There are four main types of camping fridges and coolers. Let's find out what the best portable fridges out there are. Ultimately the best one for you is going to depend on what you want it for. We've researched our top pick of the cool boxes just for you!
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 things 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.
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.
Size - 83.8cm x 101.6cm x 116.8cm, 2.2kg
Storage capacity - holds up to 36 330m cans- that’s a lot of booze!
Power supply - N/A
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...
It has a sturdy aluminium construction, and it cools to 25° below ambient temperature.
Size - 19.7cm x 20cm x 17.4cm, 17kg
Storage capacity - impressive 41-litre storage capacity allows you to easily store 2-litre bottles
Power supply - runs on mains, 12V vehicle supply or LPG gas for more remote locations
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 and the lift out wire basket lets you get to your food easily.
The compressor cooling technology means you don’t need to worry about a flat car battery and it cools from + 10° to -18° even when outside temperature is 40°.
The LED interior light is a neat touch.
Size - 10.2cm x 21.7cm x 16.7cm, 8.8kg
Storage capacity - 21 litres
Power supply - runs on 12/24 V DC or 100-240 V AC
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.
It's super lightweight - you can take it pretty much anywhere. The simple construction means the carrying handle locks the lid into place so you don’t lose your food while you’re carrying it.
Size - 43cm x 30cm x 45cm, 1.5kg
Storage capacity - generous 32-litre size
Power supply - suitable for use with 2 X 800gm freeze boards or 2 X 1000gm ice packs
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, so no nasty niffs.
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. There's even a night mode for a peaceful night’s sleep.
The sturdy construction and the secure click and lock lid system means you don’t have to worry about breaking it.
Increased insulation in the lid and base reduce cooling loss.
Size - 41cm x 42cm x 32cm, 3.6kg
Storage capacity - good capacity- fits 10 1.5 litre bottles
Power supply - can be powered by a 12V car or normal mains
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 extended trips. Fantastic cooling power even on warm days makes it a good choice if you’re travelling abroad.
This bad boy will keep your grub cool even on the hottest days - no limp salad!
An interior LED light lets you find your sausages in the dark which can be a challenge if you’ve had a few.
Size - 23.5cm x 54cm x 35.2cm, 8.5kg
Storage capacity - 10.51 Litres
Power supply - 12/24V DC connection
A large, versatile piece of kit with a powerful compressor as well as a thermoelectric cooler. It delivers some serious chill 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.
The Waeco comes with a maintenance free fully hermetic cooling system with quick-chill function. This allows for powerful cooling up to -15 degrees C in AC mode and up to 20 degrees C below ambient temperatures in DC mode.
Size - 52cm x 51cm x 45cm, 21kg
Storage capacity - 38 litres
Power supply - power connection: 12 v DC cigar plug or 230 v AC UK 3 pin plug
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. Let's jump in.
1. Best budget camping fridge for families on a budget - Coleman 28 Quart Xtreme Cooler
2. Best camping fridge for for adventures in hot climates - Dometic RC1200EGP Gas Portable Cooler
3. Best camping fridge for high peformance in tight space - Dometic CoolFreeze CDF 26
4. Best camping fridge for day trips on a budget - Thermos Cool Box
6. Best weekend camping fridge for a weekend getaway - Dometic CDF-11 10.5 Litre Portable Compressor Fridge Freezer
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 holidays, although some campsites will freeze them for a small fee. They’re more suited for day and overnight trips.
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.
Also known as three-way fridges, these are big beasts, so are ideal for families and longer breaks. 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.
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.
Camping Fridge 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 as a portable fridge substitute.
Camping Fridge 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.
Camping Fridge Power
Passive coolers don’t need a power supply, though you’ll need to keep refreezing an ice pack.
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 camp fridge from your car battery with the engine off as this will drain it, leaving you with cool food but a long walk home.
Camping Fridge 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.
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 - so not great for portable camping. 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 portable camping fridge or portable camping cool box would be your best choice.
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.
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.
A cool box is great for portable camping though so don't count it out. Once it reaches ambient temperature it will stop being effective though, so it's sometimes a good idea to chuck a bag of ice in too.
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. If you're home camping, this isn't an issue.
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.
Whilst some camping fridges do come with a fridge freezer, others are just the fridge alone. If you're going on a longer trip, having a camping fridge with a fridge freezer is super handy. You'll be able to bring things like frozen veggies and ice cubes for the the G and T's, a deal breaker for some.
Choosing camping fridges with a fridge freeze can also help save the pennies as you can freeze left overs. Fridge freezer models can require more power and leave less space for stuff that only needs to live in the fridge. So the potentially unsatisfying answer to whether camping fridges need a fridge freezer is..it depends. It depends on your trip type and what you want to cook up.
3 way camping fridges AKA absorption fridges are called so because they can be powered 3 ways - 12-24 volt, 240 volt or LPG gas. A 3 way fridge is therefore very flexible in terms of power options.
Unlike a compressor fridge, 3 way camping fridges utilise a gas powered heat exchange to remain cool. In super simple terms, they get rid of heat as opposed to create cold.
A compressor fridge AKA 2 way fridge not surprisingly uses a compressor to generate cooling power. Given the compressor can be powered by both a 240 volt mains power supply or a 12 volt battery.
Compressor fridges are sometimes called 2 way fridges. Compressor fridges are often more expensive, though thought of as one of the best camping fridges to have.
Yes - you can run a camping bridge from solar power, even in rainy old Blighty! You'll need a 300-Watt panel system to power a 12V fridge
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.