There’s nothing better than sipping on a cold one when you’re out camping. But you’re going to need to keep them cool. But which is the best camping fridge for you?

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Steph C

The Best Camping Fridge For Your Next Adventure

Planning a camping trip? Okay, camping fridges might not be the most exciting topic in the world but there's nothing better than sipping on a cold one with your feet up staring out at the view. Here’s our guide to the best camping fridges going.

Buying guide

There are four main types of camping fridges and coolers. Read our buying guide to discover the best one for you.

Passive Coolers

These are basically insulated cool boxes with a sealed lid. You keep them cool with ice-blocks or frozen drinks bottles.

Passive coolers are cheap and as they don’t need a power supply you can use them anywhere. They come in a variety of sizes and are easy to transport.

The drawback is that you’ll need to keep refreezing ice blocks for longer trips, although some campsites will freeze them for a small fee. They’re more suited for day and overnight trips.

Thermoelectric Coolers

These are powered by an electric fan and can be charged either in your car or at home. They’ll keep your stuff cooler than a passive cooler, but their efficiency can be reduced if it’s very hot.

The cheaper ones tend to be noisy and they can drain a car battery very quickly if left charging with the engine off.

Absorption Coolers

Also known as three-way fridges, these are big beasts, so are ideal for families and longer trips. They run on gas as well as mains electricity and 12V and tend to be more silent than other fridges. You’ll need a ventilated area if you’re running them on gas though, and they can be expensive.

Compressor Fridges

These bad boys are the Rolls Royces of the camping fridge world. They allow you to set a temperature for your food and some will even freeze it if you want. As the compressor only works when it’s needed, they consume far less power - some are even solar-powered.

They’re expensive, but arguably the best choice if you’re a serious camper.

Things to consider;

Space

Fridges and coolers can be bulky. You’ll need to consider not only how much space you have in your tent or van, but how you’ll transport and store it.

If you’re unsure what size you’ll need, do a dummy run by packing everything you’d want to take into a cardboard box.

Cooling capacity

This will depend on what you’ll be storing. Some units offer a freezing option whereas others are just basically a fridge. If it’s going to be particularly hot, you’ll need a more powerful unit.

Power

Passive coolers don’t need a power supply, though you’ll need to keep refreezing ice packs.

If the weather is hot or you’re planning a longer trip, you’ll probably need a powered fridge. Do you want to be able to power it from your car battery? Is there a power hook up on the campsite, or do you need an alternative power source? Absorption coolers give you the option of running on gas or sometimes solar power.

Don’t power your fridge from your car battery with the engine off as this will drain it, leaving you with cool food but a long walk home.

Noise

Some units can be noisy. It’s hard to sleep when they’re emitting a constant hum and you’ll also be the least popular camper on site.

Conclusion

The best fridge or cooler for you will depend on the types of trips you’ll be taking, how long you’ll be going for and how many people you’ll be taking with you. Passive coolers are fine for a day or two but if you go on longer trips you’re better off with a thermoelectric cooler. Consider an absorption or compression cooler if you’re going somewhere particularly hot or off the beaten track.

FAQs

What’s the best 12V cool box

Ultimately the best one for you is going to depend on what you want it for. Our guide should help you choose.

Can you take a normal fridge camping?

Theoretically, you can, and some people do, but it’s not ideal. For starters, your average kitchen fridge isn’t designed to be lugged around like a camping fridge - they’re much heavier and bulkier. Your back will thank you later.?

They’re only designed to run on mains electricity so if your campsite doesn’t have an electric hook up, you’re pretty much doomed.

If you’re a serious camper, a proper camping fridge or cool box would be your best choice.

What temperature should my camping fridge be?

Ideally, a camping fridge should be 2-3°C. Depending on which you choose, most powered cool boxes will keep food between 15 – 25°C below the outside temperature. If outside temperatures are high though some can lose efficiency - a camping holiday on the continent will test your fridge far more than a trip to Wales.

Can you use a cool box as a fridge?

A cool box is never going to keep your food as cold as a proper fridge but can certainly function as one when camping. To use it as effectively as possible, minimise the number of times you open it, fill it as full as possible to prevent cool air escaping when it’s opened and make sure food is already chilled before you pack it.

What is the best camping fridge size?

What size camping fridge you buy will depend on the length of the trips you’ll be taking, the number of people and the space you have available. Remember, the bigger the fridge, the more space it will take up and the more juice it needs.

Fridges generally range from around 25-litres capacity all the way up to 80-litre whoppers. As a rule of thumb, you’ll be able to fit around 27 cans in a 25-litre box and 120 cans in an 80-litre box.


ourComparison

Coleman 28 Quart Xtreme Cooler

Great budget option for a family on a day out or shorter trip

Dometic RC1200EGP Gas Portable Cooler

The size and performance make this a great choice for larger families and longer trips.

Dometic CoolFreeze CDF 26

A high-performance super-slim unit that will fit into a tight space.

Thermos Cool Box

Best budget choice for days out, picnics or shorter trips.

Campingaz power-box plus thermoelectric cooling-box

A great value versatile all-rounder; night mode gives you and your camping neighbours a good night’s sleep.

Dometic CDF-11 10.5 Litre Portable Compressor Fridge Freezer

Great if you’re short of room and need a more portable unit.

Waeco B40 Hybrid Portable Fridge

Good value absorption fridge for serious campers and longer trips

final score

93

%

final score

93

%

final score

96

%

final score

84

%

final score

95

%

final score

91

%

final score

80

%

The Good

  • It doubles as a seat
  • Drink holders in the lid keep your beer close and cool
  • Sturdy and robust

The Good

  • The capacity to store 2-litre bottles upright- no more spillage
  • The versatility of being able to use gas
  • Ice-cube tray to add that touch of luxury

The Good

  • Great performance
  • The super slim design means it’ll fit anywhere
  • Silent and efficient

The Good

  • Traditional no-frills cooling
  • Plenty of room for larger drinks bottles
  • No electronics to fail

The Good

  • No dodgy odours
  • Night mode for silent nights
  • Good capacity- fits 10 1.5 litre bottles

The Good

  • Easy to carry and transport
  • Integrated drinks holders
  • Quiet - won’t keep you - or anyone else -  awake
  • Uses very little power

The Good

  • Keeps your food as cool as your home fridge
  • Keeps food fresh as you drive
  • Generous size

The bad

  • Lid hinges can be flimsy

The bad

  • The 12v system requires an 8amp current which can be too much for some vehicles
  • Won’t work if tilted

The bad

  • Pricey (but worth it)

The bad

  • Lockable lid can fail and let in warm air
  • Flimsier than other coolers

The bad

Lid can be tricky to open

The bad

  • Quite small for the price
  • Needs to be secured in place

The bad

  • No temperature display so can be guesswork

Features

90

%

Performance

95

%

Size

95

%

Durability

90

%

Features

95

%

Performance

90

%

Size

100

%

Durability

90

%

Features

95

%

Performance

100

%

Size

95

%

Durability

95

%

Features

90

%

Peformance

85

%

Size

95

%

Durability

65

%

Features

95

%

Peformance

95

%

Size

90

%

Durability

100

%

Features

100

%

Performance

95

%

Size

80

%

Durability

90

%

Features

90

%

Performance

100

%

Size

95

%

Durability

100

%

No items found.

Coleman 28 Quart Xtreme Cooler

Best choice for families on a budget

Why we like it

Great budget option for a family on a day out or shorter trip

The Good

  • It doubles as a seat
  • Drink holders in the lid keep your beer close and cool
  • Sturdy and robust

the bad

  • Lid hinges can be flimsy

A very robust passive cool box, this a great value option for picnics, road trips or shorter adventures. The premium insulation technology keeps contents cool for days whilst the extra insulated walls keep ice packs frozen for longer. Tall enough to hold 2-litre bottles upright, or it’ll take up to 36 cans, so you’ll be beach party ready.

The lid is sturdy enough that the cool box can be used as a seat - great for watching the surfers at sunset

  • Holds up to 36 330m cans- that’s a lot of booze!
  • The premium insulation technology keeps contents cool for days whilst the extra insulated walls allow for longer ice retention
  • Comfort handles mean you can carry it without hurting your hands
  • Cooling time - 120 hours with ice packs (sold separately)

Features

90

%

Performance

95

%

Size

95

%

Durability

90

%

No items found.

final score

93

%

Coleman 28 Quart Xtreme Cooler

Check latest price

Dometic RC1200EGP Gas Portable Cooler

Best choice for adventures in hot climates

Why we like it

The size and performance make this a great choice for larger families and longer trips.

The Good

  • The capacity to store 2-litre bottles upright- no more spillage
  • The versatility of being able to use gas
  • Ice-cube tray to add that touch of luxury

the bad

  • The 12v system requires an 8amp current which can be too much for some vehicles
  • Won’t work if tilted

Offering a choice of power sources, this is a versatile absorption cooler for the serious camping enthusiast. It’s a powerful unit that cools to 25° below ambient temperatures so delivers a high performance wherever you use it.

It’s sturdy so will withstand a bit of rough handling and we particularly like the addition of the in-built ice tray. Oh, you classy camper you...

  • Impressive 41-litre storage capacity allows you to easily store 2-litre bottles
  • Ice tray adds that touch of class to your evening drinkies
  • Versatile- no need to worry about connecting to the mains or draining your car battery
  • Runs on mains, 12V vehicle supply or LPG gas for more remote locations
  • Cools to 25° below ambient temperature
  • Sturdy aluminium construction
  • 3-stage flame regulation in gas mode
  • 17k weight

Features

95

%

Performance

90

%

Size

100

%

Durability

90

%

No items found.

final score

93

%

Dometic RC1200EGP Gas Portable Cooler

Check latest price

Why we like it

A high-performance super-slim unit that will fit into a tight space.

The Good

  • Great performance
  • The super slim design means it’ll fit anywhere
  • Silent and efficient

the bad

  • Pricey (but worth it)

Super sturdy, the CoolFreeze needs less ventilation than other units and can also operate when tilted up to 45 degrees. It freezes down to -18° regardless of outside temperature so your ice lollies will stay perfectly frozen.

New design is simple to use and light - the slim size will fit into a narrow gap.

  • Low energy consumption delivers an efficient performance
  • Lift out wire basket lets you get to your food easily
  • Compressor cooling technology - you don’t need to worry about a flat car battery
  • Cools from + 10° to -18° even when outside temperature is 40°
  • Built-in three-stage battery protection
  • LED interior light

Features

95

%

Performance

100

%

Size

95

%

Durability

95

%

No items found.

final score

96

%

Dometic CoolFreeze CDF 26

Check latest price

Thermos Cool Box

Best for day trips on a budget

Why we like it

Best budget choice for days out, picnics or shorter trips.

The Good

  • Traditional no-frills cooling
  • Plenty of room for larger drinks bottles
  • No electronics to fail

the bad

  • Lockable lid can fail and let in warm air
  • Flimsier than other coolers

Save a few pennies - this passive cooler delivers all you need for a day trip or weekend without blowing the budget. The 8-hour cooling period will keep your bevvies cool, which makes it ideal for picnics or overnighters.

  • Lightweight - you can take it pretty much anywhere
  • Generous 32-litre size
  • Simple construction - the carrying handle locks the lid into place so you don’t lose your food while you’re carrying it
  • External dimensions 43cm x 30cm x 45cm
  • Internal dimensions approx - 33cm x 20cm x 43cm
  • Polystyrene insulation
  • Suitable for use with 2 X 800gm freeze boards or 2 X 1000gm ice packs

Features

90

%

Peformance

85

%

Size

95

%

Durability

65

%

No items found.

final score

84

%

Thermos Cool Box

Check latest price

Why we like it

A great value versatile all-rounder; night mode gives you and your camping neighbours a good night’s sleep.

The Good

  • No dodgy odours
  • Night mode for silent nights
  • Good capacity- fits 10 1.5 litre bottles

the bad

Lid can be tricky to open

Great for trips with family and friends, there’s plenty of space in here for your drinks. The rugged design makes it durable and the antimicrobial internal walls are designed to delay the growth of mould and mildew.

The thermoelectric cooling system operates from your 12V DC car outlet, and cools to 15° below ambient temperature. You can select different running modes for overnight or eco mode.

  • Night mode for a peaceful night’s sleep
  • No nasty smells
  • Sturdy construction means you don’t have to worry about breaking it
  • Increased insulation in the lid and base reduce cooling loss
  • Secure click and lock lid system
  • Can be powered by a 12V car or normal mains
  • Integrated feet elevate cooler from the ground to create an additional insulation layer of air

Features

95

%

Peformance

95

%

Size

90

%

Durability

100

%

No items found.

final score

95

%

Campingaz power-box plus thermoelectric cooling-box

Check latest price

Why we like it

Great if you’re short of room and need a more portable unit.

The Good

  • Easy to carry and transport
  • Integrated drinks holders
  • Quiet - won’t keep you - or anyone else -  awake
  • Uses very little power

the bad

  • Quite small for the price
  • Needs to be secured in place

Delivers very high performance with a battery-saving cut-off feature which avoids draining your car battery. Slim and compact, it will fit into small spaces but may be a tad too small for longer trips. Fantastic cooling power even on warm days makes it a good choice if you’re travelling abroad.

  • Will keep food cool even on the hottest days - no limp salad!
  • Drinks holders keep your beers cool and easily accessible
  • Interior LED light lets you find your sausages in the dark which can be a challenge if you’ve had a few
  • Electronic thermostat with digital temperature display
  • 12/24V DC connection
  • Storage volume 10.51 Litres
  • Extremely compact design

Features

100

%

Performance

95

%

Size

80

%

Durability

90

%

No items found.

final score

91

%

Dometic CDF-11 10.5 Litre Portable Compressor Fridge Freezer

Check latest price

Why we like it

Good value absorption fridge for serious campers and longer trips

The Good

  • Keeps your food as cool as your home fridge
  • Keeps food fresh as you drive
  • Generous size

the bad

  • No temperature display so can be guesswork

A large, versatile piece of kit with a powerful compressor as well as a thermoelectric cooler. It delivers some serious cooling power with options to use it as a cooler, fridge or freezer. The swiss army fridge...

The thermoelectric cooler works when connected to a 12v car battery, keeping food cool as you drive. Great cooling power - no more spoiled food. Big win.

  • Freezer option
  • Keeps your food cool when you’re parked up or on the road
  • Storage capacity of 38 litres
  • Maintenance free fully hermetic cooling system with quick-chill function
  • Powerful cooling up to -15 degrees C in AC mode and up to 20 degrees C below ambient temperatures in DC mode
  • Tough steel casing with recessed grips

Features

90

%

Performance

100

%

Size

95

%

Durability

100

%

No items found.

final score

80

%

Waeco B40 Hybrid Portable Fridge

Check latest price

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