If you have ever gone camping or 4WDing for more than a day or two you would have come across the need to deal with cold food storage. While the traditional cooler with ice in it is an efficient option it it also presents a number of problems; soggy cheese, wet meat, frozen fruit and veggies to name a few. The use of a 12V fridge solves everyone one of these problems straight away. Today we are going to take a look at what you need to consider when purchasing your 12V fridge.

How to choose the correct Fridge Size

While it might seem simple, one of the most common dramas people come across is how to choose the best fridge size for them. The most common fridge sizes sold are those between 40 and 50 litres, so is this right for you?

When deciding which fridge is best there are a couple of things you need to consider. The first is, how long are you going to be away from a store? If you are planning on doing a big trip into the middle of nowhere with minimal connection with civilization you might need to consider a bigger fridge. A bigger fridge will offer you the ability to store those important must keep cold items. If you stick with the smaller fridge it will likely mean that you have to sacrifice cold beer and drinks. Alternatively a 45L fridge can look after 3-5 people for a weekend no dramas at all.

Another important consideration is the number of people you will be travelling with. You may have a family of 5, but how often do they come with you? So often these days we come across people that buy for the contingency of the whole family coming along. While this is a great notion, is it really true? Even if the whole family does occasionally come along there are plenty of ways to stock up your cold storage space should you require it.

Storage space is ultimately the biggest factor. If you have a 2 door jeep you are not going to want to try and fit 4 people and an 80L fridge in it. Not only would it be a real struggle to just get it in there but it would also be an issue of wieght. On the other hand, if you have a 4 door F250 or tow a BushRanger Camper Trailer, this would be no problem at all.

Important features of a 12V fridge

There are a number of factors to think about that make a good fridge and when push comes to shove, you will find that some features will suit your applications better than others.

Battery Monitoring

Most modern fridges these days have battery monitoring and protection to ensure that you dont destroy your battery. This feature is incredibly important if you are running your fridge in a vehicle that only has a single battery, you need to be able to start the car the next morning. Fridges like the ARB Fridge/Freezer offer you the option of Hi, Med or Low voltage before cutting out

Remote monitoring

This is something that has only recently started to be introduced, it allows you to monitor the fridge temperature without having to actually look at the fridge. This is handy if the fridge readout isnt in an easy to see location, or if your driving for long periods of time and might not be able to check it. 

Evaporator plate

This is probably one of the lesser know things to consider when purchasing a fridge: the location of the evaporator plate. The evaporator plate is essentially what makes your fridge get cold. There are two common setups for how the evaporator plate is installed into the fridge. The first, and less efficient, is having the evaporator plate integrated into the side wall of the fridge. This generally means that you are less likely to damage the plate and you get more fridge space compared to the external dimensions.

The second and more efficient way is to have the Evaporator plate sitting just off the side wall of the fridge. This allows the air to flow around both sides of the plate meaning that it is likely to cool faster and more efficiently. The Engel fridge is a great example of this. The downside to this is that it takes up some of the space in the fridge and it is more prone to damage. This is where the basket supplied with the fridge becomes important.

Power draw

Power consumption or power draw are the most important figures when looking at a fridge if you plan on staying in one location for an extended period of time. The lower the average amp hours used the more efficient the fridge is. Power draw is also probably the hardest stat to compare as there is no standard by which manufactures have to evaluate. This means that some companies provide stats over 24 hours while others are over 72. Other companies use 25 degrees as the ambient temperature, others use 30 and others again just use a varying temperature over a few days. So when you are looking at amp draw, make sure to also find out the scenario that the test was done, it could make a big difference to your decision.

There are few real world comparisons floating around online, they are worth having a look at.


12V Fridge Construction

The construction of a fridge goes a long way to making the fridge efficient and effective, both for food storage and insulation. It also has a big impact on the longevity of a fridge, if the outer construction cracks then the insulation barrier will start to degrade meaning a less efficient fridge.


Put simply, most high end 12V fridges have a steel body construction. The Engel fridges are well known for this and have a reputation in Australia for being the most robust on the market, getting 25+ years out of an Engel is not uncommon. In saying this however steel while hardy is often more expensive and can be prone to rust. This is where composite or plastic fridges come into play.

Plastic based fridges are extremely popular for marine applications as they wont rust out. This doesnt mean that all plastics are equal, a good plastic fridge will be able to withstand the tough terrain that is thrown at it by any user.


The insulation in a fridge is incredibly important. Insulation allows the compressor to run less often, drawing less current and putting less strain on the fridge overall. On the market at the moment the "standard" is 40-60mm of insulation around the main compartment and lid. The most common insulation is high density foam, however the composition of that varies company to company. It is generally recognized that the National Luna range of fridges offers the best form of insulation.

This really shows how complex buying a fridge can be, the numerous things that go into the design process and the reason why brand names are often more expensive. So make sure you consider all of these before you purchase your fridge, if you buy right you will only ever need one.

For further information on 12V fridges dont hesitate to contact one of the team at Kakadu Camping for plenty of extra information and some personalized advice.