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car fridges for camping


  • a car fridge is a great addition especially for summer camping (short trips during winter can be done without a fridge - just don't take perishables like milk and meats)
    • ideally you will be powering the fridge from a 12V LiFePO4 battery (and NOT your car battery)
      • a 100Ah battery will power a 35L fridge for at least 3 days if the fridge is not opened frequently or for too long and you don't put warm foods in it
      • a smaller 60Ah fridge such as a EcoFlow River 2 Pro will power the fridge for 1-2 days but this can be extended by recharging the battery via cig lighter as you drive or via solar, or via fast 1hr AC power charge if power is accessible
    • prior to travelling it is best to run it for 12-24hrs prior to leaving so it is cold before you start the trip - this can be done on AC power at home
  • the best size for most families is a 60L capacity but 35L may suffice for a couple
    • a 35L model or smaller will generally draw about 25Ah 12V (~300Wh) per day to maintain contents at 4degC in 32degC ambient temperatures
    • a 60L fridge will probably need 35-60Ah on 12V (420-720Wh) per day
    • check to see if it will fit a wine bottle standing up if this is important to you
    • ideally it should allow your 2L milk bottle to stand up - nothing worse than a leaking milk bottle because it was horizontal and had a leaky top!
  • fruit and veges are generally placed in the warmer upper parts to avoid spoiling by freezing
  • most have a digital interface which allows user to dial in the desired temperature such as from 10degC down to minus 10degC
  • some larger ones have dual compartments - one as a fridge and the other as a freezer
  • most Engel models tend to be narrow and tall and will not fit under a station wagon boot hide, whereas Dometic CFX models are not as tall and may fit

Alternatives to a fridge

  • ice boxes / eskies are a cheaper alternative but suffer many issues:
    • need to fill most of it with ice EACH day - so you need to find somewhere to buy it
    • less internal space as much is taken up by ice
    • when the ice melts, your food may end up soaking in water - chocolates don't do well!
    • it can be hard to be sure you food has been kept at a safe temperature to stop you getting gastro
    • it is very heavy to carry full of ice and food and drinks, and heavy to lift to drain the water out

General comments on fridges

  • older Dometic CF models are budget level fridges which are more likely to have issues including failure of the lid lock mechanism
  • Dometic CFX3 models tend to be the favored Dometic models for their better build quality but are more expensive
    • my tests of a Dometic CFX3 35 on a hot 37degC summer day in the shade:
      • fridge had been filled with drink bottles in main compartment and kept cold in fridge running overnight prior to tests
      • lid not opened
      • fridge set to minus 4degC:
        • probe amongst the bottles in main compartment remained -4 to -5degC
        • probe in empty top section steady at 5.5degC
      • fridge then set to 0degC:
        • probe amongst the bottles in main compartment increased to -2degC by 1.5hrs
        • probe in empty top section steady at 7.5degC at 1.5hrs!!
    • my tests of a Dometic CFX3 35 at average 25degC summer day in the shade fridge set to 0degC:
      • probe amongst the bottles in main compartment averaged minus 0.5degC range minus 0.2 to minus 0.7degC
        • probe in empty top section averaged 7degC with range 5.7 to 7.5

Fridges for small cars

  • small cars are very limiting especially if you have lots of gear or plan to sleep in the car
  • these smaller fridges are single zone (set to fridge or to freeze mode) usually run at under 1A, 12V power at 4degC setting and most can be set down to minus 18degC for freezing mode (but this will draw much more power)
  • the Dometic CFX3 35 will take up most of the boot of a Subaru XV fitting side-ways so this is probably much too big for your needs and you will have to settle for a smaller capacity fridge such as:
model capacity (375mL cans) price ($AUD) in 2023 size 2L bottles upright? weight comments
Oztrail 15L Console 15L, 18 cans $299 57.5 x 23.0 x 41.3 cm N 10.5kg fits in 4WD consoles; 3 USB outlets but no AC power cord, 2 cup holders, 2 phone holders, mounting plate
Igloo ICF 18L 18L, 25 cans $399 42.2 x 50.0 x 32.9 cm Y 9.9kg DC and AC power cord
Dometic CFF12 13L 13L, 17 cans $599 56.2 x 38.0 x 23.5 wide cm N 9.5kg console style, 2 cup holders, Seat belt slot for in-vehicle fixing; DC and AC power cord
Dometic CFF20 21L 21L, 27 cans $658 66.0deep x 43.0high x 28.3wide cm 1.5L x 6 10.8kg DC and AC power cord; fixed wide handles
Dometic CFX3 25 25L, 33 cans $925 56.9(L) x 34.2(W) x 42.0(H) cm 30cm height 13.4kg DC and AC power cord; 1xUSB outlet; Bluetooth/WiFi app, strong handles fold down
Dometic CFX3 35 36L, 50 cans $1199 69.4 D x 39.8 W x 40.7 H cm Y 17.7kg DC and AC power cord; 1xUSB outlet; Bluetooth/WiFi app, strong handles fold down

Fridges for station wagons such as the Subaru Outback

  • my favourite is the Dometic CFX3 35 ($AU1199)
    • nice size for 1-2 people
    • fits UNDER the boot hide
    • fits length-ways in the boot with enough space for a 12V battery box next to it and a 45L Dometic esky on the other side of it to keep all your cooking gear and non-refrigerant foods
    • top section runs warmer (~7degC) which is great for fruits, veges, chocolates, etc that you don't really want at 2degC

Fridges for 4WD or larger cars

  • there are many options to consider:
    • standard style vs drawer style
    • fridge or freezer or combined fridge and freezer compartments
    • capacity depends on how many campers it needs to support and duration between food stores
    • weight - can you actually lift it?
    • battery capacity to run it - the larger the fridge, the more current it will draw and the larger capacity battery you will need (or solar charging)
    • how rugged is it to withstand hundreds of kms of corrugated gravel roads - perhaps Engel models are the preferred for such travel
australia/fridges.txt · Last modified: 2024/02/08 21:30 by gary1

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