If you enjoy long camping trips or caravanning in remote destinations around Australia, then you shouldn’t be without a portable camping fridge freezer. No adventure is complete without food and snacks kept at the right temperature after all!
But similar to other camping gears, several fridge options are available in the market. And being the discerning campers that we are, it’s a given that we want to purchase the best camping fridge freezer around.
Camping fridge freezers come in various sizes, capacities and features that affect their cost. And, mind you, these portable gears are not cheap. So, it is all the more critical to do product research and weigh in your needs or preferences.
To help you make the right buying decision, I’ve identified some of the essential features of a camping fridge freezer that you need to know. I’ve also hand-picked some of the best camping fridge freezers in Australia that you might want to consider and bring on your next trip.
|Image||Product Name||Size & Weight||Capacity||Power||Where to Buy|
|Size: 58cm x 32.5cm x 46cm|
|12V/ 24V/ 240V||Check Price on Amazon AU|
|Size: 89cm x 50cm x 47cm|
|12V/ 24V/ 240V/ Solar Panel||Check Price on Amazon AU|
|Size: 59cm x 38cm x 54.5cm|
|12V/ 240V/ Backup Lithium Battery/ 50V Solar Panel||Check Price on Amazon AU|
|Size: 60cm x 32cm x 26cm|
|12V/ 24V/ 240V||Check Price on Amazon AU|
|Size: 71cm x 36cm x 45cm (with handles)|
|12V/ 24V/ 240V||Check Price on Amazon AU|
Things to Consider When Buying a Camping Fridge Freezer
An ice-filled cooler keeps your food and drinks cold while on the go. However, your ice will eventually melt, leaving your food soaking in cold water. A camping fridge freezer solves this problem with its built-in compressor. It’s more expensive than a portable cooler, but it has other features that make it more suitable for multi-day camping. And you won’t have to get bags of ice again! Here are some essential factors you need to look for when buying a camping fridge freezer.
Size and capacity
The size and capacity of your camping fridge freezer determine the space it needs, its weight and room for holding food or drinks. When considering these factors, think of how long will you be on the road, the number of people you’re travelling with and the nature of your trip. Questions like are you going solo, is it a week or month-long trip or will you be moving to different campsites should help you decide how big your portable fridge should be.
Camping fridge freezer capacity is typically in litres. However, for easier visualisation, it can also be described based on the number of cans it can hold. Here’s a table for quick reference and comparison.
|Capacity||Approx. No. of Cans||Approx. No. of People||Best For|
|25L||27||1 to 2||Day trips with packed lunch and drinks|
|35L||47||1 to 2||Solo camping or weekend trip for two|
|40L||60||2 to 3||Long-weekend trip for couples or small families|
|50L||72||2 to 4||Long-weekend family trip or week-long holiday for two|
|60L||106||4 to 5||Long-weekend getaway with a family or sports team|
|80L||120||5 or more||Camping trips for more than a week|
When buying a camping fridge freezer, bigger is not always better. While an 80L portable fridge can lessen your trips to the store to get more supplies, it takes up more space in your vehicle and is difficult to carry or move around.
If you’re travelling with a big group, at times it is better to have two smaller fridges for better mobility. In general, a 60L camping fridge freezer is the standard capacity that suits both small and large groups, depending on your trip length. But then again, your choice should be based on your needs and space allowance.
There are three power options for camping fridge freezers.
- 12V Battery. Also known as your car cigarette lighter port, the 12V DC receptacle is the most common power source for portable fridges. A cable or power cord usually comes with the unit. This option is not ideal for overnight van camping though as it can drain your car battery. The best way to go about this is to plug the fridge while you’re driving then unplug it once you’re parked.
- AC Power. Camping fridge freezers typically have an alternative power option. One of which is plugging it into a standard 240V outlet. An AC power port lets you use your camping fridge away from your car or connect it to a solar panel or generator.
- Gas Tank. Some camping fridges also use propane gas for power. This one is a great option, especially if you’re camping somewhere without electricity for extended periods.
The power source of your camping fridge determines what kind of unit it is, and knowing these camping fridge types can help you decide which one will work best for your adventure. Here are their essential points of difference:
|Type of Camping Fridge||Power Sources||Pros||Cons|
|Two-way or compressor||12V battery and 240V electricity|| |
|Three-way or absorption||12V battery, 240V electricity and propane|| |
Built and design
The built and design of your camping fridge are essential indicators of its quality and performance, so make sure to check on these, too. Generally, its exterior should be able to withstand the elements you’ll likely encounter outdoors while the inside should keep your food safe and cold.
In terms of construction, look for a hard casing with durable hinges. The handles of your camping fridge should also be tough enough to withstand constant lifting and moving. Ideally, they should be removable to fit smaller spaces. Also, experienced campers say your portable fridge freezer should be able to take a person’s weight while standing or sitting on it.
To help you assess the durability of your camping fridge, consider the following features of common casing materials:
- Polished stainless steel or aluminium casing is not just attractive but also long-lasting. It’s ideal for heavy-duty camping. However, it’s not light and very prone to rusting.
- Most camping fridge freezers use polypropylene, which is more flexible, durable and lightweight. This material is best for touring.
- It’s a softer material that tends to crack. But, it’s impervious to odours and corrosion, making it excellent for fishing and other marine applications.
Mounting points and hardware
Your camping fridge will be travelling with you on rough terrains, sharp corners and inclined roads. Bumps are inevitable. So, make sure that your unit also has the features that will keep it in place and prevent it from tipping over. Portable fridges with straps or tie-down points are best. Some manufacturers also offer dedicated mounting kits. See to it that the mounting device matches your car and camping fridge freezer. Also, for larger units, you might want to consider getting optional accessories like a drop or fridge slide for better security and mobility.
Finally, check the interior of your camping fridge and evaluate if its walls are thick enough for thermal protection. Like its outer casing, certain materials can affect the insulation properties of your portable fridge. For instance, metal conducts more heat than plastic while fibreglass is the best material for optimum insulation. Make sure to consider this feature when choosing your portable fridge as better insulation means less workload for the compressor, excellent cooling performance and longer life for your camping fridge freezer.
The current drain of your portable fridge is an indicator of how long it will run, at your campsite or in a parked vehicle, and how long your battery will last. Make sure to know the battery specifications of your unit as you wouldn’t want your fridge off while on the road or to be stranded with a completely drained car battery. A dual-battery system or a thermal cover can be used to save on battery power. Also, look for units with built-in battery protection, so it can cut out and in at high voltage and prevent your main car battery from going flat.
Add-on features make your camping fridge easier to use and more versatile. However, in most instances, these also add up to cost, so choose wisely. Make sure that any extra features are useful to your camping trip or can extend the life of your portable fridge.
- Removable baskets make food and drinks easy to organise and access in a deep camping fridge freezer.
- This one serves as the life of your portable fridge. It determines how well your unit performs and how long it can last. So, look for those with high-quality compressors from a reputable brand, such as SECOP or Danfoss, Sawafuji, LG or Waeco.
- Depending on your chosen model, portable fridges include the proper cables to connect to different types of power sources. Make sure these cables are heavy-duty and stable during bumpy rides. Some camping fridge freezers also have USB ports for charging small electronics or Wi-Fi access, so you can remotely monitor and control your camping fridge temperature through your smartphone.
- Options to adjust the temperature of your camping fridge are vital. So, make sure they are easy to understand and use. Check if the digital display or thermostat is clear and readable. Online instruction manuals or store demos may be useful in this case.
- Some portable fridges include a cover to protect your unit from scratches, reduce power drain and add insulation power. Make sure that the vents, controls or access to the fridge are easily accessible.
- Drain plug. This one allows you to pull out a plug to drain water rather than tip the fridge over. It’s a great feature for easy clean-up.
- Vent and fan location. Ventilation is essential to keep your fridge working and avoid overheating. So, inspect the position of its cooling surfaces and evaporators. Make sure that they won’t be blocked off once loaded into your vehicle.
- Wheels and extendable handle. These features make your portable fridge easier to move around and are ideal if you frequently move from one campsite to the next.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, a camping fridge freezer is a significant investment. A two-way fridge, for instance, will cost between $800 and $2000. A three-way fridge is less expensive, but expect to spend about $350 to $1300 when buying one. Aside from paying for the unit itself, serious campers would have to factor in optional accessories like batteries or gas, mounting unit, cover and more. So, before purchasing a camping fridge, set a budget, consider your camping requirements then spend only on accessories that you need.
Brand or manufacturer
It’s a given that branded gear by well-known manufacturers costs more. And it’s always recommended to opt for alternatives that work the same way without the hefty price tag. However, in the case of camping fridge freezers, seasoned campers agree that spending a little extra for quality will protect you from problems and added costs later on.
So, if possible, consider trusted manufacturers that have been producing portable fridges for a long time. These brands typically offer compressor warranty, which is an excellent indicator of quality. Aside from product reliability, they are likely to have national-level distribution, reliable service networks, after-sales support and spare part availability. Lesser known brands are as functional, but these are best for occasional camping trips.
FAQs About Camping Fridge Freezer
If you’re still wondering why camping fridges cost a lot or if gas-powered fridges are safe, here’s an FAQ section for more helpful information.
Why are camping fridges expensive?
It’s funny how smaller appliances cost higher than their standard-sized counterparts. But, one reason why portable fridges are expensive is their miniature compressor. Portable camping fridges use advanced construction and design to simulate efficient cooling and insulation of your regular refrigerator. Their abilities to work with different power sources and to accommodate varying camping conditions and locations also add to their cost. Camping fridge freezers, however, are built to last for a long time, making them worth the investment.
Are propane gas fridges safe?
Propane is a flammable gas and using it on the road where temperatures can rise sounds dangerous. However, the strict manufacturing regulations this power source go through make it safe, with virtually zero chances of explosion. Still, the risk of carbon monoxide leaks can occur, so care should be observed at all times. Make sure there is ample ventilation when using gas fridges, and avoid leaving it in enclosed rooms or vehicles. Also, refill the gas tank with 5% to 10% of gas remaining to lessen the chances of leaks.
Are 3-way fridges any good?
Two-way or compressor portable fridges are popular in Australia. However, connecting your portable fridge to a gas tank is preferable if:
- You like being on the road for weeks or longer. A 9L propane gas tank, for example, can keep your three-way fridge working for up to 3 weeks.
- You prefer driving and travelling on flat terrain. Three-way fridges do not suit bumpy roads. So, choose them if you often stay on level-ground campsites.
- You don’t want to purchase costly charging devices. Users no longer need to spend on battery systems, solar panels or generators. Also, propane gas tanks are readily available and inexpensive.
- You don’t travel with highly perishable food. Three-way fridges do not work as efficiently with batteries as they mainly operate based on the ambient temperature. So, this fridge type is best if you don’t need constant freezing temperatures for your supplies.
Do I need a dual-zone fridge?
A camping fridge freezer, sometimes called a combi, works as a fridge or freezer but not both at the same time. A dual-zone fridge, however, has two sections with separate thermostats so you can use it as a fridge, freezer or both. These larger fridge units are usually more expensive and require more power to work. However, they’re an excellent choice if you often bring chilled and frozen supplies when you camp. If not, having a smaller cooler to go with your two-way unit may be more cost-efficient.
Will a 12V camping fridge drain my car battery?
Although your camping fridge freezer can work with your car battery, it can drain it if used for a long time. Also, it’s best not to use your car battery power past 50% to avoid damage. The most common way to prevent this from happening is to have a dual battery set-up. These tips can also help lessen the workload of your fridge and its energy consumption:
- Pre-chill your food and drinks when you can. Doing this will make your fridge work less.
- Lift the lid slowly to prevent too much hot air from getting in.
- Limit the times you need to open your fridge. Grab what you need and shut the lid properly.
- Keep your fridge full to reduce air spaces.
- Park your car under a tree and open the back of your vehicle to keep your fridge cool.
- Use a thermal cover for added insulation.
- Ensure that there is ample air circulation and you’re using the right electric wiring.
Having a camping fridge freezer makes a camping trip extra convenient, and fun, with food or cold drinks ready on hand. Yes, it is expensive. However, it’s also an invaluable investment for earnest campers, fishing enthusiasts and families who spend most of their time outdoors. And while there are several options to choose from, the secret to choosing the best camping fridge freezer is matching your needs and preference with the features of these remarkable cooling machines.