Have you ever taken fresh food on a camping trip with you, only for it to go off and have to be chucked out? What a waste of good food!
And you know what’s worse? Having a warm beer instead of a cold one. Want to sit around the campfire with a warm beer? Me neither!
What good is it on a hot summer’s day to have a hot beverage, when all you really want to do is sip your favorite cool drink and take a break from setting up camp.
The solution is a camping refrigerator.
And the good news is that there’s plenty of them out there to choose from. And the better news is that we’re here to help you decide which one to get. We’ve been checking out some of the best camping refrigerators out on the market today.
And, after much deliberation, we made a shortlist of our favorite ones, which we’re going to be reviewing for you very shortly.
And just to give you a heads up the best camping refrigerators tend to be expensive ones, but we have also tried to include some good budget picks too.
And after that, we’ve also got a great little buying guide for you that will walk you through everything that you might want to think about before you buy.
But that’s not all, we also have a section for you where we answer several of your most frequently asked questions.
So, without further ado, let’s get straight to it!
In a hurry?
If you want the best camping refrigerator out there, we hands down recommend the BODEGA 12 Volt Portable Compressor Refrigerator.
Not only does it tick ALL the boxes of everything to look out for in a camping refrigerator, but it does more besides – you can operate it with an app on your phone. More details coming up!
OUR TOP PICK
OUR TOP PICK
Want to see what kind of camping refrigerator you can get with the most up-to-date technology? You need look no further.
You can download their app, which is available for both iOS and Android. And through the app, you can get real-time temperature and voltage readouts, you can adjust the temperatures as you please, you can activate fast cooling, and you can conserve the battery if you need to.
It can be powered by 12 volts of DC, or alternatively by 100 to 240 volts of AC.
It has a very large inner capacity, coming in at 64 quarts, which is just over 60 liters. And this is the sweet spot of size that we talk about in our buying guide later. It’s big enough to contain enough food for a family for a long weekend.
It’s what we call a dual-zone refrigerator, which, for those of you who don’t know means that you can have two zones at different temperatures, which effectively means you could use one section as a fridge, and one section as a freezer. Great if you like ice in your drink, or if you’re a big fan of ice cream.
But if you did want it set at just one temperature, you can remove the inner partition (and the inner baskets if you want to) and fill up your fridge with more fresh food and cold drinks.
It has 2 wheels on one side, so moving it around is easy, you just drag it by the retractable handle. It has an LED light inside, so you can see what you’re doing when you open it up. It also has a draining hole, so you can prepare it for storage after your vacation.
We also love the USB port – great for charging up your devices when you’re on the go.
It’s a very quiet machine, and the sound won’t detract from the vacation. And it’s anti-slip, so you don’t have to worry about knocking around too much in the vehicle.
We’re also impressed by the machine’s battery protection system, and how it can respond to different start-up voltages and shutdown voltages respectively.
It’s a compressor fridge, which as we discuss in our buying guide later is THE best type of camping fridge to go for. They are offer very effective cooling, are very energy efficient, are unaffected by jostling on route, and are easy to control the temperature of.
It comes with a one-month free trial, a one-year warranty, and excellent aftersales support (should you ever need it).
If you’re concerned about it perhaps being a bit too big or heavy, there are smaller versions available right on the very same Amazon page.
It’s also a bestseller with online retailers, and comes highly recommended by those who’ve tried it.
- Large 60-liter capacity - enough for a long family weekend
- Can be used simultaneously as a fridge and as a freezer
- Control the running of the machine from an app on your phone
- Customers say that it’s not quite as quiet as the manufacturer makes out, especially when you use the AC adapter
For those who don’t already know Waeco rebranded themselves as Dometic. Waeco had a 40-year long success story with their fridges, and it’s already continuing seamlessly well as Dometic.
In our FAQ section which comes later, we discuss different brands, and conclude that Waeco, now Dometic, is overall much better than their competitor Engel.
It has a very large capacity, coming in at 60 liters, which, as we discuss in our buying guide is the sweet spot of size for filling up with food for a long family weekend away.
It can be run on 12/24 V DC or 100-240 V AC, and can offer very effective cooling, able to keep your food and drinks at –22 degrees Celsius, thanks to its electronic thermostat.
So, if you didn’t want to use it as a fridge, you can use it as a freezer. Or you can use it as a freezer until the time comes to defrost the goods and use it as a fridge.
It’s a compressor fridge, which as we discuss in our buying guide a little later on, is THE best type of camping fridge to go for. They are offer very effective cooling, regardless of the outer air temperature.
They are also very energy efficient, are unaffected by jostling on route, and are easy to control the temperature of.
We love that it features a USB port – great for charging up your smartphones and other devices when you’re on the go.
AND we love the intelligent automatic auto cooler for really rapid cooling. Great when you could really use a cold drink.
It also has an interior LED light, which can come in very handy if you want to access the fridge in low light.
And if all that’s not enough, it also has built-in battery protection. Definitely a plus in our book.
And is very energy efficient to boot, requiring very low power consumption
We’ll be the first to admit that this model is very expensive, but you could get a good deal if you stumble across a pre-owned one.
- Large 60-liter capacity - enough for long family weekend
- Can be used either as a fridge or as a freezer – you decide
- Can also double as a power bank for your devices
- Premium product at a premium price
Here’s another great camping fridge that comes highly recommended, and is available at a great price.
It can be powered by either 12 volts of DC or by 110 volts of AC.
It has a 50-liter inner capacity, which is big enough to accommodate food and drinks for the family for an entire weekend-long vacation.
The temperature range is from 0 degrees Fahrenheit to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, so you can either use the machine as a fridge, as most people would, or you could use it as a freezer if you prefer. And for those who don’t get along with Fahrenheit, you can switch over to degrees Celsius.
It’s very easy to operate – to adjust the temperature, all you have to do is press the + or – buttons on the control panel.
We also like the addition of mini cup holders on the top of the machine. But the stand-out features have to be its different modes...
There’s a Max mode which comes in really handy if you need your food to be cooled down rapidly. Or there’s also an Eco mode, which is there to help you reduce energy consumption. And there’s a battery protection mode, which can be something of a godsend.
It’s a compressor fridge, which as we discuss in our buying guide a little later on, is THE best type of camping fridge to go for. They offer very effective cooling, regardless of the outer air temperature. They are also very energy efficient and are largely unaffected by any jostling on route.
It comes complete with not a one-year, but a two-year warranty, which means it will last and you’ll get a decent lifespan from it.
There are also other models on the Amazon product page, so if you do decide to buy, please ensure that you select the one you want.
- Very affordable price tag, great value for money
- Large 50-liter capacity – big enough for an entire weekend
- Comes complete with a 2-year warranty, so is built to last
- Some customers have said that they’d have preferred a fridge with a side door, rather than a chest opening
Now, this may well be a brand that you’ve heard of before, and they do a lot of high-end coolers and fridges, but they also have a more affordable product offering, which is where this one sits.
Engel prides itself as the gold standard in high-performance and durable coolers. They’ve been in the business since 1962, and have shown some real innovation over the years.
There are a number of features that mark this out as a high quality and very durable cooler.
There’s the roto-molding, silicon gaskets rather than rubber, compression latches to provide a truly air-tight seal, and a tapered interior for easy draining.
It has a 58-quart capacity, which is about 55 liters. This is round about the size we would recommend to feed and quench a small family for a long weekend away.
Your cold food and drinks is surrounded by 2 inches of high-density polyurethane insulation
It’s powerful enough to retain ice for up to an impressive 10 days.
It’s available in a choice of 4 different colors. We like the pale blue one. And it’s UV resistant so it will keep its color.
But the most impressive thing about this Engel cooler is its warranty – it lasts for a whole 10 years! How reassuring is that? And the aftersales team is US-based, which is always good to know.
- You don’t need any electricity to run it
- Top-quality cooler from a top high-end brand
- Very lengthy 10-year warranty available
- Only suitable for trips of 10 days or shorter
We thought it was well worth including a 3-way refrigerator in our shortlist of top picks because you don’t always want to drain your vehicle’s battery.
And if you happen to have a propane can anyway, say for your portable smoker, then why not take advantage of it.
For those of you who don’t know, a 3-way refrigerator is one that can be powered by 12 volts of DC, 110 volts of AC, or by propane gas.
It has a 2.1 cubic foot capacity, which works out at just under 60 liters. This sort of size, as we discuss in our buying guide a little later on, is something of a sweet spot. It’s just big enough to accommodate enough food and drink for a small family for a long weekend.
It has a temperature range of 32 degrees Fahrenheit to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, which means it will keep your food and drink cool, but not frozen. But for most people ice isn’t a necessity anyway.
It’s very easy and intuitive to use. There are just 5 buttons and dials to be concerned about, all positioned at the front of the fridge just below the door, including a thermostat dial, should you feel the need to tweak the temperature a little.
This is an absorption refrigerator, which as we discuss in our buying guide, is not an ideal camping fridge in every situation, but it does make a great choice for use in RVs and camper vans. This particular model is very quiet, you can barely hear it run.
The door opens outwards, rather than as a chest, so this means you can stash items on top of it if you wanted to. And the door is reversible, which might make a difference to some people.
It’s a best seller with online retailers in the category of RV refrigerators.
- Can be powered by propane if you want to save your electricity/battery
- Large 60-liter capacity - enough for a long family weekend
- A best seller with online retailers in the category of RV refrigerators
- There seem to be very few customer reviews for this product on the net.
Best Camping Refrigerator Buying Guide
As promised, here’s your buying guide! It’s pretty in-depth, so feel free to just scroll to the parts you need.
Type of Refrigerator
There are 3 main types of camping refrigerators. These are compressor refrigerators, absorption refrigerators, and thermoelectric coolers.
Let’s look at each in turn.
Although compressor fridges are generally the most expensive type, they are hands down the best type of camping fridge there is.
They offer very effective cooling, regardless of the outer air temperature, have accurate temperature controls, and many also offer dual-zone temperature control (more on that later).
They’re very energy efficient when run on 12v DC, but they can also be plugged into 110v too. They’re also completely unaffected by any shaking or jostling if you decide to drive off-road.
An absorption camping fridge can be powered from up to three different power sources, namely 12v DC, 110v AC, and Propane Gas. But it has to be said, it’s very efficient when being run on propane, whereas it’s very inefficient when run on 12v DC.
There are some drawbacks to them. They don’t cool very well when the air temperature reaches above 80 degrees, and there are no precise temperature settings. They’re also quite bulky and require ventilation.
We would argue that this type of fridge is best suited for RVs and camper vans, but maybe not such a good option for truck bed camping or car camping.
A thermoelectric cooler can use 2 different power sources, including 12-volt DC and 110-volt DC.
It keeps the inside temperature 35 to 40 degrees lower than the surrounding air temperature. It’s also more compact than other types of camping fridge.
So, we would argue that it’s a good choice for short road trips, but not for more long-term travel. And they’re generally cheaper than the other types.
Voltage and Power
For any RV or camping van, you will need a 12-volt DC refrigerator. Because that’s typically how your RV or camping van is wired up.
DC because if you use a regular dorm refrigerator, you’ll lose some of the energy converting DC to AC and back to DC power again. Not ideal because you’ll want as much energy as possible dedicated to keeping food and drinks cool.
Moreover, if you were to get yourself an AC mini-refrigerator, you will need to have an inverter switched on constantly, draining your battery 24/7.
Interior Storage Capacity
Camping refrigerators can really vary in their inner capacity from as small as 45 liters up to 100 liters plus.
We would argue that the sweet spot is about 60 liters. It’s enough for a small family for a long weekend, or possibly a little longer.
Portability, Compact Dimensions and Lightweight
You will, of course, have to ensure that your camping refrigerator fits in your van. And you should also bear in mind that the larger the refrigerator, the more power it will use.
And in terms of getting around the camper van, you may also want to consider getting a refrigerator with a low-profile handle.
But on the flip side, of course, it also has to be able to accommodate all of your fresh food and drinks, as we discussed earlier.
Any unnecessary weight can slow your vehicle down and affect your gas mileage, so you don’t want your refrigerator to be too heavy.
The Direction of the Refrigerator Doors
There are three main styles of camping refrigerators – chest style, upright, and drawer.
On the one hand an upright or a drawer-style refrigerator can cause an obstruction in the van when they are open.
But on the other hand, these styles of refrigerator allow for being able to provide a place to store other items on top, which you just can’t achieve with a chest style refrigerator.
Insulation and Energy Efficiency
Did you know that camping refrigerators have nearly double the insulation thickness of a regular household refrigerator?
This is because, with a camping refrigerator, better insulation means less cycling, which in turn results in a better power draw, and provides better energy efficiency.
Dual-zone vs Single Temperature
A dual-zone refrigerator is one that allows you to set separate temperature zones within the refrigerator, effectively making it a refrigerator and freezer combo.
With this setup, you can store frozen foods, or keep an ice cube tray for your drinks.
Camping refrigerators can vary quite considerably in price. And our main piece of advice on this, is to check the prices of refrigerators as you go along, and look into what kind of features your money buys you.
That way you can be sufficiently well-informed to be able to decide on your budget.
We talk about brands of refrigerators in a little more detail in our FAQ section which is coming up shortly.
The high-end brands include the likes of Engel and Dometic, which made our shortlist. But there are actually quite a lot of really good brands out there besides.
Sometimes products only remain in good condition for the duration of the product’s manufacturer warranty.
So, the longer your refrigerator warranty, the more confident you can be that you will get a decent lifespan from it.
What is the best fridge for camping?
We would argue that the best fridge for camping is our number one pick, the BODEGA 12 Volt Portable Compressor Refrigerator.
The reasons we would argue that it’s best are that it’s a compressor refrigerator, you can operate it via your smartphone, and it’s a really good accommodating size, while still being very portable.
It’s also a dual-zone refrigerator, which means that you can use one area of it as a fridge, while simultaneously using another area as a freezer.
Which is the best 3-way camping fridge?
We would argue that the best fridge for camping is our number 5 pick, the SMETA 3 Way Refrigerator.
It can be powered by propane if you want to save your electricity/battery. It has a large 60-liter capacity – big enough for a long family weekend. And it’s a best seller with online retailers in the category of RV refrigerators.
How does a portable refrigerator work?
How your portable refrigerator works depends on which type you get.
Most of the portable refrigerators we recommend are compressor refrigerators. These feature a compressor that constricts vapor and raises its pressure, pushing it to the coils on the outside.
The hot gas in the coils meets the cooler air outside the machine and it becomes a liquid. Then there’s a refrigerant which absorbs the heat inside the fridge, which cools the air down.
Which is better Waeco or Engel?
Both Waeco and Engel have their advantages and disadvantages. But it’s clear that on the whole Waeco is slightly better and has the edge over Engel.
One drawback to the Engel is that the cooling fins sit slightly away from the walls and are a trap for food particles, whereas the cooling fins on the Waeco are molded into the walls.
The Waeco has a low voltage cut out to prevent damage to your battery, whereas the Engel does not.
And Waeco also has a drain plug in the base of it, making draining a breeze, whereas the Engel does not.
But the important thing to note here is that Waeco has now been rebranded, and is now called Dometic.
If you are interested in a Waeco/Dometic camping refrigerator, then we can recommend our number pick, the.
Are Kings fridges the same as waeco?
Kings fridges may look a lot like Waeco ones, but we can assure you that they’re not made by the same manufacturer.
Kings fridges are ok, but we think Waeco is better. Incidentally, it’s worth repeating here that that Waeco has now been rebranded, and is now called Dometic.
If you are interested in a Waeco/Dometic camping refrigerator, then we can recommend our number pick, the.
Are Engel fridges worth the money?
We would argue that Engel fridges are definitely worth the money if you have the budget. This is why we included one in our shortlist of favorites.
And it has to be said that not all Engel models are expensive – they've thrown some great affordable models into the mix, like our number 4 pick, the Engel 65 High-Performance Hard Cooler.
What temperature should my camping fridge be?
You should keep the refrigerator temperature at or below 40° F (4° C). And if there’s also a freezer compartment, the temperature of that should be 0° F (-18° C).
Why are camping fridges so expensive?
We get it, it sucks that camping fridges cost so much money. But if you go for a cooler, like our number 4 pick the Engel 65 High-Performance Hard Cooler rather than the others, you could save yourself some considerable money.
PS. Remember to check the prices as you go along.