Interested in buying a camping fridge? Here are some great tips, features and advice to consider before you do so.
- Current Draw
While almost all camping refrigerators run on 12 volts, how much current it draws makes all the difference. A high current draw increases the risk of your batteries running flat in no time, while a low current draw means the fridge might/will struggle to keep everything cool and well preserved. That said, you want to avoid camping fridges with a 5- or 1-amp draw and settle on those with an average of 3, just to be safe. This helps ensure your batteries and the fridge don’t strain if you have to park in a sunny spot for a while.
The portable fridge should also have an inbuilt battery protection standard. This feature helps protect your battery from deep cycling, as it will cut out at a relatively high voltage, leaving you with enough juice to crank the engine and preserve the battery’s life expectancy as well according to camping gear review site, Luxe Rover Australia. You might also want to consider having a dual-battery system installed, especially if you use the fridge regularly.
Check to see how much energy the fridge will use when hooked at home as well. Don’t let their small size fool you; some of these refrigerators can use up as much energy as a full-sized family fridge, even when running on 12 volts. That said, you want to only use the portable fridge for special occasions and never full-time in the house.
- 12-Volt Connector
Most portable refrigerators will have a cigarette lighter plug for easy plugging and unplugging in the vehicle’s accessory socket. While convenient, this type of plug isn’t ideal considering the amounts of current the refrigerator will be drawing. Experts recommend going for a fridge with the Anderson type plug, and with a good reason. The Anderson-type plug can handle the huge current draws comfortably and won’t unplug if/when you hit a bump. You, however, need to have this type of socket installed in your vehicle for it to work.
- Mounting Hardware
You want your fridge to stay in the same position when on the move, take a sharp corner, or if forced to hit the emergency brakes. That said, the fridge should have robust mounting points to help keep it in place and anchored to the vehicle’s anchor points. Some of the best portable refrigerators will have OEM mounting kits compatible with most types of vehicles. You could also get aftermarket mounting kits if your preferred option doesn’t have this option. Whatever your options are, the mounting hardware makes it easy to attach and detach the fridge whenever the need arises and with minimal effort. A fright slide or drop slide would be a welcome feature if your vehicle has been lifted, and so is a foam base for shock minimization.
Adequate insulation is vital for the refrigerator’s performance and efficiency. A good portable refrigerator should have thick walls with plenty of insulation and an even stronger outer casing. While metallic outer casing may seem handy, it might not be ideal for warm conditions when compared to hardened plastic. Thermal covers may, however come to your aid should you be inclined to stick with the same.
- The Build
The ideal camping refrigerator should be built to last, with strong hinges, touch casings, and solid construction. The rule of thumb is to go for a fridge strong enough to handle a person’s weight. How and where you will use the fridge will also determine the best type of material or casing for the application. Fiberglass material, for example, is impervious to corrosion, hence ideal for marine applications. Plastic would be a good option for touring, while metal is suitable for heavy-duty applications.
- Type Of Compressor Installed
The heart of every refrigerator is the compressor. Only go for a fridge with a good enough and durable compressor to enjoy the benefits. Experts recommend going for fridges with name-brand compressors such as the Fuji, Sawa, Waeco, and SECOP installed. These will help ensure your fridge runs efficiently without the compressor ever giving up.
- The Position Of The Evaporator And Vents
The evaporator and cooling surfaces should under no circumstances be blocked, especially with the fridge anchored in the vehicle. Check to see where the fans and vents are located to ensure they won’t be obstructed in any way.
A good refrigerator will have simple and easy-to-use controls. Check to see if you can adjust the temperature without having to run through the service manual.
Baskets make it easy to access items in the fridge and keep it clean as well. These need to not only be easy to remove and clean on the go too.
- Cover Availability
A fridge cover is essential considering where and how the fridge will be used. The cover helps keep the refrigerator insulated and protected from hot air, which again reduces its current draw significantly. A good cover will also protect the fridge’s surface from getting scratches and will not obstruct the vents, access, and controls. Some camping fridges will come with the cover as standard, but not all.
- Availability Of Spare Parts
Even the best quality camping refrigerators break down at some point. You thus want to go with a fridge that not only offers after-sales support but has spare parts readily available. Although you might be inclined to buy a portable fridge from a known brand, some of the smaller brands have excellent after-sales service, sometimes better than your preferred brands.