Strange fridge question

Submitted: Saturday, Aug 02, 2014 at 12:40
ThreadID: 108981 Views:2069 Replies:14 FollowUps:1
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I've just bought a little budget camper trailer and I don't feel like shelling out for a fridge for the camper and another smaller one for the car for day trips. I also don't want to cart a big fridge around in the car. So I have a question:

As a lapsed engineer, I have worked out that (in theory) a 70 litre icebox with 35mm of insulation will take just under two days to melt 8 kilos (litres) of ice at 25 degrees of outside temperature - provided of course that you don't open the lid, keep the icebox in a shaded place and put everything cold or frozen into the icebox to start with. It's equivalent to two bags of ice, which doesn't sound too wide of the mark. That's the theory anyhow.

So I am thinking of having a 70 litre icebox in the camper and a little fridge/freezer in the car. Then I can rotate four 2 litre containers of frozen water between icebox and fridge every day or so, depending on the heat.

The cost is about $1,000 for fridge and icebox compared to over $2,500 for one large and one small fridge.

Does that sound viable? I guess I should buy the icebox plus a bag of ice and test the theory in the lounge room first. But is anyone using this method and can you see a fatal flaw?

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Reply By: CSeaJay - Saturday, Aug 02, 2014 at 13:54

Saturday, Aug 02, 2014 at 13:54
It may be viable but it depends so much on your space needs.
Remember, 8 kg of ice robs you of space. By rotating beteween the two you loose potentially more than 12 litres of Space.
To us that is too valuable, both from a space inside the cooler AND the space that extra cooler space actually occupies in the car/van
AnswerID: 536995

Reply By: gbc - Saturday, Aug 02, 2014 at 14:10

Saturday, Aug 02, 2014 at 14:10
You'll find your fridge will work bloody hard to re freeze 8 litres of water at a time. Throw the icebox in the bin along with the water and keep the food and drink in the fridge in the car. It's not an unmanageable situation.
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Reply By: Member - Oldbaz. NSW. - Saturday, Aug 02, 2014 at 14:33

Saturday, Aug 02, 2014 at 14:33
A 70 Litre icebox will be a real back breaker if you have to lift/move it....oldbaz.
AnswerID: 537000

Reply By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Saturday, Aug 02, 2014 at 14:45

Saturday, Aug 02, 2014 at 14:45
I agree with gbc. I don't care to do the maths but any camper fridge running on "Freeze" continuously will take more than 24 hours to freeze 8 litres of water. Maybe 48 hours in hot ambients. Your recharging system needs to be capable of keeping up with this demand. The overall efficiency is also poor.

Your 70 litre icebox is going to be half-filled with four 2 litre containers so only maybe 35 litres of useable spacer.

Perhaps consider a 40 litre fridge in the camper and use a small icebox with a cooler-brick in the car for day trips. Cheaper, more compact, easier to manage and after all, you surely don't need a freezer in the car for day trips?

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AnswerID: 537002

Reply By: Lachie - Saturday, Aug 02, 2014 at 14:50

Saturday, Aug 02, 2014 at 14:50
Hi Keith
Why do you want a fridge in the CT ? We have always had one ( 50Lt) in the prado for many years for the the very reason of when you leave the CT behind.
The fridge is always in the prado for that matter even when we are not on holidays. We are about an hour away from town so very handy when we go shopping. I have it set permanently up on some draws I made up.
AnswerID: 537004

Reply By: The Bantam - Saturday, Aug 02, 2014 at 17:11

Saturday, Aug 02, 2014 at 17:11
There have been a couple of valid points raised. sure you are not thinking in terms of home or in an inefficient baught a budjet camper trailer, don't ruin the economy by overloading your self with luxury.
A cheap camper trailer is a tent screwed to a trailer......that can be a realy efficient and economical thing.....don't try to make it something it is not.

Keep the good stuff in the car....including the fridge.

two people should be able to live quite happily out of a single 40 litre brother and his wife did for several years.

Just don't try to live on refrigerated goods too much, and don't keep things cold that don't need to be.

There is a whole range of stuff we keep in our large home fridges that simply do not need it or don't need to be refrigerated if consumed in the short term.

now back to the ice box......

portable fridges are a wonderfull thing..I own a couple...but...I believe in some situations they are oversold and less practical than a good ice box well managed.

Its an unavoidable fact that an icebox has to be considerably larger than a fridge to carry the same amount of goods and keep them cold.. to be realy effective a good portion of the icebox ( 1/3 to 1/2 )needs to be filled with ice...but that may not be a problem.

before we started with fridges we could manage 3 days on a single pack of ice in May in QLD( mild temps), in an only fair icebox.
With a good icebox and good managment, 4 to 5 days should be for weekend trips for some people an ice box comes out way ahead of a was not long ago that most of us had no choice.

run on a continuous basis however...the icebox has some issues.

If you are going to freeze ice in a portble fridge to load an icebox...well hell you need a pretty solid electrical supply.....a good fridge will freeze a couple of icecream containers( there are better shapes and sizes) in 24 hours...but it will be running hard and what else do you expect to keep in this fridge....that will be frozen too.

its not realy a viable thing.

if you want to run longer on an icebox, you can move across to dry ice.......but ya cant make that at home and you cant buy it everywhere.

BTW, if you are doing weekend trips with an icebox...make your own ice in particular is not very hard or made in the home freezer, paticularly, at least 3 day old ice will be way denser and harder than baught ice, particularly party ice.

AnswerID: 537012

Reply By: Andrew D7 - Saturday, Aug 02, 2014 at 17:55

Saturday, Aug 02, 2014 at 17:55
"The cost is about $1,000 for fridge"
For $1,000 you could get yourself a 45L fridge and solar panel
Ice doesn't give you good safe food storage unless you have sufficient ice to maintain a temperature of 4C or less for safe food storage.
AnswerID: 537016

Reply By: Tony H15 - Saturday, Aug 02, 2014 at 18:31

Saturday, Aug 02, 2014 at 18:31
Nothing wrong with a little 'luxury in a camper trailer, I've had half a dozen camper trailers and in all of them had a fridge, TV, DVD player, heater, LED lights, radio, deep cycle batteries, a solar panel, generator, etc.
We travelled all through the Territory, WA, SA, QLD, NSW and Vic for over 20 years with variations on this setup - anyone can make themselves uncomfortable - but really, why would you bother.
When we started we had a 40 litre Gott ice box but soon got rid of that n favour of a 40 litre Engel for the back of the car, simply moving it inside the camper when we stopped anywhere and running it off the camper battery. Alternatively, a long extension lead from the car's battery will suffice if you don't have a battery in the camper. We found a 40 litre Engel was plenty, even kept dry for my scotch in there.
The biggest problem I can see with making ice in the fridge and stocking the esky with ice is your sanity.
AnswerID: 537018

Reply By: Crusier 91 - Saturday, Aug 02, 2014 at 22:22

Saturday, Aug 02, 2014 at 22:22
Best way I keep my 90L ice box cool for 5 days with out melting ice water needing to be drained:

Heaps of 2L cordial or coke bottles frozen with drinking water, check what type bottle fits your 70L best. Layer the edges of ice box, then pack, then layer the top and ensure the food you put in is already cooled and/or frozen.

You lose lots of space, but it works. Try not to use the contents in ice box till half way through the trip, so pack accordingly.

Best to give this a try prior to your trip to see how long things will last in your ice box.


AnswerID: 537035

Follow Up By: Crusier 91 - Saturday, Aug 02, 2014 at 22:32

Saturday, Aug 02, 2014 at 22:32
I forgot to mention,

if you can get hold of a unwanted wet suit or purchase a second hand one really cheap, cut the chest or back out depending whitch side the zipper is on (you dont want the zipper side) to the size of the inside opening of the ice box and use it as extra insulation.

Try to get hold of a thick suit, preferably a steamer or 4ply
FollowupID: 821297

Reply By: Member - KeithB - Saturday, Aug 02, 2014 at 22:26

Saturday, Aug 02, 2014 at 22:26
Thanks for your relies, everyone. It looks like trying to freeze the water into ice is the fatal flaw. I thought there might have been one, but couldn't think what it might be.
This forum is a wonderful resource. Thanks again.
AnswerID: 537036

Reply By: Member - LG__ (WA) - Saturday, Aug 02, 2014 at 22:32

Saturday, Aug 02, 2014 at 22:32
We (2 adults) spent 3 weeks on the road with a Waeco 35l fridge in the car running off 12v AGM battery recharged from the car's alternator. (moving on every 48 hours except one 72 hour stop)

By using cryovac meat we didn't need to freeze anything so set the fridge at 4°C and left it there the whole time. A few cans of 'fizzy drinks' were placed in the fridge about 2 hours before required. We used UHT milk instead of fresh so didn't need to put it in the fridge until opened.

Personally I would suggest a small esky in the car for those day trips... or one of those insulated shopping/picnic bags.

An esky with ice in it is a good idea for frequent openings - cartons of beer - as I don't want to be opening the food fridge that often.

That's about 2 cents worth ;)
AnswerID: 537038

Reply By: Member - Ups and Downs - Sunday, Aug 03, 2014 at 07:19

Sunday, Aug 03, 2014 at 07:19
'So I am thinking of having a 70 litre icebox in the camper and a little fridge/freezer in the car. Then I can rotate four 2 litre containers of frozen water between icebox and fridge every day or so, depending on the heat.'


That is almost exactly what we have, and exactly what we do.

The Engel 40 litre and well insulated 73litre ice-box works superbly. We have frozen meat, ice-cream or whatever and an ice-box that is very efficient using the 2 x 2litre method. (keeps the beer cold) with out everything swimming in water.

Have used that system for 12 years now, including a 13 month trip around Aus. The only time the Engel didn't cope was in 45-50° temperatures for a 2 week spell. Just bought a block of ice at that time.

Have had no trouble freezing the 2 litre bottles. The bottles go back into the Engel still ½ frozen anyway.
AnswerID: 537051

Reply By: Member - Odog - Sunday, Aug 03, 2014 at 10:51

Sunday, Aug 03, 2014 at 10:51
Hi Keith
We have an up right Waeco fridge, with a small freezer section, in our camp trailer, along with a 50ltr Waeco in the vehicle.. We load both up, when camping, the fridge in the trailer is starting to drain the batteries after 3 or four days, (no solar or gen) by this time, we can fit all that needs to be kept cold in one fridge, and repack in the car fridge, as we usually do a bit of site seeing in the car, this fridge is always running... The camper trailer fridge cools down again when we move camp, via charger under the bonnet, and Anderson plug.. Usually get a powered camp sight for a couple of days here and there to charge batteries in the trailer off mains power, do some washing and descent showers.. Works fine for us. Cheers
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AnswerID: 537072

Reply By: Janos K - Wednesday, Aug 06, 2014 at 17:48

Wednesday, Aug 06, 2014 at 17:48
May i jump in for an alternative?

Jump to your local classified adds, like Gumtree. Buy a knocked about bar fridge . $50~100
Then a small MSW Inverter and whalla .

We have a bar fridge in the back yard, ITs max current draw is 0.6amps ( as per the label ) 144watts . To be safe we bought a 500W Inverter.$70.00

2 years and still running. ( fridge could do with a clean)
AnswerID: 537255

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