Essentially, a portable fridge is typically powered from your 4WD’s 12-volt electrical system and while they may be more expensive than an esky, you won’t need to ever worry about buying ice again!

Portable fridges come in a range of sizes to suit differing setups and requirements. If you’re planning a month long caravanning trip then you’ll obviously need more capacity, but if it’s typically just you and your partner heading into the bush for a long weekend, obviously something smaller will suffice. It’s also crucial to acknowledge that the larger the fridge, the more current is needed from your vehicle and batteries and the more space will be required to transport it to your destination. If you wish to have a freezer compartment, keep in mind that it will also take up more space.

Portable fridges are generally available in the following sizes:

25L – Very compact fridge that can only fit a couple of lunch bags, suitable for work trucks
35L – Perfect for a two-person weekend trip, or maybe a one week solo trip
40L – The ‘standard’ size of portable fridges, ideal for a two or three person long weekend trip
50L – Ideal for a long weekend trip with the family, or a week long adventure for two people
65L – A large and heavy fridge which requires a decent amount of space in your vehicle, suitable for a family of five.
80L+ – Mostly for commercial use, but can support a large group for a week long trip if vehicle space permits

Two-Way or Three-Way Fridge?

Where two-way fridges are powered by electricity, three-way fridges can be powered by electricity or gas. Depending on the purposes of your camping and requirements, either fridge may be suitable for your needs. The following outlines the difference between these two types of fridges to give you a better understanding of their pro’s and con’s.

Two-Way Fridge
Similar to your home fridge, the two-way fridge uses a compressor and can run on both 12V batteries and 240V in powered campsites. Two-way fridges are designed to be powered by your vehicle’s electrical system without drawing too much current. These fridges will require regular battery charging and therefore aren’t designed for extended trips, but can also be powered by a small solar panel. If you use solar panels, however, keep in mind that your fridge will turn off overnight. Two-way fridges maintain good performance even in hot cars and can be equipped with freezers. They can also be used on uneven surfaces or inclines.

Three-Way Fridge
These types of fridges can be powered by both 12 and 240V, but can also run on LPG by using gas flow heat exchangers rather than compressors. While they are quieter than two-way fridges, they don’t generally perform as well and must be positioned on even surfaces. Three-way fridges also draw more current than compressor fridges and will require good ventilation. On the other hand, three-way fridges are ideal if you’re spending extended amounts of time in remote locations, as a single LPG cylinder will last for weeks.

Additional Features

  • Look for a fridge with a low current draw to prolong your battery life. Also, vehicle temperature makes a significant difference in how hard your fridge needs to work
  • Look for a fridge with an inbuilt battery protection that cuts out at a high voltage to keep your vehicle’s battery from going flat. A model with a dual battery system is recommended
  • Don’t forget to check that your fridge has the correct connector for your vehicle
  • Always purchase a durable, robust fridge with strong hinges
  • Purchasing robust mounting hardware is always encouraged to prevent your fridge for tipping, especially if you’ll be off-roading.
  • Fridges that have better insulation reduce the load on the compressor, so look for fridges that have thick walls
  • Consider the airflow in your vehicle along with the location of vents and fans on your fridge. Maintaining good airflow is essential to a well-functioning fridge
  • Consider purchasing a well-known brand to ensure that spare parts are readily available

While portable fridges and accessories aren’t cheap, they certainly make camping trips more convenient and comfortable for everyone. There are many factors that must be considered when purchasing a portable fridge, however the above guidelines will stand you in good stead when you decide to make the leap!