Car Fridges, Freezers Model Reviews, Comparisons And Alternatives
Summer… What can be better than a summer vacation? Of course, camping with friends and family under the warm summer sun. Surely, summertime is great but it can be a real bummer if there is no a small can of cold beer for you and your spouse or cool soda for your kids at hand. And to make these drinks cold whenever you want a portable fridge can be a real life-saver, especially with fridge accessories. For a camper a mini-fridge with freezer is as required during summer vacations as mosquito spray or tents. A passive coolbox or coolbag can be only a temporary solution. How many times did you feel disappointed when you favorite prepared at home dishes turned to be spoiled after few hours in such coolbox? On the contrast, a portable fridge can serve as your home refrigerator – for a 2-day weekend or a whole summer.
Just throw your small 12V camping fridge into the back of your car or load a 3-way freezer to your RV and start your unforgettable summer journey full of bright and pleasant memories!
Table of Contents
- Benefits of a mini fridge for your car and camping needs
- Disadvantages of portable fridges
- Types of portable fridges at the market:
- Major technical characteristics of portable fridges:
- What to look for in a portable fridge?
- Reviews of popular portable fridges:
- Alternatives to portable fridges:
- Necessary accessories to buy along with portable fridges
Look at a portable fridge in this picture:
What do you see? The answer seems a bit obvious. A small cooling device that will help keep any food contents put inside cold and fresh for a long time. Nothing more comes to mind? In fact, a portable fridge can offer multiple benefits for daily or occasional use:
- Your food stays cold, fresh and safe for children. Forget about melted chocolate or ice-cream;
- Frozen foods will defrost slower in such portable fridges so you can even transport frozen meats and fish with you safely;
- Unlike passive coolboxes car freezers do not require using ice blocks that turn into the melting mess in few hours;
- Despite some battery issues most new models of portable 12V fridges can charge very quickly without instantly killing your car battery;
- Besides the portable fridge/freeze units won’t just make the cold foods or drinks cool but also freeze warm contents. And some have a whole set of advanced settings;
- Simple connection. Most portable fridges for cars come with their own chargers and cords that you can charge with a 12V car light or plug into an 110v socket in your house;
- Fridges do not weigh much. Even a teenager can move such appliances from a car or around a house.
Surely, like any other appliance or device, a portable car refrigerator may have certain drawbacks that must be considered before buying. So what are the most common problems related to any types of portable fridges/freezers:
1. Small battery capacity
Even the best portable fridges have this problem. Additional insulation may help to save the previous battery load of a your “little helper” while camping but be prepared to use a car lighter socket for charging the device every 6-7 hours (the worst scenario – some cheap models blow their battery load within 3-4 hours). But also there is a solution for this problem. Some expensive car freezers are based on solar batteries that charge directly from sun energy.
2. You need to buy gas for 3-way freezers
Yes, if you don’t like an idea of charging a device in your car then you may need to spend few buck on a gas fuel for your fridge. Gas-based fridges simply won’t work without this fuel.
If you think that your family will only benefit from investing into a new camping fridge then you are right. With a 2 or 3-year warranty, a high-end portable car fridge can serve for 6 years at least. So, yes, it is a very profitable investment that will save you from any nutrition problems during camping trips. But what is the best portable fridge out there? With so many options on the market, it could be tough to make the best choice.
First of all, you need to understand that there’s no such thing as the “perfect portable fridge”. There are few types of fridges that you can choose from. Each of them has pros and cons to consider, so choose according to yours and your family needs. So all portable fridges for cars and RVs differ:
1) Compressor 2-way portable refrigerator
It works just like a home fridge. The only difference is that it runs on a 12V car battery or 240V AC adaptor. The noise level is medium. A great cheap solution for every family.
- Works better than other types (thermoelectric or absorption models);
- Has a vast range of sizes – from 13L to 110L;
- Keeps the chosen temperature mode under different ambient temperatures;
- Won’t drain your car battery, especially in an energy-safe mode.
- Some old models require adjusting the settings each time the ambient temperature changes;
- Most models come with adapters but sometimes you need to buy one separately.
The average price: from $600 to $2000
NB: it is good for cars with a dual battery system since such type of a portable fridge requires lots of battery charging.
2) Absorption 3-way portable fridge
If you prefer to use a gas-based refrigerator then this is your choice. Such models do not own a motor, they have a heating source that can be charged from a car battery (via an adapter), electricity but mostly LP gas. The noise level is usually low.
- These fridges use the source of heat running on 12/240 volts with adapters and gas;
- Can cool the temperature up to 33° below the ambient temperature;
- Some expensive models have a freezer compartment.
- Their capacity starts from 39L to 50L and it can be good for big families only. However, for someone it’s another advantage.
Who can use them: people who travel a lot, for a whole summer in RVs. They are better for travelling in remote locations where the use of gas is the only option.
The average price: from $350 to $1200
3) Thermoelectric portable fridge
This is a cheap model that was specifically designed for short-term cooling or keeping the food inside warm. They are limited with cooling abilities and cause the drain of car batteries. Also, the noise level is high. But the size can be a real benefit since it is basically a small insulated cooler. The capacity ranges from 7L to 32L.
- They consume the same amount of power as a home hairdryer;
- They can be powered by a car lighter as well as with an adaptor;
- Small and lightweight – the only option for lone campers.
- If the ambient temperature is more than 25°C they won’t be able to keep foods cool for a long time;
- Such models can drain a car battery quite quickly;
- Cheap models are noisy and bad insulated.
Who can use them: they are the best for lone travelers who need a small cooler along their trip.
The average price: $50 to $400
1) Car refrigerator
As you may have noticed, most models are suitable for charging by means of 12V car batteries. The choice must depend on the fridge’s size according to your needs.
2) RV fridge
Basically, you just need a bigger car fridge to suit in your RV. And the best choice here is a 3-way refrigerator that works on gas or mains electricity. Plus such models are usually big and can replace a standard refrigerator easily. Besides, bigger models are the best for long-time travels and bumpy roads.
3) Camping fridge
Any other electric or 12V car fridges fall under this category. You are a camper so you know better what you need. Practically any portable fridge will do for camping since they were invented for this.
Another important factor to consider when buying a portable fridge. There are very little models like 7L and very big ones – over 80L – but the standard categorization is like this:
- 25L fridges serve as highly mobile coolers. They are good for keeping cool the small amounts of food. Such fridges can hold no more than 25 soda or beer cans;
- 35L chest style portable fridges. These are the best for long-time camping by one person or for a couple. A 35L fridge can cool 45 cans at once;
- 40L portable fridges. They are called as “standard” portable fridges. The best for a small family who camp for a long weekend. A 40L fridge will cool 60 cans;
- 50L models are the best for couples who need to camp for a week or for a family of 4 who need to spend a long weekend outside. 72 cans are good for such models;
- 60 – 65L fridges are the perfect choice for families of 4 members and a long weekend ahead. You can easily store a whole set of cans for the local kid soccer team. A 65L portable refrigerator will cool 106 cans;
- 80L fridges are the best ones for big families for a whole camping week. An 80L fridge can hold about 120 cans.
Portable fridges require the power source to function. Most fridges can be charged with the connection to standard 240v power sockets, like the ones at home or on campsites. When power is off, you can connect this fridge to a 12V car battery. Also some fridges run on gas cylinders like your barbeque at home.
A 12V power supply, a 40L portable car fridge sets at 5°C in the environment with the ambient temperature of 32°C and will consume about 0.89 amps/hour over 24 hrs.
Any portable fridge has basic and advanced features that you must consider. Think about what you really need – the climate of your usual camping sites, the amount of food you usually take along, the time spent on a road from your home to the camping site, what is your budget, etc. The following sets of features will help to choose.
At any shop, they may say that some features are more important than the others. But only these basics must be included into any portable fridge by default:
- A power battery;
- An accessory for charging the battery;
- The mode for setting a specific temperature;
- Thermometer for showing you the interior temperature;
- Fully removable lid for reaching the hard places.
- Fridge/ Freezer or Dual Zone that lets a device work in both ways – for keeping the cool drinks cold or freezing warm foods;
- Emergency mode for keeping the food inside cool even if the thermostat fails;
- Easy-to-use controls – the fewer steps for setting up the better;
- Multiple temperature zones for different types of food products;
- Multiple compartments for various types of foods;
- Dual thermostat for different compartments (if a fridge has more than one obviously);
- Turbo or boost mode for making a compressor working harder and cool foods quicker;
- The built-in 240 volt supply if your 12V car light charger is not an option;
- Suspension base with springs;
- Slide instead or a lid;
- Secure tie downs;
- Quiet running mode;
- Low voltage cut-out;
- Automatic fan cooling;
- Fault indicator for spoiled foods;
- Internal light;
- Strong handles from both sides;
- Additional insulating cover.
Design, capacity, specifications, different features and power consumption – all these factors matter. But what options do you actually need to pay for:
- Efficient space utilization;
- Stainless steel may look posh but it deteriorates fast and looks shabby. Besides stainless steel is a poor insulator so such models are less efficient;
- Fabric covers won’t improve insulation. All of them are required mostly for cover;
- Buy a model that can last up to 5 years at least;
- Internal lighting will save your time and nerves at dark time;
- Low-voltage cut-out is essential since it prevents the battery voltage from changing and causing damage;
- Tie-down handles secure your fridge from sliding during rough traveling;
- A slide out tray that can bolt the freezer is really worthwhile;
- The ability to run a portable fridge both on mains electricity 240V and 12V car lighters;
- A reputable compressor from a reputable brand;
- Decent warranty;
- Top-notch internal seals;
- Included accessories - if a portable fridge needs a bag for transition;
- Easily accessible drain plug (the larger the better!);
- Spare parts must be included.
This 2-way portable freezer can work as a freezer too, even under the extreme ambient temperatures. Among its strong qualities is the low amp-hour consumption. This model can be powered by 240V or 12V —straight from your car battery or mains electricity socket at home/RV. The model is relatively lightweight and compact by size, quiet and power efficient.
- Quick chill;
- Memory and dead battery protector.
- Weather-resistant housing;
- The capacity is 48 L;
- Interior light
- Can hold up to 68 twelve-ounce cans;
- Includes removable carrying handles and coated wire basket.
This Whynter fridge is known for the premium quality. It's high portability makes it a great assistant for your RV, campsite, fishing trip, etc. it can be charged by the standard household 110V power and any 12V DC source like a car lighter socket. Can easily cool between -8 to 500F. It can be a little large for an in-vehicle appliance.
- The fridge has the capacity of 60 L;
- The freezing capability between -8 to 50 degrees F;
- LED temperature indicator;
- Fast Freeze function;
- Tough and solid outer casing;
- Side handles for better compatibility;
- ETL approved.
Watch the video review:
This great Engel model is very efficient dual-voltage fridge/freezer with 43 qts of interior storage. The best advantage of this model is Engel Swing Motor Compressor that needs the minimum power (40% less power) and can run both on AC or DC power. This is a vibration resistant model designed for very extreme weather conditions like 30 degrees from the normal level. The Engel MT45F-U1 is great for camping, boating, RV vacations, hunting and even a home use.
- It is ideal for solar power applications;
- Huge 43 qt capacity;
- Variable temperature control;
- Handy carry handles that can be removed;
- Both AC and DC cords can be used for charging and they are included;
- UL Approved;
- 100% CFC-Free Compressor;
- Among other accessories are green rubber mat, interior wire basket, one extra fuse.
Watch the video review:
The ARB10800472 freezer/fridge is great for keeping beverages and foods cold or frozen during hunting, camping, off-roading, boating or as an additional home fridge. The model offers the large internal capacity for cooling 72 cans. The charger works perfectly both with 12V/24V DC from a car lighter as well as a standard outlet. The interior temperature down to 00 F for really powerful freezing. The transit bag is not included in the set.
- Large 50 qt capacity;
- Can keep the temperatures between 50 0 F to 0 0 F;
- Completely self-contained unit;
- Front-mounted recessed digital control panel with large buttons;
- Convenient on/off power indicator;
- Bright LED display
- The reliable Danfoss compressor;
- Large EZ latch for keeping the lid tight and a secure seal;
- The quick-release mechanism for lid;
- Separate internal dairy/fruit compartment;
- Fully removable lid, basket, and handy drain plug for better cleaning;
- Right-angled plug-in;
- Rear-facing LED illumination;
- Heavy-duty insulation and hardware;
- 100% CFS-Free compressor
- And it can be used as a seat for a kid.
Watch the video review:
In this guide were mentioned passive coolboxes and coolbags that are usually chosen instead of portable fridges during camping vacations. They are essential for a family who spends a day tripping or camping. But can they completely replace a portable fridge? Let’s find out.
Coolbags are probably the cheapest cooling options and they are perfect for trips lasting no more than 1 day or few hours. However, you may need to use additional freeze packs for keeping foods and drinks cool. The insulation is bad since they are made of foam.
The example of a coolbag is Shearwater L. The model is made of polyester, with silver aluminium foil lining.
Technical characteristics of Shearwater L:
- Adjustable shoulder strap;
- Fast access opening;
- Huge top opening in U-shape;
- Five internal dividing points for mesh dividers;
- Two double-sided mesh dividers that can be used for holding ice blocks and packaging;
- Included mesh pockets inside that were designed to hold ice blocks/bottles;
- External side zip-pockets, twin front mesh pocket.
Watch the video review:
Passive coolboxes are the most basic coolboxes, but they also need additional freezer packs for making things cool. Unlike coolbags they are made of hard shell, also with foam insulation and need a less air to circulate for warming up.
The example of a passive coolbox is Coleman Xtreme 33L CoolBox. The model is one of the best in its segment because of insulation. It is ideal for picnics and day camp trips. The model works better when it’s full.
Technical characteristics of Coleman Xtreme 33L CoolBox:
- The device offers the capacity of 33L;
- Rustproof & leak-resistant channel drain;
- Hinged lid with deep holders for beverages;
- 2-way handles for better storing and lifting;
- Cooling performance is no more than 5 days with ice.
Watch the video review:
There is a number of accessories to purchase for portable camping fridges, including covers, transit bags, power supplies and charges, etc. Here is what you need:
- AC adaptors;
- 240V generators;
- Additional external thermometers;
- Carry bags – but some brands like Waeco fridges come with their own bags;
- Protective covers for design or better insulation;
- Spare parts;
- Power cables;
- Storage Container Boxes for the fridge interior.
If even after reading these tips, comparisons, and reviews you need one more assuring thing for buying a portable fridge, then catch it. Do you like camping? Do you camp more than once per season? Then yes, you need a portable fridge as your reliable assistant on a road. As you can see, portable fridges can last even the week-long camping trips where ice blocks and cool boxes simply won’t be practical. There are multiple options for power operation – gas cylinder, 12V car charger, mains 240V electricity. Nowadays it has never been easier to buy the chosen model online and, literally, nothing stops you from purchasing this awesome cooling device capable serving from 5 to 10 years. Stay cool and make your foods cool as well with portable fridges!