Campervan Fridge and Cooler Options // Keeping Food Fresh

Ways to Keep Food Fresh on the Road

 Campervan-Fridge-Options

On this page you will find a list of fridge and cooler options for all budgets of tiny mobile living whether you are doing the vanlife thing or out exploring in your truck or RV.

It’s important to note that you don’t necessarily need a fridge or cooler.  We survived many years on the Pan-American highway without a fridge during the Hasta Alaska Expedition.  The advantages of being fridge-less is that you don’t have a continual draw on your on-board resources, such as propane or your house auxiliary battery, it’s one less thing to go wrong and you can save some money from the purchase which can be used for van-based adventures.  When traveling in cooler climates we found that fresh produce lasted a long time if stored out of direct sunlight and we always had enough canned and dry food to see us through up to 2 weeks off grid, so it can be done.

Our recommendation is to have some sort of cooler or fridge on-board if you can afford the space and money.  Van life can be quite uncomfortable at times, and as discussed in our Expert’s Guide to Van-Life, anything that you can do to make tiny mobile living more comfortable is well worth it.  So, even though we’ve lived without a fridge, we recommend that you get one!

Choosing a Fridge or Cooler for your vehicle can be confusing, especially if you are unsure of what the options are. So here we’ve listed the three options for Campervan Fridges and Coolers that are most commonly used by Van Dwellers and RV folk.

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To make it easier we’ve researched the most popular and highly rated brands of Coolers, 2-Way and 3-Way fridges and listed the specs for you to be able to compare and decide which is the best option for your rig:

Coolers / Ice boxes Options

The cheapest option to keep your food and drinks cold are the Ice boxers. Ice coolers are ideal for those who need temporary cooling such as for short trips away or for those van dwellers that do not want to use up their solar or electricity.  Coolers just need to be refilled with ice which can be a pain if you need to do often or if you are going off-grid. The more expensive units can hold the cold for longer.

Cheapest Option

Rubbermaid Cooler 

Van cooler

4.5 Star Review – Cheap Price – Amazon

*European Options May Vary

  • 24-Quart
  • Superior thermal retention keeps food and beverages cold.
  • Top swing handle makes it easy to carry.
  • Stain and odor resistant.

Best Value Option

Coleman Xtreme 5 Wheeled Cooler

Found in Walmart and Coleman Stores – Cheaper Price found on Amazon  – 4 Star Review

  • 100-Quart
  • Keeps ice up to 5 days in temperatures up to 90° F (32.22° C)
  • Hinged lid with four cup holders keeps drinks close
  • Two-way handles for easy carrying
  • Rustproof, leak-resistant channel for no-tilt draining

Portable 12v Option

Igloo Iceless Thermoelectric Cooler

4 Star Review and Prices – Amazon

  • Cools without ice and leaves you more room for food and drinks
  • Quiet brushless motor and convection cooling with a fan to circulate cold air
  • The 8 feet long power cord plugs into any 12V DC receptacle (cigarette lighter) for portable use

2-way

Compressor Fridge Options

A 2-way fridge can either be built-in to your camper or portable and can come with a top lid or a side opening. As cold air stays on the bottom of the fridge it’s best to get the ones with the top lid. The 2-way fridge can either use 12V or A/C power which means it can be powered from your solar panels if you have them.

This is the least hassle option for Campervan’s as they don’t need to be leveled and needs less maintenance than the 3 way fridge. It’s also a good option to have your fridge portable to give you the option to move it out of your vehicle when the inside temperature gets too hot and your fridge is overworking.
Keep in mind that if you are installing an electrical fridge or cooler that it will be a constant drain on your vehicle’s electrical system. We walk you through how to calculate how much power you will need to run your fridge and your other devices whilst you are living the van life in our free (and very detailed) electrical system guide for campervans.

 Cheapest Option

Dometic Portable 37 Quart

Priced on Amazon $229 (USA)

European Dometic Fridge Option

  • Seven-stage temperature regulation for cooling and heating
  • Includes a Power-Save circuitry switches on when desired temperature is reached
  • Easy to read LED temperature display, wear-free fan
  • Detachable lid with magnetic lock
  • Sturdy, fold-away handle

Recommended Options

Dometic CRX50

(This is the Fridge that we are using and we love it)


Available from Amazon 

Europe Link

    • 12/24V DC
    • 47-liter (1.65 cu. ft.) gross capacity 
    • 6-liter (0.22 cu. ft.) freezer capacity 
    • Very low current draw
    • Extremely Quite Operation
    • Freezer compartment is removable to allow more space for items needing refrigeration  
    • Continuously variable thermostat 
    • Low-voltage protection 
    • Door lock’s venting mechanism holds door open slightly for easy defrosting and mildew prevention when not in use (handy!)

65L version in US

65L version in EU

IF YOU HAVE THE SPACE WE RECOMMEND GETTING THE LARGER 65L VERSION (if you can find it)

 

 

 

Engel 40 Qt. Portable Fridge / Freezer 

Sizes and Prices vary – Amazon 

EUROPE LINK FOR CURRENT PRICE

  • Variable Temperature Control
  • Incline Operation up to 30° off level
  • Highly Efficient Swing Motor Compressor – Low Amp Draws (even at start-up)
  • 100% CFC-Free Compressor
  • Vibration Resistant for Extreme Conditions
  • Known and Trusted Brand

Max Burton Portable Fridge / Freezer 53 Quart

 Amazon has these fridges in different sizes

*European Option Not Available

  • Cooled with a low-wattage, high-efficiency DC compressor 
  • 2″ thick PU thermal insulation foam. Control panel & LED display.
  • Includes an Emergency switch: when selected it operate in full cooling mode to preserve foods until a power failure is resolved.
  • Removable inner freezer storage basket. Built-in interior light.
  • Three power supply saving, low-voltage protections. Includes: 12V/24V power cord and DC to AC power converter.

ARB Fridge Freezer- 50 Quart

More specs, sizes and reviews on Amazon

ARB European Option

  • Can maintain an interior temperature of 0 degrees for true in-vehicle refrigeration and freezing
  • Continues to actively cool contents while the vehicle is off, and features an adjustable automatic battery protection system that prevents vehicle battery run-down
  • Includes two power cables: the DC power cable connects to your vehicle’s 12/24-volt DC power outlet, and the AC power cable plugs into a standard household AC power outlet

3 Way

Absorption Fridge Options

Absorption refrigerators uses heat by propane gas or electricity to create a chemical reaction to cool the fridge. It can either run on propane gas, 12V and 110/240v mains power and can be either portable or built in to your vehicle.

A downside to this type of fridge is that they need to be leveled to work correctly also they need to be well ventilated and requires regular maintenance. The upside is that they are more quiet than the compressor fridge options and can use propane when options for electricity is scarce.

SMAD 3 Way Absorption Refrigerator 60L

 Reviews and Specs on Amazon

European 3 Way Fridge from Dometic

  • Easy to operate manual controls
  • DC12V/AC110V/LPG all available
  • Adjustable, removable shelves with tall container storage
  • No noise, no vibration, no Freon, no pollution, low energy consumption.
  • Voltage – 220 volts
  • Wattage – 150 watts

Portable Mini Refrigerator with Lock

More specs and reviews – Compare on Amazon

  • High Efficiency
  • Energy Use is 0.8 kilowatt_hours
  • Installation Type –  Counter top
  • Voltage – 110 volts
  • Wattage – 65 watts
  •  Defrost – Automatic
  •  Lighting – LED

    SMAD LPG Camping Refrigerator 40L

Compare prices and read reviews on Amazon 

  • High Efficiency
  • Capacity  is 1.24 cubic_feet
  • Installation Type- Free standing
  • Voltage – 110 volts
  • Wattage – 65 watts
  • Defrost – Automatic

POPULAR
DOMETIC CRX65

This is the big brother of the one we installed in our Kombi. We have the 50L Version in Stainless Steel.
This is one we would recommend to you.  The extra capacity is worth it.
We also recommend getting this black one rather than the Stainless Steel one as it looks cleaner.

  • Ultra Efficient – It has a draw of about 1-1.5A per hour under normal conditions.
  • 3-in-1 design. Fridge, Freezer or both at the same time.
  • 12V / 24V compatible.
  • Venting System for defrost / storage to prevent mold.
  • Space Saving Design
  • Approximate Dimensions – Depth 545mm (21.5″), Height 525mm (20″), Width 448mm (17.5″)

 

Compare prices and read reviews on Amazon 

 

 

How-to-build-a-Van-Life-Electrical-System

How to Build an Off Grid Electrical System

 

 

Check out this guide if you’d like to know how to set up your rig with a propane system for extended off grid van living

 

Installing Copper Propane Pipes in a van

 


Other Helpful Sites

http://www.campingworld.com/category/refrigerators/40

http://www.doityourselfrv.com/what-type-of-refrigerator-should-you-use-in-your-rv/

https://www.compactappliance.com/rv-appliances/

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Check out our best Campervan Cooker Options for Van Life

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