longer distances and duration of travel, so you will effectively have a solar refrigerator or a solar refrigerator.You’ll take care of the planet, you damn champion!
If you want to do some solar refrigerator camping, the solar panel you choose matters.
“For a 120Ah battery, we recommend a solar panel of about 200 to 250 watts (W),” Gary said.“This makes it easy to charge your battery even on partly cloudy days. Another option for charging a second battery is to use a small petrol generator with a battery charger, although this is more expensive than solar.
“That’s why many savvy campers looking to keep costs down are now opting to go the solar route.”
For ideas on how to find the right solar panels for your camping refrigerator, check out this guide.
He also said people should look for refrigerators that are designed to be efficient “so that they don’t have to struggle to keep food and drinks cold.
“How do you differentiate between a high-efficiency refrigerator and a non-efficient refrigerator? Look for lots of vents! The key to a high-efficiency refrigerator is heat dissipation, so the more ventilation around the compressor area, the better.
“It’s also a good idea to check the manufacturer’s average power consumption specification. This is measured in ampere-hours (Ah) and is usually an average over a 24-hour period.
“Ideally, a good 40L to 60L camping refrigerator uses less than 1.5 Ah per hour and averages over 24 hours at 25˚ ambient temperature.”
Remember: 12V refrigerators don’t need to run all day, so turn them off at night when it’s cool to save power, and if you’re camping in a campground with power, plug the refrigerator into a power outlet.
Portable camping refrigerators range in price from around $200 (a fairly basic, no-frills 20-liter refrigerator-freezer) to under $900 (a 15-liter Bushman Roadie portable refrigerator-freezer and a 60-liter stainless steel weatherproof refrigerator). According to ARB, ARB Elements refrigerators/ The freezer is the “ultimate 4WDer’s fridge” and it’s priced upwards of $1,600, while the 85-liter fiberglass Evakool Infinity fridge/freezer is a whopping $2,500.
Portable refrigerator freezer brands include ARB, Bushman Fridges, Dometic/Waeco, Engel, Kings, Luna, XTM, and more.
Aside from the usual suspects – Aldi, BCF, Bunnings and Anaconda – it’s worth checking out mobs like Bushman Fridges and aftermarket tops like ARB and Ironman 4x4s, and even Kings.
A portable camping refrigerator can take a real hit during its “life”, but the exact warranty and maintenance terms and conditions will depend on your refrigerator manufacturer and supplier.
“It also means you’ll have peace of mind if something goes wrong with your trip. While no one wants that, it pays to be prepared for any eventuality while camping. We recommend a minimum three-year warranty. Below that Anything can be a risk.”
Suffice to say, reputable businesses and brands have well-established processes and sales and service networks so you can more easily decide which brand to buy.
You’ll find plenty of portable, camping, or car refrigerators for sale online, but as with any product, cheap doesn’t mean pleasant, so make sure you do your research, read plenty of reviews from reputable sources, and ask around …and you should be right.


Post time: Jan-11-2022