Fridge vs powered 12V Cooler

Rexplorer

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Obviously fridges are colder and better in most ways, but for me (i daily drive it) the benefit of the super easily removable cooler is a massive bonus. Anybody using a 12v cooler instead of a fridge? Looking for some mulit-day experience with temps, transportation layout, brands and power supply. Thanks.
 
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Edward Gentle

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I don't have a fridge, maybe one day, so I'm using a Cabelas cooler. It works just as good as the Yeti brand and cost's a lot less. I'm like you in that I want to be able to take it out easily for the time being. I've been out for 3 days and not had any issues with the cooler. It's kept things cold
 

Edward Gentle

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It's a normal cooler. If I was going to be out any longer I'd just put a little dry ice in the bottom, that's what my son does, and it'll last up to a week without much issue.

The cooler looks almost identical to the big Yeti cooler but it's about 100 or so cheaper.
 
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DoogieF18

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I went straight from traditional coolers to refrigerators so can't help with cooler experience but can offer some thoughts to consider - accepting that the cost of a fridge is a steep initial investment.

A fridge will typically draw 1/5 - 1/2 the power of a cooler. A good fridge will average 0.7-2.1 A @ 12V, a thermoelectric cooler will pull 4-5A all the time @ 12v.
Most coolers have no thermostat and are rated to 40 deg F below ambient. Most fridges will go >90+ deg F below ambient and are thermostat controlled. This is important to me for food storage. If all you need are cool drinks a cooler could work, but if keeping food you need a fridge or traditional cooler to maintain stored food at a safe temperature. The thermostat also helps reduce current draw.

In short: for a daily drivers, where all you need is cool drinks, and drive long enough each day to completely charge the battery to prevent damage from excessive discharge, a cooler is a viable option.

If you want food storage or expect multi-day use without a source for getting power back into the battery, a fridge or traditional cooler are your only options.

Even with their efficiencies, I isolate my fridges from the vehicle battery since a starting battery is not well structured to support the constant draw of the fridge. Mine run from house batteries that are maintained via solar (with genset backup if too many cloudy days). With good sun and thought into how the fridge is packed and used, a 60W panel will keep up with the fridge - more is better. We frequently use a traditional cooler for drinks only because it gets opened so much and I want to minimize the load on the fridge keeping food at a good, safe temp.

Not exactly what you asked, but there are safety concerns I felt needed to be highlighted: food safety and the risk of stranding yourself if you haven't planned for the power requirements.
 
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Rorschach

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I wish I could go up there. I'm in the hospital taking care of mom today.

I don't know if I got a faulty one but it sure doesn't get very cold. I'm going to contact Coleman when I get a chance.

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RescueRangers

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We got the Coleman Thermocooler and used it for about a year. Its good for keeping drinks cool. As for food, if we stop during the day to pick up stuff for dinner that evening it is also good. If we got stuff for breakfast the next morning it was good enough but that would be as far as we would go with it. Of course we are talking spring and fall in the mountains. During the summer it just can't keep things cold at all, only cool. Also, air is blown in to keep things cool. If you load the thing up it will block the air flow and stuff at the opposite end will not be as cool as by the air outlet.

We just got an Engel 32q and the first thing I noticed is the power requirements. Our daughter used the coleman on a trip and one morning found her battery dead. We regularly leave the fridge running for 9 hours and the Jeep fires right up. Overnight we set it on 1 and 1.5 during the day and everything is cold. Setting 1 is around 50 degrees while 1.5 is around 46. We don't worry about food being in the fridge for a couple days.

The only advantage of the coleman is it is a 40 quart while the Engel is 32. But, we don't have to worry about how we load things in or how much we load. If the lid will close it will stay cold. The fridge is heavier, not by a whole lot though, but is just as easy to get in and out of the vehicle. If you do get an electric cooler you will want a fridge after a short time. Just go with the fridge, it will save you money in the long run (buying the cooler then a fridge, and wasted food).
 

jtranum

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When I first got into the "overlanding" scene I carried a big ice chest with me. I did that for a few trips and quickly made the transition to an engel 45 fridge/freezer. The biggest disadvantage to an ice chest is you only have about 1/2 the capacity of the cooler of useable space, the other 1/2 of the capacity is taken up with ice; which then melts and makes everything wet.

I've been extremely happy with my engel 45. It does pull a little more power than other 12v fridge/freezers but I have never had a dead battery from it if I crank the vehicle atleast every other day. My fridge is hard wired into my battery so it runs 24/7. If I'm going to be leaving my vehicle for an extended period of time in the garage I just plug a battery maintainer up. I run a single group 31 battery in my vehicles.


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Jeepney

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When I first got into the "overlanding" scene I carried a big ice chest with me. I did that for a few trips and quickly made the transition to an engel 45 fridge/freezer. The biggest disadvantage to an ice chest is you only have about 1/2 the capacity of the cooler of useable space, the other 1/2 of the capacity is taken up with ice; which then melts and makes everything wet.

I've been extremely happy with my engel 45. It does pull a little more power than other 12v fridge/freezers but I have never had a dead battery from it if I crank the vehicle atleast every other day. My fridge is hard wired into my battery so it runs 24/7. If I'm going to be leaving my vehicle for an extended period of time in the garage I just plug a battery maintainer up. I run a single group 31 battery in my vehicles.


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Totally agree, hence i convinced my wife we are swapping out that RTIC 45 with a Fridge and gain usable space in prep for our next long trip. Just waiting for some good deals hopefully.

On a week trip, my RTIC gets 3 blocks of dry ice used to keep frozen things frozen, space becomes a premium. Another cooler to move things around. It can become a bit of a chore -- and messy. So i have high expectations for the fridge to solve all that. cross fingers
 

MTB-WI

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I use a small 12 volt cooler for sandwiches and drinks while I am driving, That way I don't need to pull over to get lunch out of my cooler. It plugs in to my accessory outlet. It is very inefficient so I only run it while my engine is running.
It cools with a peltier unit which is able to drop the temperature about 30 degrees Fahrenheit compared to the ambient temperature. The 12 volt cooler I run is similar to this picture

dc12v-mini-fridge-7-5l-car-refrigerator-mini.jpg


A 12 volt peltier unit draws a lot of amps and will cause your battery to go flat quickly if your vehicle is not running.
 

kickkem

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I bought a Igloo electric frig at a thrift store. As has been noted it will not get very cold. Being the tinkerer that I am I modified it by pulling the fan and adding one from a computer power supply. I tested it yesterday and it dropped down to 28 in two hours. Admittedly it was empty, setting in the shade and the temp was in the low 70's. I can see it needs a thermostat. I will post some pics when I can.
 
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Matt_Lang

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I have the Knox Gear 48 quart electric cooler/warmer that I got off amazon for $140. I took it with me along the transamerican trail, the thing ran 24/7 for about 30 days straight (unplugging it to bring into hotel each night, and plugging it into the wall in the hotel) The coolers are good for keeping cold stuff cold and not so good at cooling stuff down. Each night we used the hotel/motel's mini fridge to cool down our water bottles for the next day and transferred them over the next morning. And when we camped at a campground without an outlet we just left it plugged into the jeep all night and never had any battery issues. It's also good to keep your cooler as full as possible, especially with water, water takes a long time to heat/cool so having colder water bottles in there will help the cooler stay colder. A full cooler is a happy cooler. I like the coolers because they are less expensive and also more moveable. I feel like with a lot of the fridges are pretty permanently placed wherever they go in your rig, which is what some people want. In all, if you want something cheaper, don't need to keep frozen meats in it, or want something movable, I recommend the coolers. Hope this helps!
 

Rexplorer

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i super appreciate all this first hand feedback and experience. i think i will keep my non-powered cooler a bit longer and look at a fridge later on. the powered coolers seem like a but of a cooling upgrade, but not worth the money and power for something that kinda works. its getting freezing at night and snow will soon be easy to find and stick in the cooler. might go to a smaller cooler since i rarely use all the space. easy removal is really important, and you sure cant beat a regular old cooler for that. keep your thoughts coming though.
 

Hafaday

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My quick add.

The ice chest still has it's place.

The therm o-electric are ok to a point.. Early/mid spring and mid to late fall where out door temps are lower so the cooling will be better (still no control over internal temps). if dead of summer and humidity are in play, Hang it up. plus the current draw has been mentioned.

A true refer (fridge) is the way to go. I do have one now (ARB 50qt.). My wife kinda rolled her eyes when I bought it (said it looked like an ATM machine. and still refers to it as that). She used it for 7 days in her van on vacation this past summer. I got the " That thing worked like a champ" when she and my daughter got back home.. that said, She digs it. I have used it in the house to chill beers and other stuff for weeks at a time. I also re-calibrated the T-stat too.

I will add this.. I had been looking at them for years, Just could not bring myself to the spend the monies do to the sticker shock. I broke down last year when they were on sale from 4 wheel parts during the 12 days of Christmas sale (saved $250. on it). if you are serious about one.. Keep an eye out for the once in a life time deal.

Lastly.. I do not keep it in the Jeep if not being used. Yes it's an awkward size and has some weight to it, but not bad at all.

Different brands. Not sure if they have been mentioned.
Engel.
Dometic.
ARB.
National Luna.
 

HaulBack

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I’m not sure if this is a popular suggestion but what about you get a thermal cooler. I know how handy my Igloo Iceless thermoelectric cooler has been for my wife and me when we used it on our road trip when travelling with our baby. It was helpful to keep the milk bottles nice and warm. If you're interested, read more about the cooler at Amazon or any review site. I'm sure the price is something that many people are interested in first. Well if my memory stands correct, it was somewhere around 100$. My kid could have his milk nice and warm, and I could hear no complaints from our happy baby. I'm not going to start by mentioning everything that everyone has mentioned 100 times, I am just guessing that nobody suggested a cooler. The only thing is that this cooler doesn't really warm up products or the milk. It kind of keeps the heat in for the time being and when I use the milk to feed my little boy its room temperature which is perfect in my opinion.