fridge for camping 2way or 3?

I am saving for a fridge and apart from the argument as to which brand is best I've noticed poking around the forum that I haven't seen any mention of running them on gas. For the moment we are mostly at van parks and as such can have power but am trying to make sensible long term decisions for the more expensive bits and as such want a fridge that we can use when camping in national parks etc as we probably will in the not too distant future. As such I thought it made sense to get a fridge that had the option of running from a gas bottle but it seems that there are other options...would love some advice.
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Reply By: rosso1234 - Friday, Jan 22, 2010 at 23:22

Friday, Jan 22, 2010 at 23:22
Its a tough one......Its a cost now v cost in the future, If you are camping away from power of course you are going to need 12v or gas,

12v means you will need a second battery and a duel battery kit, so there is about $400 + about $1000 for a 50lt fridge 2way fridge

Gas, you can get a 3way for about $400 BUT they are no where near as efficient as a 2way, really need to put food in cold already and they have to be level to work on gas and I don't know how you go with fire bans and the pilot light on?

Gas is a cheap stop gap I think, and with kids open and shutting the fridge all day 12v is the way to go, its just the $$$$ that suck

Good luck
AnswerID: 400664

Follow Up By: Member - Teege (NSW) - Saturday, Jan 23, 2010 at 02:43

Saturday, Jan 23, 2010 at 02:43
please tell me where I can get a usable 2nd battery and dual battery kit for $400. I am in the market for a decent second battery and can't get much change out of $400 for that.

FollowupID: 669891

Follow Up By: rosso1234 - Saturday, Jan 23, 2010 at 10:32

Saturday, Jan 23, 2010 at 10:32
Depends what you call usable?

For a starter kit you can't go past this I reckon,

Dual Battery kit

the 2nd Battery

yes there is probably better brands out there but as a starter it should do the trick
FollowupID: 669926

Follow Up By: kiwicol1 - Saturday, Jan 23, 2010 at 20:07

Saturday, Jan 23, 2010 at 20:07
Hi Rosso, I run the most cheapest dual battery system, GQ, 2 batteries connected by heavy duty cables, with an anderson plug manually operated, and all power drawing devices drawing from factory fitted battery, fridges, stereos, lights, etc. Pull up to camp for the nite, disconnect second battery ( anderson plug ) 2nd battery has no current draw. Driving next day leave 2nd battery disconnected , charge main battery , reconnect 2nd battery. Very hands on.
Lot of systems draw power from both battery's when parked. Ie stereo, internal lights, power windows, draw from main battery, fridge, and camp lights draw from 2nd battery, and a lot of electronics to manage.
I have run my system for 20 odd yrs and only been let down a couple of times.

FollowupID: 669987

Reply By: Wilko - Saturday, Jan 23, 2010 at 07:18

Saturday, Jan 23, 2010 at 07:18
Hey Jude,

IMHO a lot of the decision on which system is better suited ( its a compromise) comes down to what style of camping/travelling you'll be doing, or see yourself doing.

I've got a 3 way in the cub, and 2 x 2ways (engel and an Evakool) I dont even take the 3 way unless I know I'm going to be in one place for several days.

I did a trip around the red centre 2 years ago, I took my time Stayed in all spots for 4-5 days, so the 3 way came into its own running on gas it was very cost effective.

I did a trip thru Qld from Bourke up to Longreach and back down from Emerald to St Goerge over 10 days not staying in the same place more then a night, My 2 ways worked well.

Its horses for courses.

Cheers Wilko
AnswerID: 400683

Follow Up By: bruce - Saturday, Jan 23, 2010 at 09:51

Saturday, Jan 23, 2010 at 09:51
Horses for courses...exactly right..we have 2 12v fridges and 3 way....the 3 way goes camping as a freezer and runs for at least 3 weeks on a 9kg bottle of gas , one of the 12v goes also as just a fridge (40l engel)....when touring ,the 50l Waeco goes with us because it is lighter to shift around than the Engel..cheers
FollowupID: 669920

Reply By: pdm3006 - Saturday, Jan 23, 2010 at 11:17

Saturday, Jan 23, 2010 at 11:17
I don't want to get into the 2 way versus 3 way fridge argument. I am always camped in national parks or state forests away from power for a minimum of three days and so 3 way is my choice for running it on gas.
My latest fridge is a 3 way 45 litre that I purchased from EsiDirect for $330 delivered including hose and regulator. this is a really good price.
Have a look at
I haven't used it much yet but it seems to do the job nicely.
Enjoy !
AnswerID: 400706

Reply By: Jude&theboys - Saturday, Jan 23, 2010 at 12:52

Saturday, Jan 23, 2010 at 12:52
peter that 3way fridge is very cheap would be interested to see how it goes once you've used it more.

so I gather that for the go and stay for a week or so option gas is best and for the pack up and go frequently a 2nd battery options is easier.

Given that I drive a VP Commodore wagon at the moment and am not in the least mechanically minded - ok I do know how to check the oil/water and power steering fluid at here are all the 'dumb' questions....

my understanding is that you hook a 'spare' battery up to the existing car battery and that it is charged as you drive. Where does the 'spare' battery go? are they easy to set up or is something I should get my mechanic mate to do?

without the cheapy version that Peter found - the 2 way may be the way to go in the short term it can get plugged in at caravan parks and in the car in transit and I can add the 2nd batter kit later.....I have time to think about it and without this forum I wouldn't have realised that a 2nd 12V battery was even an option - you guys are truly a wealth of information!

AnswerID: 400714

Follow Up By: pdm3006 - Saturday, Jan 23, 2010 at 23:23

Saturday, Jan 23, 2010 at 23:23
What I am trying to say about the fridge is that I certainly haven't owned it for long enough to judge longevity yet, but so far it has worked great.
A dual battery setup normally involves a deep cycle battery - one that you can run down low without damaging it like you would with a normal battery. This would include types like AGM and Gel. Then you also need a controller to control when it is connected to the starting battery so as not to allow it to go flat and leaving you stranded.
All up a dual battery tray, AGM bettery and controller will set you back a minimum of $500. Extra if you have it fitted for you.
A mate of mine has just gone through the process to power his compressor fridge. Problem is after a day or so, he has to start the car to recharge the second battery anyway.
I reckon I am way ahead dollars wise with the 3 way fridge.
FollowupID: 670020

Reply By: Motherhen - Saturday, Jan 23, 2010 at 16:46

Saturday, Jan 23, 2010 at 16:46
Hi Jude and the boys

I have a paranoia about gas fridges, and will not run a fridge on gas in a caravan or camper. The 12 v compressor fridges are economical, and can have the option of running on 240v for when mains power is available.

With our previous camper, we removed the 3 way and put in an upright Engel 12/240 the same size. You can't get that model now. It ran from one battery charged by an 80 w solar panel which we put out when we stopped.

Our current van has a Vitrifrigo, which are a 12/24 v fridge. They can have a rectifier fitted to run on 24 v from mains power. I think Waeco are the same arrangement. We fitted the rectifier and found problems with voltage loss as it had to be wired through the rectifier even if running on 12 v. It ran better on 12 v when we removed it. We still have the option of using a battery charger to top up the batteries if on mains power or generator if necessary.

We mainly bush camp and are independent.


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AnswerID: 400733

Follow Up By: Jude&theboys - Saturday, Jan 23, 2010 at 23:47

Saturday, Jan 23, 2010 at 23:47
why the paranoia? (from a learning angle here) what can go wrong with them? or is it just the normal concerns of gas - am assuming you still use some kind of gas bbq for cooking? or do you have concerns about gas in general?

when there are fire bans does that mean you have to turn off gas powering fridge?
FollowupID: 670021

Follow Up By: Motherhen - Sunday, Jan 24, 2010 at 00:16

Sunday, Jan 24, 2010 at 00:16
Hi Jude

There have been fires, and believe me, gas fires in caravans are swift and not pretty, however i know hundreds, possibly thousands of caravanners use them without a problem. Some even run them whilst mobile, but that is another 'fiery' topic. I am i bit of a fire paranoid in general; living in the country in a dry area you get to fear fire.

Yes, i use gas for cooking and occasional use of the HWS in the caravan, and gas for cooking at home without concern. This poses very little risk.

Someone else may be better qualified to answer about use of gas fridges during total fire bans. I reason that the flame is inside, just like your caravan stove, so i expect they would be permitted.

I am happy to use 12 volt compressor fridges, which are more efficient on 12 v than three ways. Also many gas fridges are not up to scratch in very hot weather - some are.


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Reply By: jschacher1 - Saturday, Jan 23, 2010 at 17:24

Saturday, Jan 23, 2010 at 17:24
I have an old Engel fridge which I was lucky enough to buy cheap on the second hand market; works a treat!
I have also an ALDI fridge (45lt) which runs best on gas but is useless on the 12V.The Aldi fridge was $500.00 and has been used on some rough tracks.
The thing to remember is that if you want to run it on gas it is advisable to have it cooled down on 240V prior in order to be most sufficient.
AnswerID: 400737

Reply By: michael-s - Saturday, Jan 23, 2010 at 23:00

Saturday, Jan 23, 2010 at 23:00
3 way camping fridges rely on an absorption type system as it draws the hot air out of the cabinet to cool. 3 way fridges do not run a compressor like the 12v/24v/240v thus it takes about 24 hours to get the unit down to a working temp. 3 way fridges also need to be within 4 degrees of level in order to work effectively. you really need to way up how often and how long you will be going camping. the latest 12/24 and 240 volt fridges are really quite efficient on power consumption now. if they are run as a fridge they can draw as little as 1.5 amps an hour as they use a thermostat the fridge may not be running all day and it depends on how often you open the fridge .
the 12 volt side of the camping fridge basically draws 10 amps an hour as it normally has a 120 watt element fitted thus your battery would go flat if you tried running 12 volt while stopped for an extended period.
if it was my choice i would purchase the 12volt/24volt/240 volt fridge along with a 200 amp hour battery (second) which can be charged while driving and if you do intend camping for longer periods invest in a solar panel this can also give you power to run other items most of these fridges can be turned down to minus 18 degrees to become a freezer as well. i know slightly more expensive but a 60 litre camping fridge/freezer 3 way will cost about $1200-$1300 anyway. plus gas bottle, regulator, hose ..... i have found Eclipse Caravans to be very helpful they can be contacted by phone.
AnswerID: 400777

Reply By: Motherhen - Sunday, Jan 24, 2010 at 00:37

Sunday, Jan 24, 2010 at 00:37
Hi Jude

Michael has given a good answer, both with details about power draw and about the need for being level.

My caravan fridge seems to run about 50% of the time - roughly three minutes on and three minutes off. Less on a cool night. We have travelled in the hotter areas more than in the cold.

When we camp, i am glad we don't have to worry about getting level. We see some other caravanners fiddling around trying to get level on sloping ground for their gas fridge. We just stop and our home is ready, and if only for one night(and we usually move every day), i don't care how much of a slope we are at so long as the pots don't slide off the stove and i don't fall out of bed.

Are you looking at an upright caravan fridge, or a 'car fridge' style such as an Engel? With top opening, the latter are more efficient that the upright fridges. If we were building a caravan from scratch, we would design two Engels on slide outs; one as a fridge and one as a freezer. The old Engels like we have are pretty well bomb proof, unlike modern caravan upright fridges with flimsy plastic internal fittings. We have one in the tow vehicle for lunches and drinks, or for when we camp away from the van, and another under the bed running as a freezer, as we only have a small caravan fridge with a next to useless flimsy little internal freezer box which i only use for light things like bread, and first aid ice pack.


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Reply By: Member - Flynnie (NSW) - Sunday, Jan 24, 2010 at 01:30

Sunday, Jan 24, 2010 at 01:30

Fridges are expensive to get working reliably in a car. Much more expensive than the posts on this forum often suggest. Some will tell you how cheap it is to do this and that and others will advise a list of "Must Have" gear that would bankrupt a millionaire. Like all things the truth is somewhere in between.

A dual battery setup (even if there is space for it in your wagon) can cost over $1,000. There is the battery, isolator, wiring and other stuff. It can be done cheaper but most people use an auto electrician to fit them and they do have to charge for their time. Doubt many auto electricians would charge much under $1,200.

Then there is the fridge. Prices range from under $1,000 to around $2,500 mostly under $1,500. So going this way you would be looking at $2,000 or more, half on the fridge and half on the dual battery setup.

A fridge with dual battery is only going to be good for a day or two if the vehicle is parked. Ice boxes can do that and more. It becomes prohibitively expensive to go down the route of solar panels, extra batteries and generators to get extra days out of the fridge. Much easier to plan to run out of fridge and have stuff that does not need refrigeration for those days.

I don't think gas powered fridges are at all suited to vehicle based camping - just my opinion.

You may well be better to get something like a Waeco 40 litre fridge (under $1,000 just) and a wiring upgrade in the vehicle ($200?) by an auto electrician but not the dual battery. Run it on 240 volt at the van parks. When gong away to National Parks for a few days leave the fridge behind and take an ice box instead, something like a Coleman 55L Cooler or similar at something under $200. Or just get the ice box and forget the fridge.

AnswerID: 400791

Follow Up By: rosso1234 - Sunday, Jan 24, 2010 at 08:42

Sunday, Jan 24, 2010 at 08:42
follow my links above in a follow up.....complete dual batt kitt and 130 AH batt for about $400 ok add a tray for about $50, She has a friend who could wire it up for her, I bought a 40lt Waeco from for $680, say it cost her a case of beer to get it all wired up still about $1200 in total cost, Thats the facts....not fairy tales
FollowupID: 670050

Follow Up By: Wilko - Sunday, Jan 24, 2010 at 14:47

Sunday, Jan 24, 2010 at 14:47
Hi Flynnie/ Rosso,

I got my dual battery fitted for $328and got a deep cycle for $298.

Cheers Wilko
FollowupID: 670092

Reply By: Tenpounder (SA) - Sunday, Jan 24, 2010 at 09:05

Sunday, Jan 24, 2010 at 09:05
We have a 'normal' 3 way fridge in the van, plus an Engel in the vehicle. I really like the option to use gas when in standing camp away from power, so this seems to favour the 3-way absorption choice. However, our 3-way is totally incapable of lowering the temperature to a safe level when the ambient temperature is high. So, if the ambient is around the old century, and the inside of the van is in the 40's, then we can forget about holding the inside of the Electrolux/Dometic fridge below the mid teens!!
Reasons? often the fridge built in to a van is NOT a tropical rated unit, and so is not even desigbned for the job. Second, fridges are often not installed right. Third, they often need a sunshade for the outside (ie the back of the fridge). I don't know about free-standing 3-ways.
The Engel has the disavantages others have mentioned, and we have two storage batteries in parallel to cope with bush and desert camps (not with the van!!). The Engel seems to cope, full stop, as long as there's power, even when it's hot.
So, at Christmas, we had to abandon trying to use the van fridge, and rely on the Engel for all our frozen and cold food storage.
There are many threads on this site bemoaning the inability of many if not most absorption fridges to handle normal Oz summer conditions.
Hope this helps.
AnswerID: 400805

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