Looking for a portable camping fridge to keep your food fresh and your drinks icy cold on your next outdoor adventure?
With so many camping fridges out there, it’s hard to know where to start. To help, we’ve compiled answers to the most common questions we receive:
What do I need to consider when purchasing a portable camping fridge?
When buying a camping fridge, start by considering these factors:
- Do you want to use the product as a fridge, freezer or both?
- Will you have access to mains power? Or will you be relying on a battery (12/24v) source?
- How long will you need your fridge to last? Days? Weeks?
- How many people will be using your camping fridge?
- How much room do you have in your vehicle to store the fridge?
- How much warranty are you after? (ranges between 2 years, 3 years or 5 years depending on the model)
- How much are you willing to spend?
What size portable camping fridge do I need?
Choose your camping fridge capacity based on how you intend to use the fridge. This means considering how many people will be using the fridge, how long you want your fridge to last, and how much room you have in your vehicle. One thing to remember is that larger fridges may have a higher capacity of storage, but they also have a higher current draw.
When weighing up different models, you’ll see that the size is shown in litres. This can be hard to visualize, so we also include a universally recognised unit of measure – cans of drink:
25L = 27 cans. 25L camping fridges are generally used as a mobile cooler. Great for keeping a small amount of food and drinks cold for lunch on the run.
35L = 47 cans. The 35L is an ideal camping fridge for a weekend away for two people, or a whole week for one person.
40L = 60 cans. The most common or ‘standard’ size camping fridge, 40L fridges are great for two or three people over a long weekend away.
50L = 72 cans. 50L camping fridge models are suitable for a whole week’s adventure for a couple, or a long weekend for a family of four.
60 to 65L = 106 cans. A family camping for longer than a long weekend will need atleast a 65L portable fridge. These camping fridges are also great for storing food and drinks at local sporting events.
80L+ = 120 cans. A camping fridge 80L and above is perfect for a large group of people!
Can I purchase a camping fridge that is a fridge and freezer?
Absolutely. There are three options when purchasing a camping fridge:
- Fridge only – These are camping fridges that only run as a fridge, such as Evakool Fibreglass 150 Litre Fridge.
- Fridge or freezer – This is a camping fridge that runs as either a fridge or freezer. This is the most common model of camping fridges you’ll see, such as the Evakool Koolmate 80 Litre Fridge Freezer Pack.
- Dual zone – A Dual Zone camping fridge has two compartments that can each operate independently in any combination as fridges or freezers. The Dometic CFX3 95DZ Portable Dual Zone Fridge & Freezer 94 Litre is My Generator’s top selling portable camping fridge.
Need help choosing between the brands? Check out our video below on the best camping fridge brands!
What temperatures should I set for fridge and freezer operation?
Your home refrigerator is typically running at between 2 and 4°C, which is the optimum temperature range for good food preservation. With camping fridges, some campers choose a temperature a little higher to conserve battery power. For freezing, your home deep freezer operates somewhere between minus 18 and minus 20°C. Again, for camping applications, minus 15°C is more than adequate and also conserves battery power.
If I unplug my camping fridge, how long will it stay cold for?
The short answer is…it depends. The extent of time your camping fridge will stay cool for varies based on:
- What model you own
- Environmental factors, such as temperature, sunlight, wind
- The temperature the camping fridge reached before power was unplugged
- How often the lid is opened and closed
- Type of food stored in the camping fridge
- Material the fridge is made of (fibreglass fridges tend to have the best default insulation)
What accessories do I need with my portable camping fridge?
The most important portable fridge accessory is a fridge cover. This is because fridge covers protect your fridge from dust, dirt and moisture in the harsh Australian environment! A fridge cover also provides insulation optimizing the efficiency and power of your fridge.
Optional accessories include:
- A fridge slide is great for mounting your fridge in the car. They come in a range of sizes to suit all sizes and models. You can even purchase a tilt slide that slides your fridge out on an angle for super easy access.
- Tie down straps are a must in ensuring your fridge stays secure when off-roading. Both Bushman and Evakool offer tie down straps to buckle your fridge into your vehicle.
- Want to protect your portable fridge freezer from being pinched? Then you will need a security cable.
- A portable fridge stand is the perfect addition to your fridge/freezer, so you don’t have to bend over to get a cold beer!
- Portable power packs allow you to unplug for your next adventure while keeping your fridge/freezer charged and running. We highly recommend the myCOOLMAN CPP15 or Dometic PLB40, so your food and drinks always stay cold!
What solar panel do I need to run my camping fridge?
The most important thing is to ensure the size of the solar panel meets requirements of the camping fridge (and any other appliance running from the battery). We recommend using the solar panel to charge a battery, rather than running the fridge directly from the solar panel. This is because the voltage will drop if it gets cloudy, for example. Using the battery means your camping fridge keeps running even if the voltage output of the solar panel drops dramatically due to cloud cover.
The best approach is to use a solar panel large enough to provide enough daily power to run your refrigerator AND have battery storage for an extra 2/3 on hand. So, if your refrigerator (or any other appliance) consumes 30 amp-hours per day, you should have battery storage of 90 amp-hours capacity and a solar panel of around 80 watts or greater. If in doubt, go a little higher in specification than your needs – a popular solar panel size to charge your batteries to run camping fridges is around 120 – 160 watts.
How long will my camping fridge run from my battery?
To work out how long your camping fridge will run, there are two things you need to know:
1) How much power your camping fridge will consume on average per hour under certain ambient conditions (hint: we provide this information under the Specifications section of the product).
2) The size of your battery in amp-hours.
Once you know these figures, you can divide the size of the battery by that average consumption figure (multiplied by 24 hours) to give you approximate run time.
The stated consumption is 1 amp per hour average. Multiply that by 24 hours = 24 Amp hours per day.
Though, you never get the full number of amp-hours from a battery – 50% is a good rule of thumb for Lead Acid / AGM Batteries. This means, if you have a 100 amp-hour deep cycle battery, you can assume 50 amp-hours of usable power.
So, if a refrigerator consumes on average 1 amp per hour, and is the only appliance running from a 100 amp-hour battery, you should be able to have the refrigerator run for around 50 hours before recharging becomes necessary.
The advantage of using a good quality deep cycle Lithium Battery is your depth of discharge can go down to 75%. So a 100 Amp Lithium Battery can provide up to 75 amp- hours of usable power before you need to recharge.
Taking into account power input from Solar
Now you can take it a step further and incorporate your inputs from Solar Charging.
If you have a 160W solar panel in full sun for 7 hours a day it will produce approximately 63 Amps of input.
i.e 7 Hours x 9 Amps Per Hour = 63 Amps per Day.
So if your fridge is using 24 Amps per day and you are putting in 63 Amps per day, then as long as you have sunshine you can keep camping off the grid for as long as you want!
Do you have a question that isn’t answered here? Get in touch!