There are few better things than a crisp, cold drink and fresh snacks after a long day spent enjoying the sunshine when camping.
However, a far too common scenario is cracking open a can of drink only to be met with flat, luke-warm liquid and spoiled food that’s been heating up in the sunshine all day.
Whether you’re a serious camper kitted out with a campervan and all the gadgets, or more of a weekend camper just looking to enjoy some time outdoors, investing in some quality pieces of gear like a camping fridge is a sensible idea.
So – how do you keep your food and drinks cool?
While a coolbox might be sufficient for the odd trip, a portable camping fridge is a real solution, providing an efficient cooling solution to keep your food chilled your entire trip.
Of course, there is a wide range of camping fridges and coolboxes available (and they certainly aren’t all made equal), so in this ultimate guide, we’ve covered:
- Different types of camping fridges and coolboxes
- What to look for in a camping fridge
- Camping fridges review
Different types of camping fridges:
Before we dive into our review of the best camping fridge for 2019, let’s first cover the different types of fridges you can buy for your camping trips.
1) Compressor Fridges
Compressor fridges are the top-of-the-range products when it comes to camping fridges. You can manually set the temperature to keep your food at, turn the fridge into a freezer, and safely rely on your fridge to keep your items cool even on the hottest days.
Compressor fridges really work for you, which does mean they typically have a higher consumption rate than other types of camping fridges – most run on a car or leisure battery, or on mains, with some having power-saving features to reduce energy consumption.
Best for: These fridges are perfect for serious campers and RV-ers/campervan owners – they’re a bulkier design and the most expensive type of fridge, but also the best quality.
2. Thermoelectric Fridges
Thermoelectric fridges are also mains or car battery operated, but can also be unplugged and used as an insulated coolbox when camping outdoors. How cold they keep your food and drink really depends on the weather outside – in very warm temperatures, you may find that your thermoelectric fridge heats up quicker than you’d like.
Thermoelectric fridges are a good mid-level option between a coolbox and a compressor fridge, providing efficient cooling when plugged in, moderate cooling when unplugged, and a relatively compact camping fridge suitable for weekend trips.
Best for: Semi-frequent campers who want an effective way to keep food and drink cool without having to pay top prices.
Coolboxes don’t require any power – instead, they’re insulated boxes that keep your pre-chilled food and drink cool when out and abut. It’s a good idea to pack your cold items with ice packs to keep them cooler for longer.
These types of camping ‘fridges’ are cheaper because they require no power to run, but that does mean that you’ll have to replace your ice packs frequently if you want to food inside to stay cool.
Best for: Day-trips, long car drives, camping in the UK in cooler weather.
Key features to look for:
Different needs will mean different camping fridges are most or less suitable for you. A few key features you should consider when choosing include:
The fridges listed below range from 10 to 33-litre capacities, which obviously makes a huge difference to how much food and drink you can store in your fridge.
If you are a single person or couple or only looking to use your fridge for day trips, a smaller capacity will take up less room and usually be a little cheaper. People looking for a camping fridge to take up permanent residence in your campervan or RV, however, may as well invest in a larger capacity.
Means of operation
Most of the powered fridges below run on both 12V DC and 240V AC – but if you want the option to power your fridge by both car battery or mains power, this is a feature worth double-checking.
The fridges listed below range from £60 to £600 (really), so it’s worth having an idea of how much you’re willing to pay when looking for a portable fridge.
A budget of under £100 will get you a great coolbox, a fairly good thermoelectric fridge, but almost certainly not a compressor fridge.
If you’re looking for a way to keep food and drink cool for weekend trips away, a coolbox or car battery-powered fridge will do just fine, but campervan owners and RV-ers may want to consider saving up and investing in a quality fridge that will deliver on every use.
The needs of someone looking for a camping fridge for the UK versus someone looking for a fridge to take all-around Southern Europe are going to be vastly different. If you’re looking for a fridge to keep items cool in temperatures regularly exceeding 25 degrees C, a high-performance compressor fridge is going to be your best option.
Coolboxes are only really effective in milder climates where the sun isn’t going to warm your food and drink stored inside within minutes.
Best Camping Fridge Selection: Top Picks:
Premium Camping Fridge Options:
- Runs on 12/24 V DC or 230 V AC
- 33-litre capacity
- Soft-touch control panel
- 30 degree C refrigeration below ambient temperature, heats up to +65 degree C
- Carry handles for easy transportation
- Weight: 10kg
- Large size
- Very efficient
- Excellent user reviews
- Quality construction
- You need access to mains or car to power the fridge
- Price may be out of some people’s budget
The Dometic camping fridge receives outstanding reviews: it is one of the most popular brands for camping fridges, well-known for making quality products that will last for years. The Tropicool has a large capacity suitable for long camping trips, is easy to transport, and works perfectly. It is not suitable for people camping without access to a mains socket or car cable, although some people report having the fridge connected on their drive to the campsite, and then using without power for the weekend to keep items cool.
A fantastic camping fridge if you are looking to invest in a quality product – although this may be out of some people’s price range.
- 12/24v and 230v usage
- 33-litre capacity
- Cools to 30 degree C below and heats to +65 degree C
- 7-stage electronic thermostat with LED indicator
- Memory functionality
- Soft-touch control panel
- Power-save circuit
- Detachable lid with magnetic lock
- Fold-away carry handle
- Vertical space high enough for 2-litre bottles
- Large capacity
- High energy efficiency
- Excellent user reviews
- Long-term investment
- Quality construction
- Premium price may be out of some people’s budget
- Large size may not be ideal for smaller campers
The Waeco camping fridge is another excellent product guaranteed to be a quality long-term investment for your camping adventures. You do need mains power for this fridge, although some campers report using the fridge on their drive to a campsite to cool products, with the fridge able to keep goods cool even when not running (your results may vary).
This is a premium camping fridge but you get what you pay for: excellent design and durability, a large capacity (the vertical space is a god-send!), and high energy efficiency.
- Runs on 12/24 V DC
- 10.5-litre capacity
- Digital display
- Compressor technology for cooling
- Refrigeration (and deep free) down to -18 degrees C
- Two integrated drinks holders
- Weight: 8.8kg
- Smaller capacity ideal for cars and small campers
- Cools in very high ambient temps up to 40 degrees C
- Energy efficient
- Dometic CoolFreeze also available in larger sizes
- Smaller size not ideal for larger families or groups
- Expensive for smaller capacity
The Dometic CDF-11 camping fridge is the ideal solution for people looking for a high-quality, premium portable fridge that doesn’t take up too much space. This is an excellent camping fridge, with very good energy efficiency, cooling and freezing capabilities, and 12v and 24 V DC functionality suitable for cars, campers, and mains socket usage.
The one downside to this camping fridge is the price – for less than a third of the capacity of the other two premium fridges listed above, you’re paying almost the same price. While most users generally agree the product is worth what you pay, it might make more sense to invest in a large fridge in the long-term.
- 12-24 V DC operation
- Weight: 8.6kg
- 18-litre capacity
- Internal LED light
- Electronic thermostat
- Shoulder strap
- Excellent performance
- Low consumption rate
- BD 1.4 Micro Secop (formerly Danfoss) compressor
- Cools down to -18 degrees C
- Holds 1.5-litre bottles vertically
- Quality construction
- Price: very expensive for a small capacity fridge
It’s hard to find faults with the Indel B TB18. The portable compressor fridge has a low consumption rate, extremely efficient cooling performance, quality construction, and excellent overall user reviews.
The only real downside is the price: for an 18-litre capacity fridge, this product is expensive. That being said, when it comes to camping fridges, you do pay for the quality you want – and the Indel B TB18 is up there with the best performing camping fridges on this list.
- 12-24 V DC and 240V AC operation
- 45W compressor reaches -20 degrees C
- 20-litre capacity
- Includes carry-handles
- Weight: 10.7kg
- Compact design
- Includes anti-leakage inner tank
- Quiet, anti-vibration design
- Solar panel compatible
- Chest design a little bulkier than other models
The Ice Cube camping fridge isn’t the prettiest to look out, but it’s a great option if you want a large capacity fridge for half the price you would pay for a Dometic fridge. This fridge receives generally very good authentic user reviews, runs efficiently and quietly, and is available in several different sizes to suit different requirements.
- 12-24 V DC or 100-240 V AC operation
- Deep freezes down to -22 degrees C
- 32-litre capacity
- Compressor cooling technology
- A++ energy class
- Excellent cooling performance even in very high ambient temperatures
- Large capacity
- Robust, high-quality design
- Low power consumption
- Includes a USB port
- Excellent reviews, excellent product all-round
- Price – this is a top-of-the-range product with a high price tag
The Dometic CFX 35 is the top camping fridge on this list. It’s a large capacity compressor fridge with excellent cooling performance down to -22 degrees C, cooling efficiently even in very high ambient temperatures with a low power consumption. If budget were not a factor, this would be our top pick. However, this top-of-the-range product comes with a hefty price tag, which could price it out of a lot of people’s price range.
If you’re looking for a quality camping fridge for your campervan that you want to last for years and use frequently, investing in the Dometic CFX 35 might be the best option for you. However, for occasional camping enthusiasts, the more affordable Dometic, Waeco, and Indel options on this list are also very good options.
More Affordable Camping Fridges:
The best quality camping fridges often come with a high price tag to match, which isn’t always suitable for all budgets. If you’re a more occasional camper looking for a good quality camping fridge for shorter trips away or long car drives, the below budget-friendly options may be best for you:
- 12 V DC or 230 V AC
- Cools up to 18 degrees C below ambient temperature
- 39-litre capacity
- Includes wheels with pull-out handle
- Split lit (minimal cooling loss)
- Fits 2-litre bottles vertically
- Weight: 8.4kg
- Affordable price
- Large capacity with low weight
- Thermoelectric cooling technology with a split lid for minimal cooling loss
- Less effective at higher ambient temperatures
- Noisy fan
- Not as energy-efficient as premium models
- Carry handles can’t be secured down
For the price, the Mobicool is a great value for money camping fridge. It runs on 12 V or 230 V AC with a large capacity able to hold two 2-litre bottles vertically. It’s very user-friendly, works well in lower ambient temperatures, and the split-lid feature is a great feature for helping minimise temperature variations when getting items out.
Compared with more premium models, the Mobicool is not as energy efficient, nor does it cool as effectively – particularly in higher ambient temperatures. The design also has something to be desired – namely, the carry-handles and wheels being as much of a nuisance at times as they are a help. If you on a more limited budget, this is a great buy, but if you are looking for a camping fridge to use frequently, biting the bullet and investing in a more premium model may be the smarter choice long-term.
- 12V DC
- Cool and warming functions
- 25-litre capacity
- 3.83kg weight
- A++ power efficiency built with thermoelectric cooling system
- 2-year quality warranty
- Able to both cool and warm products
- Designed to pre-cool products ahead of travel
- Max cooling to ≈ 50°F below ambient temperature
- Robust design
- Good reviews – great value for money coolbox
- Warms up quickly after car power is turned off
The Tibek electric coolbox is ideal for travellers looking for an efficiency coolbox to keep food and drinks cold on long car drives, picnics, and day-trips. Its affordable price, robust design, and efficient cooling (and warming) system make it a good value for money product.
That being said, this is not the best choice of camping fridge if you are looking for a fridge to keep your items cool – both powered and unpowered – for longer camping trips. As with all camping fridges, you get what you pay for – people looking for a good quality camping fridge for frequent trips may want to invest in a more premium product.
- Cooling and warming functionality
- Eco-friendly semiconductor system
- Warms up to 65 degrees C or cools to 5 degrees C
- Plugs into 12V cigarette lighter
- Flip-top cover
- Very lightweight design
- Cools and warms quickly when plugged in
- Good value for money budget option
- Small size
- Only ideal for shorter car journeys/ day trips
The ExcelVan car refrigerator is a good budget-choice for keeping food and drink cool in your car when on long drives, or out for a day-trip or (at a push) a weekend trip. It has a small size which is ideal for storing neatly in your car, but this does mean you can’t store a lot of items in the fridge.
The fridge cools and warms items very well and works quickly, but whether or not it’s worth buying really depends on what you are looking for in a camping fridge.