Refrigerators

Here are Our 5 Best Picks for Portable Camping Fridges

Nothing puts a damper on an adventure quite like soggy sandwiches, lukewarm beverages, and spoiled food. Whether camping has become a way of life for your family or you’re simply looking to ensure everyone has enough to eat and drink on long road trips; a portable fridge is a worthwhile investment. 

To assist you in finding the best portable refrigerator for camping and road trips alike, we’ll walk you through the important factors, the best brands and models available, questions you should ask before purchasing, and offer up our picks for the top 5 portable camping refrigerators.

What is a Portable Camping Fridge 

Unlike coolers (which rely on ice and are notorious for condensation and messes), portable camping refrigerators are powered by mobile cooling systems. These cooling systems use your car, van, or RV’s electrical system to cool or freeze food for extended periods of time. 

While you will end up spending more on these portable fridges, the cost is quickly negated as you consider the benefits and imagine trips that don’t include soggy food and emergency ice runs. 

Before beginning the narrowing down process, it’s helpful to know a little about the three categories of portable refrigerators.

Types of Portable Refrigerators 

  • Thermoelectric Camping Fridge: The compact options are generally the least expensive (typically under $300.00) and operate much like a cooler. Ideal for short road trips, these portable fridges allow you to cool food and keep hot items warm. They do, however, run constantly and use significantly more power than other options. 
  • Absorption Camping Fridge: Best suited for RV or camper van trips to established campgrounds, these models typically land in the $500 range and utilize three power sources. While efficient on propane, absorption camping fridges are inefficient on DC power, must be kept level, and are unable to effectively cool food when temperatures exceed 80 degrees. 
  • Compressor Camping Fridge: More expensive than the other two options (between $500-$1,800), compressor camping fridges are well worth the investment if you’re embarking on overlanding or extended camping trips. These fridges handle well in uneven terrain, effectively cool food to below freezing levels (even in high ambient temperatures), are incredibly energy efficient, and often come with a host of special features (including dual-zone temperature control, multiple compartments, and more). 

By understanding the differences between the three types of portable fridges, you can quickly narrow your choices down based on budget, lifestyle, and needs. Generally speaking, if you’re looking for something to keep your drinks cool on road trips with the family; a thermoelectric camping fridge will work just fine. For needs that exceed quick road trips, it would be wise to invest in either of the latter two options. 

Why Is a Portable Refrigerator Worth the Investment? 

The ability to keep food chilled or frozen gives you the freedom to spend your time planning a trip you’ll love without worrying about whether you’ll have enough supplies. 

While the sheer quantity of options available can feel overwhelming, it means the camping fridge that’s perfect for you and your family is out there. It’s just a matter of itemizing your needs, narrowing down the options, and making the purchase. 

Benefits of a Small Camping Fridge 

  • Convenience: Camping fridges are larger than a typical cooler and enable you to travel for longer stretches without worrying about securing replacement food supplies or beverages. 
  • Money: The ability to effectively carry enough provisions for extended periods of time means you aren’t stopping constantly to buy meals or restock cool beverages. Over the course of any given trip, the money you’ll save by not restocking every few hours will easily negate the cost of a portable camping fridge. 
  • Health: Unlike a cooler, the best camping fridges can withstand extremely hot temperatures. This means that your food won’t spoil, medications can be chilled as needed, your food and beverage packing options increase dramatically, and trips aren’t cut short by food poisoning. 

  • Condensation: Portable fridges are designed to cool and freeze their contents without producing the condensation you’ll find in a typical cooler. This eliminates mess and means your food isn’t soggy and foul-smelling.

At the end of the day, purchasing a portable camping refrigerator is investing in the freedom to enjoy your adventures without having to navigate the logistics of finding places to eat, replenishing drink supplies, or storing medication that requires refrigeration. 

Focus on what matters – enjoying the great outdoors and your family – while your portable camping fridge handles your food storage and cooling needs.

Portable Camping Fridge Buying Guide

A quick trip to the local outdoors store will give you the wide variety of options available. There are fully equipped, top-tier models that offer almost anything you can think of. There are basic, “one-step-above-a-cooler” options that cool beverages effectively but don’t sustain longer outings. And then there are a whole host of choices that land in the middle of those two categories. How to decide? Consider your lifestyle, your needs, your upcoming plans, and your budget.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Portable Fridge 


Size and Capacity: Assess your family’s needs, the size of your vehicle, and the frequency with which you’ll use your portable camping fridge to determine what your size and capacity requirements are. Ask yourself: 

  • What kind of trip am I planning? A road trip? A month-long camping adventure? 
  • Is this a one time trip or do I plan on making this a regular event? 
  • How much storage room do I have in my vehicle? 
  • How much and what does my family eat? 

Manufacturer: Ask around to get recommendations as you do your research into which brand to select. It is usually wise to go with tried and true options that have been on the market long enough to build a reputation. Dometic camping fridges are notoriously well rated, as are ARB fridges. 

Model: The market is rife with options and each brand makes up to a dozen models of each. Look for models that meet the following criteria:

  • Low DC power consumption (ideally less than 1 amp/hour at 12 volts) 
  • Built in batteries with battery protection technology 
  • Adequate size and capacity for your needs 
  • Temperature adjustment and monitoring capabilities 

Special Features: Most brands will offer a variety of special features that vary from model to model. Review these features and decide which are must-haves for you. Some especially useful features include: 

  • Remote or Bluetooth enabled temperature control and monitoring 
  • Lid removal options 
  • Built in battery protection
  • Water resistant technology 
  • Dual zone setting capabilities (the ability to utilize fridge AND freezer compartments at the same time)

Helpful Sizing Guide 

Most capacity levels are measured in liters or quarts. While accurate, it can be challenging to figure out how that translates into meeting your family’s needs. Here’s a helpful sizing guide to guide you as you consider your purchase options.

Determine how long you’ll be gone for, how many people are going, and what sort of access you will have to food establishments. From there, find the sizing option that accommodates those needs.

Review Of The 5 Best Portable Camping Fridges

There are so many options to choose from these days. Knowing which is the best portable fridge can confuse even the most experienced camper – let alone those just starting out on the camping life. And, with an investment of this magnitude, you’ll want to feel reasonably confident in the choice you make. 

At the end of the day, how much you should invest boils down to how often you camp/stop, where you are, where you’re heading, and what you prefer to eat. Beyond that, the rest are simply a matter of personal preference. 

Is an app-controlled portable camping fridge a must for you? Dometic might be your best bet. If, on the other hand, you need at least 3 levels of storage and the ability to store taller items; Costway might be the route to go. We’ve narrowed the options down to our top five picks for you.

1. Dometic CFX28 12v Electric Powered Cooler, Fridge Freezer

Heading out for an extended trip? Boasting incredible capacity limits, Dometic gives you the ability to store enough food and drink for days — making it the perfect option for longer camping or road trips. By allowing you to freeze and refrigerate in separate compartments, Dometic gives you the freedom to live and eat like you’re at home while on the road. An intelligent battery protection system automatically shuts off when your vehicle’s battery is running low — thereby eliminating the risk of finding yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere with a dead car battery.

While excellent for lengthy trips, this model does come with its own set of downsides — most of which revolve around customization options and repair troubleshooting.

Overall, this Dometic model will more than meet your needs as you travel and makes for a good first portable fridge. Just be sure to read the manual to get a full understanding how the compressor settings work — to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Special Features:

  • Drain Plug
  • RCM Certificate 
  • 2 Wire Shelves that Are Removable to Increase Storage Space
  • USB Port and LED Interior Lights

SUMMARY

Dometic CFX28 12v Electric Powered Cooler

Pros

  • Separate compartments for freezing and cooling
  • USB port and LED interior lights
  • Digital Temperature Display for Easy Monitoring and Adjustment

Cons

  • Any repairs must be handled by an authorized service center.
  • Protected cover sold separately
  • Few choices for customization
CHECK PRICE

2. COSTWAY Car Refrigerator, 55-Quart Portable Compressor Freezer

Built for durability and complete with triple laying battery protection, the COSTWAY Car Refrigerator is perfect for RV camping. Unique memory technology means you never have to worry about remembering temperatures while its exceptional capacity levels mean no one goes without what they need!

Thousands of customers rave about this model – with only a few complaints over power usage capabilities and adapter malfunctions. But, in nearly every case the adjustable modes, dual zone cooling, and shockproof design made for any minor inconveniences.

Perfect for families looking to get away for longer stretches of time. The COSTWAY Freezer can handle thousands of miles of travel, multiple passengers with differing needs, and high ambient temperatures. If you’re looking for a portable fridge that will go the distance, this is it.

Special Features:

  • LCD Display and Digital Buttons 
  • Internal LED lights 
  • Shockproof design
  • Leak resistant technology 
  • 2 handles for easy transport 
  • Smart memory function that remembers the last preset temp for you

SUMMARY

COSTWAY Car Refrigerator

Pros

  • Dual zone electric cooler capabilities
  • Adjustable MAX and ECO Modes
  • Multi-Voltage system

Cons

  • Quickly drains car battery set on Low Mode
  • Included AC adapter is prone to breakage
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3. ARB 10802692 ZERO Portable Fridge Freezer

ARB’s ZERO lives up to its mission to make camping, fishing, and other outdoor adventures less of a hassle. Large enough to hold everything you need and durable enough to withstand uneven terrain; the ARB Zero portable fridge sweetens the deal with removable compartments, non-slip glass and bottle holders, and wireless control and monitoring — making it a must have for camping enthusiasts.

When it comes to customization options, you simply cannot beat the ARB. Configure to meet your needs and then reconfigure without any hassle the next time you head out for your next trip. Convenience and customization is where ARB excels, hands down.

Imagine being able to serve drinks and popsicles at the same time. You’ll be the hit of the party in no time! This model gives you exactly that freedom – and more! Invest in an ARB and up the ante for your next trip.

Special Features: 

  • Independently Controlled Cooling Zones – Each With the Capability to Set to Fridge, Freeze or Off 
  • Recessed Handles with Integrated Tie Down Points 
  • Non-Slip Glass and Bottle Protection
  • USB Outlet for Phones and Other Electronics 
  • Low Power Draw Interior LED Light 
  • Boost Function for Rapid Cool Down 
  • Anti-Condensation Technology
  • Easily accessible drain

SUMMARY

ARB 10802692 ZERO Portable Fridge Freezer

Pros

  • Removable lid and freezer compartment for more space
  • Durable steel outer casing
  • Wireless, bluetooth-enabled monitoring and control

Cons

  • The app can be hard to configure and use.
  • Temperature display changes as soon as you reset it – even before the fridge actually cools to the new level.
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4. Dometic CFX3 75DZ Portable Refrigerator and Freezer

Carry over 100 cans and still have room for some snacks with Dometic’s 75DZ model. Whether you’re new to the camping life or have been taking to the road since you were little, you’ll appreciate the LED lights, easy to navigate controls, and unbeatable durability. 

When it comes to downsides, this Dometic model’s achilles heel is its size. While great for storage capacity and ensuring everyone on your trip has everything they need (at the temperature they need it), it does make for a heavy loading and unloading experience. That said, the solar power capabilities are not found in many other models and dramatically reduce power usage while helping the environment.

A perfect investment for newcomers and the ideal upgrade choice for those who have outgrown their starter portable fridge and need something to keep up with their ever-growing sense of adventure; the Dometic 75DZ outperforms almost everyone in size, storage capacity, energy efficiency, and construction.

Special Features: 

  • ExoFrame Construction that protects edges
  • High Res Color Display and Soft Touch Buttons 
  • 3 Stage Battery Protection to Prevent Car Battery Depletion 
  • Strong aluminum alloy carry handles 
  • Fender Frame Protected Edges 
  • App Temperature Control and Performance HIstory

SUMMARY

Dometic CFX3 75DZ Portable Refrigerator

Pros

  • Solar powered for decreased energy use
  • VMSO3 compressor technology for rapid freezing
  • Dual compartments with individual temperature control

Cons

  • Heavy (could require 2 people to lift when full)
  • Does not come with protective cover (Available to Purchase Separately)
  • Less effective in ambient temperatures above 85 degrees
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5. Whynter 2.12 cu. ft. Portable Freezer

On the low end of the price spectrum, the Whynter Portable Freezer is the ideal choice for a first portable fridge. An up to date ETL listing ensures you’re getting reliability and peace of mind as you embark while the adjustable temperature control and LED lighting make monitoring and adjusting temperatures a piece of cake.

When reviewing the advantages and disadvantages of this model, it boils down to regular cleaning and noise control. By filling your freezer completely and cleaning the various compartments regularly, you can enjoy the incredible offerings Whynter provides without worrying about minor annoyances.

Pack your family, grab your friends, flip open a map and choose your destination. Whynter will make sure you get there fed, happy, and ready to cool off with a chilled beer or soda. Unbeatable price, unprecedented durability, and tons of storage — consider all the boxes checked.

Special Features:

  • Removable Compartment Divides, Removable Baskets that Allow for Tall Items and Bottles 
  • Recessed Handles with Integrated Tie Down Points and Tough Outer Casing
  • Non-Slip Glass and Bottle Protection
  • USB Outlet for Phones and Other Electronics 
  • Functions even when titled 30 degrees 
  • Low Power Draw Interior LED Light 
  • Boost Function for Rapid Cool Down 
  • Anti-Condensation Technology
  • Easy to access drain plug

SUMMARY

Whynter 2.12 cu. ft. Portable Freezer

Pros

  • Compressor cooling system allows you to cool or freeze items
  • Fast freeze mode can cool to -8 degrees
  • LED controls and display

Cons

  • Loud when not filled completely
  • Plastic compartments dirty and rust easily
CHECK PRICE

FAQs

What’s the Difference Between a Cooler and a Portable Fridge?

Coolers do exactly that and nothing else. They chill your beverages and food and prevent contact with direct sunlight. They do not refrigerate or freeze or prevent food spoilage.

Where Can I Get a Portable Camping Fridge?

Each of the models spotlighted here can be found on Amazon. If you’d prefer to shop in person, most can be found at outdoor equipment stores as well.

Can I Use My Car Battery to Power My Fridge?

No, it is never advised to use the car or van’s battery to power your fridge. While it will work and provide power, it will quickly drain the battery.

How Should I Pack My Fridge?

Pack your fridge in the order in which you’ll be eating things. This way you have what you need first at the top and the last thing you plan to eat at the bottom.

Where Should I Keep My Fridge While Traveling?

Keep your fridge in a cool, shaded area that is out of direct sunlight. This improves efficiency and saves power.

Can I Put Cooked Food in My Fridge to Eat as Leftovers?

Yes, cooked food can be chilled in your portable fridge as long as you give the items time to cool down before packing them in the fridge.

What Can I Do To Reduce the Amount of Power I Use?

The biggest thing you can do to reduce your power consumption and improve the efficiency of your fridge is to use the thickest power cables possible.

Final Word

In a world where it’s easy to get tempted to zone it and plug into the tv or device, taking to the open road invites you to wake up and smell the roses (or cactus or rivers) with those you love. Regardless of how far you’re going, who you’re going with, or what you need; there are more than plenty of portable fridge options that will meet your needs without breaking the bank. And, at the end of the day, you’re not investing in a portable freezer. You’re investing in a lifetime of adventures you’ll remember for the rest of your life.