Refrigerators made for a portable camping are a mobile cooling system powered by your car's 12-volt electrical system to keep your food and beverages cold (or frozen) indefinitely. This portable fridge is more expensive than the cooler box, but you don't have to worry about ice refreshing.
In this article, you will find answers to your questions below. What size portable refrigerator do I need? What are two-way or three-way portable refrigerators? Refrigerator, freezer, or both? How much do portable refrigerators cost? What should be the features to look for? How many people will your portable refrigerator be for serving? Will it stay in the vehicle, be used 24/7 as a refrigerator at home, or will it be operated only a few times a year? What size portable refrigerator do I need?
Portable Refrigerator Dimensions Bigger refrigerators mean bigger capacity. But they need higher current draw and take up more space in your car. With a whole family and their belongings already in your vehicle, the weight of the refrigerator can add additional weight to the vehicle. For some refrigerators, there are also top-mounted expansion inserts for additional capacity as you need them. Refrigerator Dimensions are listed in liters, but this can be difficult to create an image in your head. That's why we've included another universally recognized unit of measure - beverage cans.
25L and below - 27 cans: Essentially a reinforced cooler, these compact refrigerators are suitable for keeping lunch cold on a work truck when you need to be with you at all times. It is also a good option if you need to keep your medication close at hand in the fridge.
35L - 47 cans: A fridge with this capacity is ideal for a two-person weekend or for a week if you plan to travel alone.
40L to 60 boxes: The most common or 'standard' size, 40L refrigerators are perfect for two or three people for a long weekend.
50L - 72 cans: Suitable for a week-long adventure for two or a long weekend for a family.
60–65L - 106 cans: A good sized refrigerator that provides food for a family of five or for your sports team. There's plenty of room to keep the team's half-time drinks cool, but consider the space and weight in your vehicle.
80L + - 120 cans: There is plenty of room for a week for a large group of friends. But size and weight can be a serious problem. It may be better to divide the load using smaller refrigerators.
What are the differences between two-way or three-way portable refrigerators? Two-way refrigerators are powered by electricity, three-way refrigerators can run on electricity or gas. So which one is better?
Two-way (compressor) portable refrigerators: Two-way refrigerators use the same compressor technology as your home refrigerator, but are designed to run on a 12 volt battery as well as mains electricity. It is best for most applications because it is designed to be powered by your car's electrical system without drawing too much current. If you want, it can be converted to 240 volts in electric camping areas or in your home. Unlike gas refrigerators, the compressor models mean regular battery charging, so if it stays stable for a month it is not a good option, but with a small solar panel installation, they will work well as well.
Pros It performs well even in hot cars and high ambient temperatures. Some of them can be used as freezers. It does not cause a problem on rough terrain or slopes. It can be powered by a solar panel for non-vehicle use. It is designed to work with low current draw from your vehicle's battery.
Cons It can be difficult to set a consistent temperature when ambient temperatures change. Compressor noise can be noticed in older models in quiet camping areas. Batteries must be charged regularly, otherwise your refrigerator will stop. If the solar capacity is not enough, it shuts down overnight. AC adapters may need to be purchased separately.
Three-way (absorption) portable refrigerators: Three-way refrigerators are powered by 12 or 240 volts to cool them with LPG and use gas flow heat exchangers instead of a compressor. They are quiet but do not perform as well as compressor refrigerators and need to stay flat to operate. Since an LPG cylinder can keep your refrigerator cold for weeks, you will need a three-way refrigerator if you are going to spend a long time in a remote location.
Pros The most versatile in terms of power supplies. Operate for several weeks with a single gas filling. You may not need a complicated dual battery system. It's almost silent.
Cons It must be straight to work, so it is not suitable for constant movement. It is inefficient when operating at 12 volts and quickly drains batteries. It requires good ventilation, so it is not ideal for tightly sealed caravans. It won't let you set a temperature, but instead will cool to a certain degree below the ambient temperature. It is suitable for mild weather, but not suitable for extreme temperatures. Don't expect it to perform as well as compressor refrigerators. What about Thermoelectric refrigerators? Thermoelectric refrigerators do not cool as much as other types and draw much more current. We have tested these in the past and found that they can never maintain food temperatures except in the mildest conditions, so these are only suitable for keeping pre-chilled drinks cold when going to weekend sports or during a short drive.
Refrigerator, freezer, or both? If you only keep your lunch cold with your refrigerator, you will not need freezer capacity. But if you're going away for more than a day or two, the freezer is very important. Double compartment refrigerators offer you the luxury of a fridge and freezer and are the most useful. Some smart single-compartment refrigerators can also do double duty, using a compartment between frozen items at the bottom and fresh food at the top.
How much do portable refrigerators cost? Portable camping refrigerators are not cheap - you may need to sacrifice around 3000-6000 Lira for a 40-55 liter two-way refrigerator or 2000-4000 Lira for a three-way refrigerator. Don't forget to factor in the cost of accessories such as covers, mounting hardware, dual battery systems, and other vehicle modifications to help you get the most out of your fridge.
Features to be aware of
Current drain Look for a portable refrigerator with a low current draw specifically for operation at 12 volts. This is a direct indicator of how long your battery will last and how long your refrigerator will last at the campsite or in a parked vehicle. Five amps is quite high and one ampere quite low. Remember, vehicle temperature can rise rapidly while parked, so if you park in the sun with the windows open, your refrigerator will run more. Consider the built-in battery protection of a portable refrigerator, especially if you're running your refrigerator from your starter battery - look for a model that cuts out at a fairly high voltage to prevent your battery from running out. By using a portable refrigerator with an ordinary car battery, you can significantly shorten the battery life, not to mention leaving you stranded, so you might want to install a dual battery system for regular refrigerator use. Remember to include this in the total cost of your refrigerator. If you are going to use your refrigerator at home, consider the impact on your electricity bill and look for an energy efficient model. Portable refrigerators do not require an energy star rating and are mainly designed for 12-volt use, so they can use as much power as a full-sized refrigerator even if they are small. Instead, consider a larger main fridge and save the portable fridge for the weekend.
12 volt connector Check if your refrigerator has the correct connector for your vehicle. The Anderson type plug is ideal, but you may need to install one. Many portable refrigerators come with a cigarette lighter plug to fit into your vehicle's accessory socket, but these plugs are not ideal for high current draw applications such as refrigerators. They may even turn off your refrigerator completely and unplug it when you hit a blow.
Mounting hardware Solid mounting hardware is essential to prevent your refrigerator from tipping over on sharp bends or damaging it in an accident. Look for sturdy mounting points to hold your fridge in place and make sure you have the relevant attachment points in your vehicle. If you take your outdoor adventure seriously (if you are buying a portable refrigerator then you will) you may want a custom mounting kit, and a variety of OEM and aftermarket mounting kits are available for most refrigerators. Make sure the kits are compatible with both your fridge and your vehicle, and are easy to remove in case you need to plug in and unplug your fridge when you go home or camping. You can also consider shock reduction options such as a foam sole.
Insulation Look for thick walls and insulation, as it can reduce the load on your compressor. Consider the materials for the outer sheathing - metal is durable but conducts heat more easily than plastic. Optional thermal caps provide additional insulation.
Durable structure Your fridge needs to be able to withstand the rigors you will face, so look for durable construction, strong hinges, and sturdy cases. A quality refrigerator should be able to withstand the weight of someone standing on it. Portable refrigerators are also made with a variety of enclosure materials, so consider what is right for your application - metal is tough and suitable for heavy-duty applications, plastic can stretch a bit so it's a good choice for travel, and fiberglass is strong and waterproof. corrosion repels moisture and is therefore ideal for marine applications.
Compressor type The compressor is the heart of your refrigerator, so if you choose a refrigerator with a good compressor your usage time will be much longer.
Ventilation holes and evaporator location Check the position of the evaporators and cooling surfaces and consider the location of the vents and fans - these are important for the proper functioning of your refrigerator. Your closet will need a good flow of air so make sure they won't get blocked in your vehicle.
Controls Check how many controls are and how to adjust to maintain the right temperature when conditions change.
Baskets Removable baskets make it easy to access items in the deep or single-compartment refrigerator. Make sure to have easy-to-clean baskets.
Cover A cover can help keep your portable refrigerator insulated so it works more efficiently, reduces your current electricity draw, and provides scratch protection. Check to see if there are doors that will fit your refrigerator and make sure that the doors are not blocking controls, vents or access. Check if a cover comes standard or needs to be purchased separately.
Special structures If you have a custom 4x4 setup, why not add a custom portable fridge? A custom made refrigerator means the freedom to choose sizes, shapes, mounting options and even thermostat types to suit your specific needs just like the rest of your vehicle. A camping refrigerator like no other may be more affordable than you think, and gives you the chance to brag about your vehicle by the campfire.