Whatever you call your unit, caravan, RV, motor-home, travel-trailer or camper-van, ( have I missed one?) it is most likely kitted out with an efficient and functioning ‘fridge. This of course is an essential piece of equipment which does important work for children and adults including keeping drinks and ice-cream cool, fresh and ready to use.
You will find, especially in newer caravans, that the refrigerator will work on each of the power sources that you have available. The standard of course is mains power available from you pitch hook-up. If this fails or if you are operating independently of mains power your next option is usually the leisure battery and you’ll find that you can easily switch over to this using a control on the ‘fridge itself. Using the connection to your leisure battery in this way is particularly appropriate if you have an alternative way, such as solar power, to charge it up. The third alternative is to run it on your gas supply. There is usually a direct connection built into the system which allows you to switch over to this whenever to do so. In all cases please refer to your manufacturers instructions before operating this or any other equipment on board your unit.
If you have a smaller or older RV, or if you are camping you may not have a refrigerator fitted as standard. In this case
there is a choice of portable camping and RV refrigerators which may be just the solution that you need. These can of course be used in addition to an existing ‘fridge and I’ve seen them employed very usefully indeed in the awning to keep food and all manner of refreshing beverages in tip top condition.
Your portable cool box is a step down rather than an alternative to a powered unit. It is simply an insulated container that will reflect heat arriving from the outside and contain the colder atmosphere which you have created inside by placing cold food in there. The come in rigid and collapsible form you can add to their efficiency by using ice packs, remembering to freeze them before you leave!
Moving up a step from the passive cool-box is the electric one, which will work typically on mains and and DC power.
If you choose a compressor / thermoelectric unit you will have a choice of how you use it. The thermoelectric part of the unit comes into play when it is connected to your 12volt leisure battery and the compressor is used when connected to the mains.
It is a good idea when using portable fridges of this type to fill them with your food and drinks and plug them in at home the day before you set off. You may well find that
you can plug them into a twelve 12v outlet in the boot of your tow-car. This will maintain a low temperature while you are in transit. You can have your very own chilled drinks when you take a break from driving. Do remember that if you have your tow-car and van on a ferry overnight that the 12v supply will be disabled by your cars ignition system to prevent the battery being drained. Your fridge should be ok however as long as it was properly cool before you started out and do remember not to open it while it is powered down.
If investing in a portable refrigerator take some time to decide if you want it just for cooling or do you need it to deep freeze food as well. If you plan on spending time in warmer climates invest some time before you go to research how the unit will perform in higher ambient temperatures.
Generally the standard capacity of these devices is around 40 liters and you will often find that you can vary the temperature to suit your requirements.
One of the things to look out for when making your selection is the presence or otherwise of grip handles. These things can be somewhat bulky and a bit heavy especially when packed, so look for handles that will allow either one person to carry it comfortably or two people to manage it easily between them.
One of the main manufacturers of camping and RV refrigerators is the Dometic company who offer advice on choosing the portable refrigerator that you need. They advise having a look at your needs in terms of the capacity that you require, not just now but looking forward a number of years. This makes a lot of sense as an investment like this will last for a good long time. For instance if you are increasing the size of your family or if your family is growing up you may want to tailor your decision to meet your projected needs.
They advise also that you decide what level of coldness you want to achieve. This is very much worth considering as there is no point in discovering down the road that you have something which won’t freeze food when that is the very thing that you now want to do. Ask yourself if you want to simply keep food cool at normal temperatures, are you going to places where the ambient temperature is high or will you need to freeze food or store food that is already frozen. You can choose from thermo-electric, a simple refrigerator or a fridge-freezer combination depending on how you assess your needs.
Hooking it up to you power should be easy when using you caravan or motor-home. If you are using one of these in a tent then you will need to take a bit of time to decide how you are going to power it. You may already have figured out how you are going to do this, but if not perhaps a look at my caravan power systems page might be of assistance.