Buying a camping fridge what is best?

Submitted: Thursday, Jan 05, 2006 at 11:52
ThreadID: 29361 Views:13181 Replies:17 FollowUps:3
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We are looking to buying a camping fridge. We have examined both 3 way gas and 12/24/240V systems. We would like to know the pro's and con's of both options.
Things to know - We don't have a dual battery system. Our budget is up to $1000, trips will be up to 5 days.

Any advice will be much appreciated.

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Reply By: Plunger - Thursday, Jan 05, 2006 at 12:21

Thursday, Jan 05, 2006 at 12:21

From my (limited) experience, I think it is a big ask to do the "fridge thing" properly with your current budget. Through compromise, you stand to find yourself a grand lighter in the pocket and the not-so-proud owner of a system with which you might well be dissatisfied!!

I have just outlayed $3000 in total for a Trailblaza and triple-battery system - with the specific purpose of longer trips.

Up till now, for shorter trips and base-camping, I have used quality eskies, carefully managed. These comprise a 150L Evakool (as "deep freeze") and a second 70L fibreglass esky (as "fridge"). Our family of 8, including lots of hungry teenagers, has camped for over a week in summer Qld without having to buy ice. Ideally the "deep freeze" esky is opened once (sometimes twice) per day. Frozen product is thawed in the "fridge" esky - thus keeping that esky cold at the same time. Homemade ice in plastic milk containers is used - dry ice not required. If it weren't for our desire to head further afield and for longer, I would stay with this simple, effective system.

The only thing you can't do with this system is expect to chill hot stuff (like beer!). And if the kids are in the esky every five minutes to get ice for their cordial, it won't work either!!

As an alternative to the fridge, you may wish to consider spending your grand on a couple of Evakools or similar quality eskies in sizes that suit your family's needs. I doubt you'll regret it - and even if you then acquired a fridge down the track, I imagine you'll still use at least one esky in conjunction.

As for your question re 3-way versus electric - do your research as they are based on different refrigeration principles and suit different purposes. I read as much as I could find and decided to go with compressor driven.

Best wishes

AnswerID: 146549

Reply By: greydemon - Thursday, Jan 05, 2006 at 12:32

Thursday, Jan 05, 2006 at 12:32
Get a dual battery system. They don't cost much these days and can be easily installed yourself, I am totally bemused by auto electrics and even I managed to get it right. Get a good deep cycle battery - search this forum for heaps of good advice on that topic.

Now think about your fridge.

When I looked into getting a fridge a couple of years back I was overwhelmed with the advice from this and other sources so be warned. Much of the advice related to ancilliary charging for the battery - solar/generator etc. Three-ways were my first choice but there seemed to be too many discussions on the importance of keeping them level, even when parked for lunch, and refridgerant clogging the tubes so I dismissed them. It all seemed too hard.

In the building where I work there is a guy who goes off road a lot so I asked him what he did. His answer was that he chucks the fridge in the back, plugs it in, goes away for a couple of weeks, gets home, cleans the fridge and sticks it back in the shed. No hassle, no problems. Ever.

On his advice I bought a new Engel which has a very low power requirement and now I do the same as him, maximum in one stretch so far of three and a half weeks. No hassle.

BUT, and there had to be a BUT of course ! If you are staying in the same place for a long time and not using your vehicle to recharge your batteries you will have to delve into the murky waters of solar panels or generators. If you end up with a dispicable generator please don't camp near me (within 2 kilometres!) and even then only run it during daylight hours!! (Thanks)

There will be others joining this string who will no doubt extoll the virtues of Waeco and other brands, they may be right, Engels are my personal choice and I have never regretted the extra expense (An insulated case is also worth the money).

Have fun
AnswerID: 146552

Follow Up By: greydemon - Thursday, Jan 05, 2006 at 13:06

Thursday, Jan 05, 2006 at 13:06
Forgot to mention that on long trips I use the Engel as a freezer and also take an Esky. Milk, cheese etc that I don't want frozen go in the Esky. Each morning I take out the frozen food for the day and swap over a two litre milk bottle of water. The old one goes into the freezer to freeze again, the new one plus the frozen food defrostiing for the evening meal keep the esky cool. The Engel stays in the car, the Esky sits in the shade when camping.

The only problem I have had is that sometimes the food hasn't defrosted enough by the evening and the meal gets delayed!

Take red wine instead of beer - sometimes you just have to rough it!
FollowupID: 400042

Reply By: D-Jack - Thursday, Jan 05, 2006 at 12:33

Thursday, Jan 05, 2006 at 12:33
GCM, the answer is simple. Either eskys (as in previous post but don't skimp on quality) or 3 way fridge. You can run it on 12v when driving or briefly stopping, and switch to gas when stationary. You will then be able to chill warmer things like freshly bought meat or drinks. Without a dual battery setup (consider it may not be as expensive as you think) or solar power setup, you won't really be able to power a compressor fridge unless you are travelling almost all the time.

Hope this helps.


(p.s. even with a dual battery setup it would sometimes be advantageous to be able to run it on gas)
AnswerID: 146553

Reply By: Member - Paul P (Bris) - Thursday, Jan 05, 2006 at 12:49

Thursday, Jan 05, 2006 at 12:49

My thoughts

3 way -

Great if you are staying in one place. Need to be level. Work fine on 240 volts.

When in transit 12 volts is needed. Standard vehicle plug wiring will not handle the current draw of these fridges on 12volts (commonly around 8-10amps)

Not as robust (IMOP) as a compressor fridge ( Engel etc)

Check thermostat operation on 12 volts (some just turn on and stay on )

Compressor Fridges

12/240 volt operation
Most have low current draw on 12volts ( Engel) if you stay around 40 litres or less in capacity.
Require vehicle dual battery system and solar power/mains charging if staying more than about 2 days without running vehicle for at least 2 hours (depends on alternator capacity and how much battery is discharged)

I have a preference for the compressor fridge. My 10 year old Engel is still going strong after much use.

I would suggest that your budget could be met but with second hand purchases.


AnswerID: 146557

Reply By: Bilbo - Thursday, Jan 05, 2006 at 12:51

Thursday, Jan 05, 2006 at 12:51
I have an Autofridge - 12 volt Danfoss compressor fridge. I reckon it's the ultimate. Not cheap, but they're bullet proof, low current draw and will freeze a can of beer solid in 6 hours in 40C.

If you're camping in high temperatures a 3 way fridge will only get down to about 28C to 30C less than the surrounding air temperature. The Autofridge will get down to -10C easily in 38C weather- and it will stay there with a lot less current draw than most other fridges.

Mine's been in the back of a ute for 10 years on prospecting trips and it's never missed a beat.

As stated above, you can spend $1000.00 and still be disappointed that yer new fridge wouldn't stay cold when the weather gets hot.

AnswerID: 146558

Reply By: Truckster (Vic) - Thursday, Jan 05, 2006 at 13:23

Thursday, Jan 05, 2006 at 13:23
You will never get the PERFECT answer to this

there are so many good and bad stories with every model and brand, that its almost impossible.

IMHO if you dont have a dual battery system, you maybe in excrement if you basecamp at all for few days.
AnswerID: 146564

Reply By: Member - Luxoluk - Thursday, Jan 05, 2006 at 14:37

Thursday, Jan 05, 2006 at 14:37
AnswerID: 146577

Reply By: howie - Thursday, Jan 05, 2006 at 14:51

Thursday, Jan 05, 2006 at 14:51
an engel/waeco type 12v fridge is the way to go to start.
with a good main batt and an efficient fridge the batt will last 4/5 days if
1) its the cooler months and you can turn it off at night when in same spot
2) driving during the day to recharge batt in hotter months.

ie spent 3 weeks on canning, engel on full, single batt,no probs
did this for several years but was careful and usually with others.

then you can start getting the bits together for a dual batt , and if i can fit a batt tray,batt and a redarc so can you. bits will cost $500 but then you can sleep at night especially if ,like us now, you are a bit more independant.

i think the 39l fridges are a tad over $1000 but, apart from sterilisation, is the best basic thing i have ever got.
most 3-way fridges do not travel well
AnswerID: 146579

Reply By: OzRoamer - Thursday, Jan 05, 2006 at 15:08

Thursday, Jan 05, 2006 at 15:08
I also back up what Bilbo has stated above.

We run Autofridge in our camper trailer fleet in both
39lt and 73lt and would not try any other make again.

Been down the path before and always come back to Autofridge!
AnswerID: 146582

Reply By: Member - bushfix - Thursday, Jan 05, 2006 at 15:10

Thursday, Jan 05, 2006 at 15:10
if you want to go the fridge...

i would suggest putting a dual battery system in yourself ~$400 - 450 and using the balance to pick up a good s/h compressor fridge off ebay. For $650 you'll find a good fridge eg. engel, autofridge and others. fridgeshop is another option.

fridge cost also determined by size though. depends how many people you are catering for and what you really want to take in it.
AnswerID: 146583

Reply By: Mainey (WA) - Thursday, Jan 05, 2006 at 15:17

Thursday, Jan 05, 2006 at 15:17
GCM asked for information on Buying a camping fridge - what is BEST?

If in fact you do want the best :-) and I don't see why you would if it's only for "up to 5 days".... settle for the most commonly used fridge or most popular fridge because they would probably suit you for short duration trips of even a week or so.

However if you want the best - you will have to spend more money :-(
and as you say it's only for "up to 5 days" anything would do the job, even a decent esky would be fine, I have used an EvaKool Esky in the Kimberleys for short duration trips with out too many problems.

Realisticly, with a $1,000 budget you won't get a "best fridge" but a cheap fridge.


AnswerID: 146586

Reply By: Member - toohey - Thursday, Jan 05, 2006 at 18:15

Thursday, Jan 05, 2006 at 18:15
g'day gcm
my two bobs worth waeco fridge,evercool esky;works for me.
cheers toohey.
ps.definetly dual battery's
AnswerID: 146629

Reply By: John L G - Thursday, Jan 05, 2006 at 18:24

Thursday, Jan 05, 2006 at 18:24

There is a 50 itre evacool (read - rolls royce) fridge/freezer in the trader section of this site for $850.00

A dual battery system, absolute simplest with simple key isolater on one battery you could do for approx $120 plus the battery. Batt holder from coventry motors are about $20, cables from auto electrician to correct length with fitted terminals are about $60.00 cash and the key switch is about $40.00.

Simplest sometimes best and used a similar system on my old troopy for yonks, no problems.

Have fun

John G
AnswerID: 146630

Reply By: Taize - Thursday, Jan 05, 2006 at 20:36

Thursday, Jan 05, 2006 at 20:36
I support the comments about the autofridge. I have a 14yr old 39L version and its fantastic. If you are prepared to wait a while you might be able to find one second hand or if you go direct to the factory you can get them cheaper.

AnswerID: 146656

Reply By: Member - Kingsley N (SA) - Thursday, Jan 05, 2006 at 21:16

Thursday, Jan 05, 2006 at 21:16
At the risk of inviting a WAECO VS ENGEL war I can recommend the WAECO CF50 compressor fridge with a WAECO RAPS (Remote area power supply!) and a WAECO remote switch. I have no commercial interest in WAECO - just a satisfied customer. Try and get a copy of the WAECO 2006 catalogue. It is 128 pages of products and prices. waeco

I have had my WAECO for about four years and used it in two different vehicles. The first one did not have a dual battery system so I bought the RAPS. It is an AGM battery with all sorts of smart gadgets to ensure that you don't run the main battery flat. You need to drive the vehicle for a few hours every 2nd day or so to ensure that the RAPS charges up. You also need to think about securing the fridge and battery in the back of your vehicle.

I think that your budget is a bit light on for new purchases, but there may be second hand units available (try this forum or e-bay)

The compressor fridge uses less current than the thermo electric three way units
AnswerID: 146666

Follow Up By: Member - Kingsley N (SA) - Thursday, Jan 05, 2006 at 21:22

Thursday, Jan 05, 2006 at 21:22
Sorry that link doesn't work ( a problem that should be fixed on this Forum David- I wish I could preview my posts!)


I got my catalogue today at the newsagent in a triple pack of Caravan and Motorhomes.

FollowupID: 400125

Reply By: GEG - Friday, Jan 06, 2006 at 23:24

Friday, Jan 06, 2006 at 23:24

I have many friends who have got the absolute best fridge but I cannot tell you the brand im sorry. These people go away for 7 days or more, travelling throughout qld, fraser and cape york.

I can tell you that they say they only need to plug this fridge into the car for about 4 hours in every 12 to keep it icey cold.

The cost for such a fridge is $1700 brand new, and I dont expect you would save much less buying second hand. (I was going to get one too...but have done the dry ice evakool fiberglass thing...and it works great...just do not let the kids open it under any circumstances...or the mere male for that fact as they just have no idea on how the food should be left packed)

i could get the name for you if you like.
AnswerID: 146910

Follow Up By: Plunger - Saturday, Jan 07, 2006 at 08:11

Saturday, Jan 07, 2006 at 08:11
FollowupID: 400411

Reply By: GEG - Saturday, Jan 07, 2006 at 11:12

Saturday, Jan 07, 2006 at 11:12

I have located this website and Im sure its the same fridge as my friends...

please copy and paste into your browser the following then you can check this out.

This one is called the AUTOFRIDGE, ill double check on the name by sending the kids around the corner to get the brand name of my friends fridge ...

Be very interesting to see if there are any others out there who have this brand and what they think...?

AnswerID: 146962

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