Portable Fridges

Hello All, I'll just say it I'm a new at this so please excuse my ignorance.

We are looking at purchasing a portable fridge to take camping and on picnics. Our next trip is out to Birdsville and will be for 18 days, just to give you an idea of what we do.

We have never owner a portable fridge, I've read a number of posts and from what i can see most people prefer either Waeco or Engel. What I'm needing advice on is do we go the duel zone with benefits of both fridge & freeze or do we go the straight fridge?

I've been looking at the Weaco CF-50AC VERB & CF-50ACDC VERB (duel Zone), I've also looked at the CF-80 AC VERB but I'm thinking this will be too big. So far we have only looked online but I'm trying to narrow down what to look at when shopping so as to not confuse the issue.

All an any advice is most Welcome.

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Reply By: Member - Josh- Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 12:59

Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 12:59
Hi Traceyc, First you probably need to decide what you will be using the fridge for. Do you really need to keep stuff frozen. Running it as a freezer will use more power so you need to be able to meet the extra power needs when camping. If you buy meat frozen and wrap it in newspaper it will stay frozen in the fridge for quite some time. It really depends on how much time you will spend away from shops ect.. We had the Evacool fridge/freezer and loved it as we could take frozen food into more remote areas. The centre console came out so we could use it as just a fridge when in town. I must say it was nice eating icy poles or ice cream in outback areas on a hot day. This did take some managing though.
You really need to decide on your needs which is determined by where your going and availability of fresh food.
If you buy the fridge/freezer and decide you don't need the freezer you can always run it as a fridge. If you buy the fridge, then decide you need a freezer you have to buy a whole new unit. If price isn't really an issue then go the fridge/freeer.

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Follow Up By: Traceyc - Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 13:49

Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 13:49
Thanks Josh, thats a good point
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Reply By: Peter W - Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 13:44

Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 13:44
Hi Traceyc.
One of the high priorities you need to consider is what unit weight you can manage. Even empty these units can be quite heavy and some of the freezer/fridge combos quite bulky and definitely needing 2 people to lift.
For some years now my wife and I have used an Engel 40ltr model and mainly as a fridge.
Before we head off we arrange to cryovac and freeze our meat supply and place it in the bottom of the fridge. Newspaper insulation is then placed over the top of the meat and the fridge is set on a predetermined setting that we know will keep the beer and water bottles, placed on top of the newspaper, cold.
(By the way the fridge is already cold before we put any goods therein).
We find that the meat supply can keep for a couple of weeks but this will vary based on outside temperatures and if you are constantly opening the lid.
The way I have described allows the flexibility of a fridge and freezer combination for a limited time but of course you could crank up the tuning to have the unit run solely as the freezer but be aware that such will drain much more power.
Hope this helps.

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Follow Up By: Traceyc - Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 14:00

Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 14:00
Thanks Peter, we were planning to cryovac our meat, but I hadn't considered freezing it also thanks.
And yes size is a consideration as we have limited space.
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Reply By: Steven G1 - Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 13:44

Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 13:44
His Traceyc,

What I do is vacuum seal and freeze any meat before leaving. Make sure the meat is portioned into meal sizes before sealing. This will last easily 3 weeks in the portable without having to set to freeze.

Cheers Steve.

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Follow Up By: Traceyc - Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 14:00

Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 14:00
thanks Steven
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Reply By: MEMBER - Darian, SA - Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 14:33

Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 14:33
Yep to the above - cryovaccing meats for a fridge only model makes great sense to me (we used to do that, but have now moved to a van and have a whole new fridge formula). Hand in hand with fridge options goes the method of powering it - generators, solar panels (with regulators) and batteries (*car primary, car auxiliary or separate) all have a place (not in that order of course :-o). *Using the car's main battery presents the danger of flattening it when you least expect it. The good people here at Eoz have an article on Power & Electrics under the Topics Tab in the main menu - worth a read.
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Follow Up By: Traceyc - Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 15:03

Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 15:03
Thanks Darian, I'll check out the article
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Reply By: Member - John and Val - Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 14:35

Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 14:35
Hi Tracey,

We also vacuum pack and freeze our meat, and red meat will keep for over a month with a bit of care. Sure, you need to plan - pack meat into meal sized portions, pack it in a plastic container so that the weight of fridge contents dont burst the vac bag, pack it in the bottom of the fridge etc.

We have done a number of long trips using just a 40l fridge supplemented with an esky just for lunch things. If you remember that a portable fridge needs rather more care and planning compared to your fridge at home you will find that you can get by quite well with a smallish fridge. Also if you are using caravan parks you might be able to use the freezers in the camp kitchen to freeze just bought meat to keep you going over the next stage of your trip.

But before you buy a portable fridge you do need to consider a few things including how much power it will use and how you will provide that power. Our Electricity for camping blog here will help get you started working all that out.

Hope that helps a bit,


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AnswerID: 473789

Follow Up By: Traceyc - Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 15:04

Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 15:04
Thanks Val, the tip about keeping the meat in a container to avoid splitting is a good one, the last thing I want is blood through the fridge.
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Reply By: Member - Mark (Tamworth NSW) - Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 14:40

Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 14:40
In addition to the above brands there are the ARB range. I agree with all of the above advice re fridge management.
Just make sure to leave enough room at the top for the nightly wine or beer which you place in the fridge each morning before you head off!
You can also use a small esky to remove in the morning the food you will cook that night (creating room for your wine/beer to be cooled down)

One advantage of the Waeco and Engel brands is that there are probably more service centres in regional towns than some of the other brands, should you strike problems.
Look up the Topics Tab at the top and you will see there is at least one article on vehicle fridges.
Which brand to buy is almost your LAST consideration.
Issues to be evaluated before you outlay the $1000+ for a fridge, is how are you going to power it? Do you have a second battery?, Are your electrical cables to your cigarette lighter thick enough to allow the fridge to draw adequate power when the engine is off (I don't think any vehicle has thick enough wiring, unless you have a Engel which draws less current when running, but runs for longer).
IF you don't have anything in your vehicle, you can budget on another $1000 for 2nd battery set up and upgraded wiring. Otherwise you will end up with spoilt food and or flat battery in the middle of nowhere
We find a 50L fridge is adequate for a family of 5 for a week when using cryovacced frozen meat.
You don't need to exactly replicate your home style meals when on the road, just be a little inventive with your menu and you will find you don't need as much food needing refrigeration.
AnswerID: 473790

Follow Up By: Traceyc - Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 15:11

Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 15:11
Thanks Mark,
the car has an Axillary outlet in the back specifically for the things like fridges, and I will be checking the car manuel to ensure we have what we need.

Our trip will be more stop start, with stops at town Centers along the way. We are looking at doing Charleville, Birdsville, Winton & Longreach with all the small centers in between so we will be able to restock along the way.

The Camper trailer we are going to hire also has a battery of this own so this will be used to support the fridge while on the road.

All these tips are great and are giving us heaps to think about.
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Follow Up By: Member - Mark (Tamworth NSW) - Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 15:57

Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 15:57

The car may have a outlet in the back, but the wiring won't be large enough (low enough voltage drop) to power most fridges when the engine is turned off.
Most fridges like Waeco, ARB etc will stop working after a period of time (how long depends on may things, but probably overnight) as there will be inadequate voltage.
Unless you can charge the battery in the camper trailer, you will only get a few hours out of that battery and it too will be useless.
How do I know these things?
Because I've learned the hard way, it was before sites like ExploreOz existed.

They tell me Engel fridges have lower current draw and in some vehicles the fridge will function for longer (but battery will die quicker) compared to other fridges.
50L will be fine based on what you say, but unless you can hook up to 240V power each night, depending on the time of the year, your fridge temperature will be up and battery may be flat each morning.
To be honest if you are not going to ensure you adequate power when the engine is turned off, looking at where you are going I would consider a large esky (or number of them), restocking with ice each day rather than spending $1000 on an esky only to be disappointed.
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Follow Up By: Traceyc - Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 16:32

Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 16:32
Thanks Mark, great food for thought.

We have the option of hiring a fridge with the Trailer we are thinking before spending $1000 on a fridge we may hire one & use an esky as you suggested as a back up.

Our trip is in the June/July school holidays so it will be cool nights.
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Reply By: olcoolone - Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 15:00

Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 15:00
One very important thing that has been forgotten is how are you going to power this fridge and seeing your going for 18 days into a remote area what food are you going to take.

What do you want the fridge to do?
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Follow Up By: Therifleman - Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 15:19

Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 15:19
To Traceyc,your car may well have an outlet in the rear for 12 volt accessories but I doubt if the wiring would be heavy enough to run a fridge.Have this checked by an auto sparkie before you go anywhere & save yourself a lot of dramas,Best wishes.
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Reply By: Smudger - Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 16:01

Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 16:01
About 7 years ago we bought a Bushman car fridge.
We've been across the Simpson, done the Cape and a whole bunch more, with temps ranging up to 40+ and it's never let us down.
If we need to keep stuff frozen, we run the temp at -4 or -5 and the stuff at the bottom of the fridge will stay frozen for weeks. Want to thaw it out, just move stuff to the top of the fridge for the day. Can be set to operate as low as -18 if you require.
My understanding is that a lot of other fridges operate at a temp below ambient, whereas the Bushman runs at a specific selected temp. We've been camping when others have told us that their new fridge can't compete with the heat and the beer is hot. Read the small print on the side of the box before you buy, I've heard stories of warranty claims being rejected because the fridge was being operated in areas with high ambient temperatures.
I have no connection with Bushman, except as a happy owner.
Link: Bushman car fridges
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Follow Up By: Traceyc - Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 21:11

Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 21:11
Thank you
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Reply By: Motherhen - Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 20:02

Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 20:02
Hi Tracey - here's is what we do.

We have purchased over the years two old 'bomb proof' Engels. One is 30 litre and the other 40 litre, but base size is the same so they are interchangeable. One is mounted in the tow vehicle where it is used for drinks, lunches, shopping, and as our fridge when we camp without the caravan. The other can be used in our caravan under the bed if needed either for extra fridge space or as freezer for long remote trips. We have a small caravan fridge with a next to useless internal freezer box in the caravan. This gives us total flexibility between using one or two, and options of fridge or freezer. All run from solar power.


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Follow Up By: Traceyc - Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 21:11

Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 21:11
thanks for the info Motherhen
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Reply By: Member - Carl- Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 20:04

Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 20:04
Tracey try this link

It is the waeco factory seconds web site and they sell slightly damaged stock at reduced prices. The also have a showroom at Burley Heads (Gold Coast) where you can just walk in.

After all it is going to get scratched pretty soon anyway. CF80 is $1100
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Follow Up By: Traceyc - Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 21:12

Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 21:12
Thanks for the heads up Carl
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Reply By: Steve M1 (NSW) - Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 20:13

Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 20:13
Another thing that might be worth your while, Tracey, is to Google for The Fridge Shop (a Waeco search also should bring it up) they often have great deals with display models and minor damage. We've had our Waeco 11 years and at the time it was a great discount and we had to look hard for the "damage". they sent it from the Gold Coast to Sydney for $50.
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Follow Up By: Steve M1 (NSW) - Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 20:37

Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 20:37
ha - sorry Carl, was busy typing while you posted

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Follow Up By: Traceyc - Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 21:13

Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 21:13
thanks Steve
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Reply By: GREENDOG ! - Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 21:52

Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 21:52
G'day Tracey, go to your local ARB store or 4wd outlet and near you and get them to fit a dual Battery system to your vechicle and get them to fit a Engel plug outlet in the back and put and Engle fridge in the back, you won't go wrong.cheer's GD
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Follow Up By: Traceyc - Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 07:26

Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 07:26
Thanks GD, we may look at a duel Battery System I say how one works on "Pat Callinan 4x4" show it looked like a great option.
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Reply By: Life Member - Phil B (WA) - Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 05:43

Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 05:43
Hello Tracey

What a delight it is to find someone who actually responds to the replies given. All to often we get asked a question, the replies come in with little or no response from the person asking.

Thanks for being courteous and enjoy your holiday.

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Follow Up By: Traceyc - Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 07:29

Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 07:29
Hello Phil B

I really appreciate everyones help
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Reply By: trains - Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 10:47

Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 10:47
Hi Traceyc,

When we were looking at fridges like you are now, we put together a pack of empty containers that either held what we were going to use when away, or made up ones to the size of the packaged contents.

Ie milk container, egg carton, butter container, cheese container, small cardboard pieces made thick enough representing meat, vegys etc, decor containers of various sizes for whatever you might use/ consume for meals.
bottle of wine, 1.25lt soft drink, beer in bottles or cans, you get the idea.

Then armed with these in a large bag, I tried the various frigdes for size and how well things stacked together giving importance to frozen things on the bottom, and vegys etc on the top.

Things we found.
Didnt like the "dariy" compartments in some fridges, couldnt put alot there, and it was wasted space for us, others were too deep, and difficult to get to stuff, or things didnt stack well in the baskets provided.
Even when we thougth of using a spacer piece, bottles didnt fit or it would collapse when you removed things from under it etc.
Some were not deep enough for bottles etc.

We looked at engels, waecos, bushmans, cheaper no name ones, but their finish inside the fridge were terrible, no sealed seams, get a leak of meat juices and it would get in behind the fridge wall and stink for ever).
The newer arb ones were not out at that stage.
Tried the evakool's, yellow and white ones, and eventually settled on the 47lt white one.

We liked how we could use it as either all fridge, all freezer, or freezer/ fridge, or just use the divider and have a cooled area just the size we needed, even down to a very small fridge only and use the other area for keeping food/ untensils etc not needing cooling if you know what I mean.

Having spent some months on the road with it now, here are some of our findings.

Its excellent on power usage, we have a 120ah agm battery for it, and would travel for 5+ hrs / day, using it as a fridge/ freezer during this time, we would easily stay for 3 days without charging the battery.

Its also very versatile, and didnt take up alot of space in the back of the car, the lid didnt foul the side of the car when opening, and it was easy to access things needed for meals when it was in the back of the car as it was not on a slide.

We also got one of their 20lt ice box's so what we would do was freeze up 3 1.25lt bottles before we left, and then use the ice box as a crisper with 2 frozen bottles in the base, and use it as a place to keep fresh bread, beer/ sandwiches for lunch , extra supplies if there wasnt room in the fridge for the new bottle of milk as the old one was almost empty, or move out a few beers to make more room in the fridge for food, etc.

Of note, beer put in the ice box the day before was still well chilled, and perfect drinking temp the next day.

Each day we would rotate out a 1.25lt bottle and put it in the freezer, this worked well, even in 36deg temps, and never had the bottles defrost to water, or spoiled food.
It gave us alot more room to move as we settled into exactly what we did and didnt need, and this can change on each trip too.

Have also used it as mentioned as a small fridge, only using the freezer section on low for a very power efficient fridge, the rest of the fridge space was used for packing things not needing to be kept cool.

Excellent for a day out picknick if you get the idea.

Also we live out of town, so we use it for keeping the shopping cool on the way home, excellent as all fridge, keep the meat by the evaporator plate (cool bit) and vegys at the other end so they dont freeze.

hope this helps you in your quest for the fridge that best suits your needs.

AnswerID: 473847

Follow Up By: Member - Mark (Tamworth NSW) - Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 12:04

Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 12:04

Your AGM battery is a "second" battery not your cranking battery?
I just want to get across to Tracey that you can't expect that type of "service" out of a conventional cat wet acid battery.
I hope my limited knowledge of batteries is correct, feel free to correct
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Follow Up By: Traceyc - Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 18:13

Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 18:13
Wow thanks for all the great advice, I'm really linking how you alternate the frozen bottles for the crisper.

All this good advice has given us a lot to think about.
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Follow Up By: trains - Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 19:07

Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 19:07
Hi Mark,
Yes, the 120ah agm is our 2nd battery, with good sized wire from the solenoid near the cranking battery back to the tub for the 2nd batt.

Out of interest, Ive run the fridge on a N70 for 3 days as fridge freezer and got down to 12.3v at rest when it was over 30deg, warmer where the fridge was at the time. As I mentioned, I felt it was pretty good on power draw.

We had a few days of 38, and I put in 2 frozen 1.25lts bottles in the ice cool, and left it out in the sun.
The sticker peeled off, but it kept the bottles frozen, and after 24 hrs, (was put out in the morning, and checked the next morning), the bottles had begun to defrost so that there was a small amount of water by the edge of the bottle, the rest was still ice.
Was quite impressed at that.
Had a temp guage inside it, and checked it every now and then, and it was lovely and cool in there.

We found that when travelling, we pulled out some meat to defrost, and put it in the icecool the day before, and had to wait an extra day as the damn thing didnt defrost LOL.

Once you work out what you need to take, and how it fits in the different fridges, you will start to see which one will suit you.


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