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If you don’t already have a 12V fridge in the back of your four-wheel drive or camper trailer, it is a fair assumption that you want one. And heck, we’re not here to change your mind… Fridge/freezers rule! Sure, iceboxes have come a long way in recent years, are more affordable and can keep your food and drinks cool for a day or so. But if you have ever had the joy of pasta salad exploding in your icebox, covering your contents including drinks in a slippery, watery goo (I’m speaking from experience here), the idea of going back to the ages of using ice to chill your consumables will send shivers up your spine. So you want a 12V fridge, but with so many models on the market how do you know which best suits your needs? Once again, Unsealed 4X4 has your back! This is our list of the coolest fridge/freezers around.
TEN THINGS TO LOOK FOR
Reputable Compressor: Don’t expect them all to be created equally.
Decent Insulation: Better insulation results in less stress on the compressor.
Tie Down Points: Sounds silly, but fridges are heavy and should be secured.
Low Voltage Protection: Save your battery from being overly discharged.
Quality Internal Seals: Again, simple stuff, but cold air in a fridge is good.
Included Accessories: If the fridge needs a transit bag, it should be included.
Power: The ability to run a fridge on mains 240V and 12V is really handy.
Warranty: Decent warranty means the manufacturer backs its product.
Drain Plug: Look for an easily accessible drain plug (larger the better!).
Spare Parts: Things do go wrong, so parts backup is vital.
It must be said, you see some common trends when it comes to 12V fridge designs. Some of them look mighty similar if you get our drift. Not the ARB model though – it looks like something you would find in a trendy, architecturally designed inner city loft thanks to its blue and cream colour scheme, and rather unique latch design. ARB says looks played a very small part in the design though, as everything has been primarily engineered to handle the extreme conditions we face in Australia. Starting with a steel cabinet construction for strength, ARB fridge/freezers also incorporate steel recessed carry handles that double as tie-down-points. A rather unique feature is the removable lid, which allows for easy access in tight spaces such as wagons with storage drawers fitted. There is also an internal LED light for late night snacking. Spills or busted drink cans are inevitable while travelling, so it is also refreshing to see a drain plug for easy cleanups, too.
Sizes: 35L, 47L, 60L, 78L
Priced from: $1099
Warranty: Three years
Here is another uniquely clever design from Australian company Bushman, which is part Transformer, part fridge/freezer. The benefit of Bushman’s design is their adjustable extension collars, which allow you to alter the final capacity of the fridge/freezer from 35L, to 45L or an impressive 52L depending on which extension collar you choose (7L or 10L high lid included). But it isn’t just the adjustability of the unit that deserves a mention. Bushman provides some big inclusions as standard, such as a powdercoated steel cabinet and Danfoss compressor. A built-in digital thermostat helps keep an eye on internal temperatures. Bushman even claims this feature reduces compressor cycle times as you can accurately control the temperature you require, taking out the guesswork. In the largest 52L configuration, this unit can be run as a fridge, freezer or crisper. The top basket houses fruit and vegetables, the middle looks after dairy and the lower basket says frozen (just so you know).
Sizes: 35L, 45L, 52L
Priced From: $1295
Warranty: Three years
Dobinsons is better known for its four-wheel drive suspension; in fact it has been manufacturing suspension in Australia for over 60 years. More recently it has moved into the off-road accessories field, with everything from bullbars to storage drawers available. So it makes plenty of sense to offer fridge/freezers as well. Either a 40L or 50L models are available, both constructed from high-impact ABS plastic. A Danfoss BD-35F compressor is the heart of these fridge/freezers, with a claimed power draw of just 1.4amps when used as a freezer at an ambient temperature of 25°C. Dobinsons fridge/freezers can be run on either 12V, 24V, 110V or 240V depending on your requirements, and in the interest of battery protection, three stages of low voltage cut-off protection can be selected. An internal LED light again allows for easy access at night, as do the removable baskets that make loading the fridge gentler on your back and knees.
Sizes: 40L and 50L
Priced from: $775
Warranty: One year on fridge, two years on compressor
The MT45FP range of fridge/freezers from Engel have been around since the earth was still considered flat. Engel’s theory has always been if you are onto a good thing stick to it, but there are no reasons why you can’t enhance the product. In the case of the Legacy range, there is more than just a flat army green paint job going on. This range of fridge/freezers is a tribute to those who fought for our country 100 years ago in WW1, hence the name Legacy, as well as the Legacy badges adorning the unit. This fridge/freezer incorporates the same features as the MT45FP, such as the Sawafuji Swing Motor (famous for only having one moving part) and a rugged steel construction. There is also an optional camouflage transit bag available to further complete the look. Numbers of Legacy fridges are limited though, so check with your local retailer as to availability before rushing out and buying a matching ex-army Land Rover Perentie or Mercedes Unimog to complete the package.
Sizes: 45L and 60L
Priced from: $1399
Warranty: Three years
If you think the Evakool Fridgemate looks like a giant icebox with a compressor bolted to the side of it, you are pretty much on the money. And while this design won’t suit everybody (thanks to the external compressor robbing vehicle interior space) there are plenty of benefits to this model. Firstly, an externally mounted compressor means more room inside the fridge/freezer, which is always a bonus. Secondly, the cabinet is well insulated thanks to its polyethylene construction. This won’t conduct heat as much as a steel cabinet, nor will it rust. Evakool claims the Fridgemate will use just 1.0-1.3A/HR of power when used at an ambient temperature of 32°C, and that no transit cover is required unlike other fridge/freezers thanks to the polyethylene cabinet. The Fridgemate will run comfortably on up to a 30° angle, with the choice of selecting either ‘normal’ or ‘economy’ mode via the new digital controls depending on how cool you actually need the unit to be. In a bold move, Evakool are now manufacturing their own compressor unit for the updated Fridgemate, which it claims is quiet in operation while low on power consumption.
Sizes: 70L, 95L
Priced from: $1199
Warranty: Five year
IRONMAN ICE CUBE 65L
First of all, yes there are other sizes and designs in the Ironman Icecube range, but the 65L model offers something special. Dual-compartment access means you can isolate your fridge or freezer if need be. By having two separate access lids, you don’t need to disturb the flow of the freezer if you just want to grab a cool drink from the fridge. You also have the option to run the Ironman Icecube as a dual freezer or fridge if required instead of a fridge/freezer. Temperature adjustment is handled by dual digital controls for accurate management, and the actual control panel has been recessed into the side of the unit for greater protection. An internal LED light is always good to see, as is the inclusion of a Danfoss BD50F compressor that is backed by a five-year warranty. If you need a larger fridge, Ironman offer a 74L unit in a similar design but with only single lid access. If you would prefer a polyurethane construction with a single lid, Ironman offer the Icecube in 30L, 40L and 50L sizes too.
Sizes: 30L, 40L, 50L, 65L and 74L (only the 65L is available as dual-compartment)
Priced from: 30L from $680, 65L dual-compartment from $1,199
Warranty: Five year on compressor, three year on components
If you want options in regards to finish and sizes, National Luna have roughly 20 fridge/freezers to choose from. There is the option of aluminium or stainless steel cabinet construction, as well single or twin access lids. Because of this, it is hard to pick and discuss just one model, so we will try and cover all bases here. National Luna fridges were initially designed to meet World Health Organisation specifications for transporting medicines in harsh African conditions. Quite a serious task! This is the reason for the all-metal (stainless steel or aluminium) construction, making the units easy to clean and extremely durable, according to National Luna. In fact, National Luna claims its fridge/freezers will maintain genuine freezing capability with outside temperatures of up to 43°C thanks to the construction quality and design. The Danfoss compressor doesn’t hurt here either…
Sizes: 40L, 50L, 52L, 55L, 60L, 65L, 72l, 80L, 90L, 110L, 125L
Priced from: $1945
Warranty: Three year
Primus is perhaps best known for its three-way camp fridges that will run off gas as well as 12V and 240V. So it is interesting to see it now has a range of single and dual zone fridge/freezers available as well. What is more interesting is the fact Primus claims to have upgraded many components since the release. There’s an upgraded control panel for clearer display, upgraded control software for more accurate temperature display, and even upgraded handles for ease of opening. What hasn’t been touched however, is the three-stage battery protection to prevent battery discharge, and the internal LED light to provide easy access no matter what time of night or day. You’ll also find metal handles, a design that allows for removable internal baskets and steel lid latches to keep things closed when they should be.
Sizes: 37L (twin zone), 45L, 60L, 65L (twin zone), 74L, 94L (twin zone) 118L (twin zone)
Priced from: $999
Warranty: Three year
Have you ever seen a fridge made out of chequerplate steel? Well, you have now! Trailblaza from Norcoast Refrigeration Company is an all-Australian made, owned and operated business, with the owner Margaret Albiez steering the ship for over 30 years. These special purpose fridge/freezers appear to really mean business, with inclusions such as 75mm thick insulation, right up to the optional 125mm thick insulation. Trailblaza fridge/freezers are UNICEF approved and have been for more than 18 years. This means they are able to carry vaccines and precious medical resources through the world’s harshest warzones and countries. So you should be right keeping a few cases of beer and some meat cool on the way to the Cape. Oh, don’t worry if you’re not a fan of the chequerplate finish… there are other options too including 2mm thick marine grade aluminium.
Sizes: 50L, 60L, 70L, 80L, 90L, 100L
Priced from: $1529
Warranty: Three year
A portable fridge/freezer with a built-in USB charging point? Yep, now we have seen everything. But then again, you would expect some little niceties from a manufacturer like Waeco which has been building fridges for a long time. The CFX range is relatively new on the Australian market, and is the result of years of R&D gathered from their experiences with previous fridges in the Aussie climate. This is also the reason why a genuine Waeco compressor and CFXVMS02 electronics are used that incorporate soft start and turbo cooler. Impressive names for some sort of techno-wizardry we can’t pretend to understand, but we can assume it means less power consumption when turning the fridge/freezer on, and the option to cool things insanely quickly if the need arises.
Sizes: 35L, 40L, 50L, 61L, 65L
Priced from: $1099
Warranty: Full three years (additional two years on compressor)
SHOULD I BUY AN ICE BOX?
YEAH… WHY NOT?
1) They are cheaper
2) They are waterproof
3) There are no electronics
4) They can store gear in them when empty
5) They are lighter
KEEP SAVING BUDDY!
1) Buying ice is a pain
2) Ice melts
3) Ice costs money
4) Nobody likes soggy meat
5) Ice takes up internal space