3-way or not to 3-way?

Submitted: Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 14:19
ThreadID: 34209 Views:4877 Replies:15 FollowUps:12
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I have been reading this forum for some time now and have got some great bits of information from you guys. My husband & I have enjoyed camping with our 4 daughters for years now but we have finally decided to ditch the old tent & bought an off-road camper trailer......best money we ever spent! Other than back yard sleep overs with the kids we've only managed to have a long weekend @ 1770 just to try it out. Other than 3 inches of rain the first night it was a great weekend! We are wanting to buy a 3-way fridge, Chescold. We think this may be our best option as we don't want the expense of putting in a dual battery set up and we do want to be self sufficent for those lovely out the way places! What are our options? We've had a few people tell us about solar power,portable deepcycle battery set up etc...
Any advice would be greatly appreciated;o)
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Reply By: Member - Tony G (ACT) - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 14:25

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 14:25
Go with the three way, far better than solar on those 2 or 3 wet days with no sun.
AnswerID: 174448

Reply By: Alloy c/t - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 14:29

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 14:29
Best advise is to set aside 2 or 3 nights a week for the next 2 or 3 months and read the Archives on this forum , just type in fridges or chescold or batteries or solar or waeco or engle ect ect ect into the SEARCH function ,,thousands of pages to help you make up your own mind.
AnswerID: 174449

Reply By: Member - Beatit (QLD) - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 14:45

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 14:45
Hi Mrs Clan,

It always happens that it rains on the first trip - its a given. There is a lot of debate on this and the search function will located previous discussion on this. The main issue realy is that a 3 way seems best if you are camping in one spot and can hook the gas up for a period of time, these units don't appear to operate at their best when running off 12v. If you are on the moove then a 3 way may be a bit of a pain and you might be better served by one of the compressor fridges that run well and economically on 12v.

Kind regards
AnswerID: 174451

Follow Up By: Member - Roachie (SA) - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 20:11

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 20:11
I fully agree. 3 way fridges are great ......... within their limitations.

The 3 major limitations in my book are:

1. MUST, MUST be dead level to operate well. (Not achievable when mobile).

2. Limited to approx 30oC below ambient temp. So if it's a 45 degree day, the beer is gunna be warm (or at least not cold enough!!!).

3. They don't work well on 12 volts (as mentioned). I have heard anecdotal evidence that this issue can be marginally overcome by using them on 240 volts via a inverter when travelling. If left to run off a 12 volt battery/ies (whether through an inverter or not), when the engine is not running, the battery/ies will be flattened in next to no time.
FollowupID: 430628

Reply By: Muddies Doe(Trippn) - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 14:52

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 14:52
Hi Clan

If you don't want to outlay the expense as you say, then this fridge is probably it. Chestcold is excellent when run on gas and when kept level. Run it on 24v before you leave for your trip to get it cold before filling it. If running on 12v don't open unless needed too. When stopped for lunch it drained very little from the (one) heavy duty battery. It is 22+ years old and has been re-gassed the once and to this day, it's probably still going? (the ex has it - I have the Trailblaza)

AnswerID: 174454

Follow Up By: Ireland Clan - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 15:14

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 15:14
Thanks for the replies,
We have done a bit of research with this fridge but it's always good to hear from people who have got some hands on knowledge! I think we will go with it but we have another problem, the 50 lt is so big and we have a Nissan Patrol 7 seater and with the rear seat down for the kids it doesn't leave much room for the fridge. We might have to put it on the one spare seat we have, which won't make the kids happy. Also, does it have to be level when in the car and plugged in to 12 volt?
FollowupID: 430561

Follow Up By: Muddies Doe(Trippn) - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 15:46

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 15:46
Hi Clan

Yes, this fridge needs to be quite level in order for it to work efficiently. Now of course a 4BY is going to twist this way and that, but I am talking most of the time it will be ok in the car, ours was.
The chestcold was a good little unit and I never had any food spoil in all the time I used it.
Our type had the element positioned a little way down and everything under it would freeze and stay frozen and the water, milk and juice we had against it froze up (slightly) as well.
A small builders string line level or similar will be enough for you to know if it's level or not when staionary for long periods of time.
We were a family of 5 (mostly) and it served us well during the 20+ years we used it until we got the Trailblaza.

FollowupID: 430571

Reply By: mattie - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 15:01

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 15:01
I have a 12v fridge because i think they are the best option, the gas version (3 way) use a lot of gas i think and the other people that i know that have them and have seen being used i wouldn't own one unless they have improved a lot!!! We have been camping together and the gas was not cooling well enough on the hotter days and using a lot of gas. The other person i know that owns one that i have seen in action when ever he has had it off then later (a week or so) when he wants to use it he is always turning it upside down to get it cooling again, i do not know the reason for this but by doing it eventually starts to cool down. They also are bulky for there capacity and use 12v only when vehicle is running as they use lots of 12v power.
Not what u wanted to hear, hopefuly others have betterexperiences.

AnswerID: 174455

Reply By: Member - Oldplodder (QLD) - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 15:03

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 15:03
Sorry, I don't follow.
If you get a 3 way fridge, won't you run it on gas when stationary, and 12v when in the car running of the main battery? And maybe 240v volts at home?

This is what my friend does when they go up to Fraser Is, and are stationary for more than a couple of days. Others could confirm, but I think a couple oof kgs of gas lasts a good week or more, depending on temp. Main reason they bought a 3 way, so they didn't need to keep recharging a battery every couple of days.

Only hassle I understand on gas is making sure the fridge is level. Chescolds are not as effecient on 12v s our Engel, but if the car is running at the time, it isn't so critical.

We tend to do touring holidays, so a 2nd battery and the Engel works well for us, as we tend to move or drive some where every 2nd or 3rd day.
AnswerID: 174456

Follow Up By: Ireland Clan - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 15:21

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 15:21
Yes we do plan to run it off gas when stationary. We have heard they don't really chew thru much gas but just wanted to know what other options were, if there were any better. Yes an Engel would be good but like I said, we don't really won't the expense of setting up dual battery
FollowupID: 430562

Reply By: Motherhen - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 15:35

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 15:35
My 2 cents worth - I will not have a gas fridge. I have seen and had first hand reports of too many BIG BANGS. They should not be run while travelling, and need to be fairly level to work. Not at all suitable for the type of travelling we do.

We bought a old small wind-up caravan a few years ago and the 3 way fridge was kaput. We purchased an Engel compressor caravan fridge 12/240 volt and built it in where the dead one stood. We already have an Engel 12/240 car fridge. For around $2000 we got the fridge, a solar panel, deep cycle battery, regulator and a couple of 12 volt lights. Jim made a stand for the solar panel, so we could put it out when we stopped in the afternoon (usually not long before it was in shadows, but it charged the battery much quicker than the line from the car whilst driving)and leave it facing East overnight ready for the dawn. If we stopped with family, we just plugged to caravan in to 240 v and the fridge ran on that. We didn't even take the gennie and wouldn't have used it.

Just excellent.

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AnswerID: 174464

Follow Up By: Ireland Clan - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 16:35

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 16:35
Weren't planning on running it on gas while travelling.
And there's nothing wrong with a big bang every now and then!! ;o)
FollowupID: 430580

Reply By: Shawsie (Bris) - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 15:39

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 15:39
Hi Ireland Clan, I bought a Repco 3-way fridge after reading advise from here, I believe it's the same unit as the Chescold - Anyway - we've used it a few times now and it really does work. I once took a spare battery thinking that I could use this instead of gas, but it flattened before the night was through - not good. So it chews up 12v and a 2nd battery would'nt be an option with a 3-way. I always put it on gas when we make camp and it usually hovers around 4-8'C during the day and first thing in the morning it's 0'C or below. I havent noticed that it uses a huge amount of gas. When in the car it's on 12v and is around 8'C depending on ventilation and how hot the car is and the car is never level LOL. I bought a digital temp gauge for $12 which you should get too. I checked our fridge at home and it's set at 4'C. I'm very happy with our 35ltr and so far it fits all the food we need although not much room for many beers as well :o(
AnswerID: 174465

Follow Up By: Ireland Clan - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 16:40

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 16:40
Yes, hubby will have to be content with beer in the esky still and food in the chescold! Much to his disgust! Thanks for your info. ;o)
FollowupID: 430582

Reply By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 15:41

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 15:41
Just be aware of the pluses and minuses of the 3-way fridge:

They usually run for say 10 days off 3kgs of gas. Gas cyls need to be filled before you go away. But they usually are fine if you camp in the one place. The gas pilot light can blow out in windy conditions.

You cannot run it off gas while in the vehicle - can blow up the car. So you need to take them out of the vehicle for every overnight stop, and set them up. To run overnight on 12 volts will flatten your starting battery as they draw 10amps continuously. If you go for a drive during the day, and wish to take it, you may find it a pain to put back in the car.

To work well, they need to be perfectly level. They also need good air circulation around the fins. They also struggle in hot weather. They can freeze easily in cold weather.

So for vehicle based tourists, a compressor fridge is the best option. For the stay put campers, a 3-way may be a better option.
AnswerID: 174466

Reply By: Darian (SA) - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 15:42

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 15:42
Had one for ages - now using a Waeco because our formula has altered.... A few concise points on 3 ways........
4kg of gas might run it for 10-14 days ! (depending on weather).
Must be level when static (when moving in the car, level doesn't matter)
12V circuit is only good for car-mobile ..... has a heavy current draw.
240 V is good, if you have mains available.
Inside temps depend on ambient temp outside, to an extent.
Hot weather - chilled food, at best.
Mild weather- sub zero possible, at the bottom.
Vcold weather - can freeze everything.
We changed over because our fridge space is in the car, and we did not have a means of powering the 3 way in the car, while parked and away from the car for a few hours (as often happens when on the wallaby track)..... gas not safe in our view......a mid sized 12V battery would be flat as a tack in about 2 hours or less, on the 3 way..... not a disaster if its the aux battery, but flat is not good for battery health ! Chrs.......
AnswerID: 174467

Reply By: Bros 1 - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 16:11

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 16:11
Ireland Clan,
Got a 40 lt Chescold 3 way, had it for yonks. Good on gas. 9 kg bottle lasts about 2 weeks on medium. Not really suited for freezing things but will do your clan for drinks and stuff that does not require freezing. Don't like to be opened too often.
Got an 80 lt trailblaza also but that is another world and stepup away. LOL.
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AnswerID: 174470

Follow Up By: Ireland Clan - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 16:32

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 16:32
Have been looking at those trailblazas.......very nice! But a little bit out of our price range. Maybe when we find that pot of gold!!! (or a rich uncle remembers us in his will!) ;o)
FollowupID: 430577

Reply By: dan26aus - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 17:36

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 17:36
G'day there Ireland Clan,
I too have this same dilema, and as much as i would like to go for a trailblaza or something similar i have been pondering over the 3 way. I did come across a waeco CA-35 on their website for $399(its in the kompressor section)..... I don't know how good they are, but they are a waeco ( which obviously is a good reliable brand ) and for the handsome sum of 400 bucks, i thought was a very good price compard to the chescold which from memory is in the $600 or $700 mark here in Gladstone (q.l.d.). Whichever you decide on, I'de be interested in knowing what your thoughts are after you have used it.........

Good luck in your choosing !!!!
AnswerID: 174491

Follow Up By: Ireland Clan - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 20:03

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 20:03
Hi Dan,
I think my hubby saw that Waeco as well. We are just south of Rocky, 'bout 50 mins from Gladstone. We might get family to look around Brizzy for us and see what sort of deal we can get. Campco up here have got them for 'bout $1300 but have seen them on the net for $1188- 50lt. Just a matter of looking around I s'pose. ;o)
FollowupID: 430623

Follow Up By: gtc - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 20:52

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 20:52
I am eagerly awaiting delivery of a Waeco CA-35 from their seconds / factory outlet www.fridgeshop.com.au . Retails for $399, but you can pick them up there for $290 (+$25 postage) - with only minor cosmetic damage they tell me. Probably over time the thing would look like that anyways ;-)

It's not a freezer like Chescold's RC1180 and F(?)400, perhaps more like the Finch. I've seen the Repco/Gasmate/Jackaroo one's too and the Waeco seems to have thicker walls - gotta be good I figure...

I wish I had a thermometer to test, but perhaps I'll just put some stubbies in it and drink one every hour? (or prehaps half an hour for a more precise test ;-))

Cheers, Charlie
FollowupID: 430637

Reply By: scoof - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 17:39

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 17:39
We have a 60ltr chescold in the camper,has a frozen section and a frig section.
When we crossed the simpson we would fire it up on gas when we paked every arvo let it run until we were off the next day, switch the gas off fold the camper up and nothing was spoiled,all the kids had icey poles in the simpson desert kept them happy and quite.Great bit of gear.It suck's the power on 12v ,so we don't worry about 12v no need.We traveled about 7to 8 hours every day ,so the frig stay's cold no one can open it either until the camper is opened.
I hope that is of some help, go the 3way.
Regards Scoof
AnswerID: 174492

Follow Up By: Ireland Clan - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 20:07

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 20:07
Thanks for your info. Sounds great! There seems to be more pro's than con's so that's good news! Icy poles in the Simpson Desert! Excellent!! ;o)
FollowupID: 430626

Reply By: lifeisgood - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 19:48

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 19:48
Hi to the clan all viewers (200+ ) Obviously a topic close to heart.

Its great to get the spread of opinions and more importantly - experiances by other fridge users. We have used only 3 way caravan fridges over 30 years and being mostly in southern climes they usually operate adequately.But we have found them ok on fraser/ Whitsundays / Perth and Alice.
In 240volt mode they seem to work best which is ok for those stops in caravan parks. But like my car air conditioner - when the going gets really tough say a sunny hot 38 -40 c then they start to let you down a bit..

We freeze those blue ice packs in the little freezer to help with the day time travelling. Mind you we dont bother trying to cool lots of beer cans!!
For that I think you would really need to go the compressor way.

It would be nice to have a fridge that gave dual cooling sytems one being the compressor type for 12/240volt the other for gas to suit the prolonged bush stay.
That would be a little more expensive but would seem to help solve the debate and perhaps save a bit on solar panel / generator / battery capacity requirements

Happy camping to all.
AnswerID: 174529

Follow Up By: Ireland Clan - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 20:17

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 20:17
Yes, I'm a bit overwhelmed with all the responses but you can't go past information coming from so many different campers with so many different experiences. I don't think there would ever be a fridge to come out that everybody loved. It's a bit like Holden vs Ford or more appropriately Cruiser vs Patrol. By the way, the blue ice bricks seems like a good idea! ;o)
FollowupID: 430631

Follow Up By: Ireland Clan - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 20:21

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 20:21
I just remembered......State of Origin is on!!!! Better go
Happy camping and thanks to all for your excellent info!
FollowupID: 430633

Reply By: Member - Jeff M (WA) - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 22:04

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 22:04
Yeah... I thought about them but no good for a 40c+ day on the beach, which we often do during summer. A) I wouldn't really want to be setting it up in the heat on the sand, trying to get it level etc, B) it just wouldn't get cold enough!

I ended up with a superworks cheap ass compressor fridge and it's bloody not bad. 42L fit's HEAP of gear and I can run it all day at -2c which is just cold enough NOT to freeze everything but keeps the drinks ICY cold. It's got a digital thermostat so you're not having 8c beers in summer and frozen coke in the winter.

I think the 3 ways would have their uses, but just out of pure conveinience the 12v fridges really have it over them.

Also, charging your batteries on the way home is free (well almost). Filling your 3kg gas bottle for $12 is still $12!
AnswerID: 174561

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