PORTABLE CAMPING FRIDGE QUICK GUIDE
If you start spending extended periods outdoors camping or if you are planning an extended tour, you will probably want more than an esky to keep your food and drinks cold. Portable fridges designed for camping are the way to go.
There are 3 basic types of portable camping fridges. In my experience, I still prefer the compressor type over the absorption and the thermoelectric versions.
COMPRESSOR CAMPING FRIDGE
Compressor portable fridges operate much in the same way as your fridge at home. They’ll run on electricity from the mains at a caravan or camping park or they will run on the power from your car or other vehicle battery. This makes them pretty good for when you are touring and when you want to keep food cool when all you have is your car battery. I’ve set up my car to run on a dual battery system and I’ve wired it so that my compressor camping fridge takes power from the second battery. This way the battery still gets charge when my engine is running but I don’t burn through all my car’s other battery power accidentally when using the compressor camping fridge for extended periods.
The only thing to be really wary of with a compressor-style portable fridge for camping is the fact that ambient changes in the temperature can (and will) effect changes in the temperature inside your fridge. When the temperature goes up you will need to adjust the operating temperature to compensate or your food won’t be cold. I turn mine down low before going to sleep at night each day, for example. I prefer to turn it off where possible and so I pay attention to what’s going in and out. If there’s only drinks left, then it’s easy to save on electricity by turning it off overnight and just allowing the insulation to keep my drinks cold in the morning. Even when you are way off the grid, you don’t need icy cold drinks in the morning, especially when the kettle is on.
As I said, I prefer the compressor type of portable camping fridge simply because they do a much better job of keeping food and drinks cold than the absorption and thermoelectric types. That’s not to say the other types don’t work, they just don’t do the job like you are used to at home with a fridge.
If you can get connected to gas or have your own gas supply, absorption fridges are another way to go. Now carrying gas around isn’t always as easy as it is to carry batteries around. I know a couple who live on a remote property which is off the grid. They have solar power and bottled gas. The absorption portable camping fridge is more of a fixture of their home.
As you can see from their use of the absorption fridge type, if you can get connected to gas or have a supply of gas on hand, the absorption type gas fridge is very good for longer periods of time.
THERMOELECTRIC PORTABLE FRIDGE
The thermoelectric portable fridge is really designed for short-term refrigeration or keeping food and drinks warm. Most of them are quite noisy and are about the size of a small insulated cooler. They don’t offer as much space as the other two types, that’s generally speaking of course. I had one of these in the past. The big advantage is that they can also be used for keeping food warm. I could keep hot food safely in that model.
As for cooling, they can struggle to keep your food really cold and safe when the temperature starts to rise. That can a big issue when you are out camping and fishing for a few days in the middle of summer. That’s ultimately why I don’t use that thing anymore. I found a quality esky was much better at doing the job.
Whatever you do, don’t try to use ice to improve the performance of your thermoelectric portable camping fridge. It’s tempting to do, trust me.
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