Coolers are great for a few days of camping or a week out on the road. Beyond that, though, it gets a little inconvenient, as it requires you to drive out to change the ice, lest have all your drinks go warm and all your food go bad within a few days. Whether you’re camping in the woods for weeks at a time or exploring new places in a van you’ve converted for full-time dwelling, a cooler just won’t do the trick. Instead, it’s time to get one of those portable 12V fridges that will allow you to both chill and freeze food and drinks as conveniently as your fridge at home. Except… you know, in a compact size that’s designed to fit comfortably inside the car.
These 12V portable fridges will let you enjoy your favorite refrigerated comforts on the go.
BougeRV CR Series
Available in 37-, 48-, and 59-quart models, this 12V fridge/freezer offers a really functional design that makes it ideal for camping. It has a pair of wheels and telescoping arms for easy mobility around camp, with two separate cooling zones that allow you to refrigerate and freeze at the same time. The compressor can keep the two internal compartments at temperatures between 20 degrees and -20 degrees Celsius, although it does consume a fair bit more power than the more efficient portable fridges we have in the list (even the Eco mode uses up 45W).
It comes with a well-designed companion app that you can use to monitor and control the fridge remotely, as well as a digital control panel right on the fridge without the need to use a smartphone. They even threw in a bunch of little niceties, such as LED lights on either side of the interior, a built-in bottle opener, and an integrated chopping board.
Iceco VL Series
Iceco’s VL line offers portable fridges from 47.5 quarts to 78 quarts, so it should be quite easy to find a large-enough rig to accommodate your on-the-go food and drink supplies. We love the build quality for this line, with hard metal shells and 60mm thickened inner walls making for a really durable fridge that you can confidently move around the campsite without worry of causing any damage.
Equipped with a Secop compressor, it can set temperature anywhere between -18 degrees and 10 degrees Celsius, allowing you freeze meats, chill vegetables, and do all sorts of cooling jobs in between. It’s available in both single and dual compartments, with the latter allowing you to chill drinks in one side and freeze meats on the other. The fridge has an ECO mode that minimizes power consumption, too, which is very handy to turn on when you’re don’t have it plugged in to a running car. The outfit also sells their own portable power station, by the way, in case you’re looking for options to keep this running without plugging in to your car.
This 45-quart 12V fridge can set the temperature between 10 degrees and -22 degrees Celsius, giving you a good range for both cooling and freezing. There’s a fast-freeze mode that allows it to rapidly cool to the lowest temperature in short order, along with a low setting that’s on par with its power consumption as the Eco mode on competing models. It’s built tough in a solid powder-coated steel shell, with the heft to show for it (a whopping 45 pounds when empty), so it’s not comfortable to move around even with the smaller 45-quart size, not to mention its larger counterparts (the same design is available in 65-, 85-, and 90 quarts). We have to say, though, getting this quality of build at this price point is a pretty solid proposition.
Much as we love the classy styling of portable fridges with metal shells, we have to admit, being exposed to the elements does make them to susceptible to corrosion. If you don’t want any part of that, this portable 40-quart fridge-freezer’s hard ABS shell should hold up much better to the elements, making it suitable not just for camping and RVing, but for bringing to the water, too.
It uses the outfit’s Engel Swing Motor compressor, which boasts highly efficient operation that draws just 1 to 2 amps per hour (even during startup), which is around 40 percent less than a traditional compressor. That compressor, by the way, also has just one moving part, which really minimizes potential areas for failure, so you can use this for far longer. It can set temperatures between -17.7 to 7.2 degrees Celsius, with really impressive insulation, making it very efficient when paired with the Engel compressor. It’s so good at cooling and staying cool, in fact, that it doesn’t need an Eco mode like other portable fridges, as it still manages to draw less power even in the standard setting.
While Dometic’s portable fridges tend to fall on the higher end of the price scale, its combination of quality build, powerful cooling, and modern conveniences should make it well worth the money. Able to set its temperatures to as low as -22 degrees Celsius, this thing can freeze any kind of supplies faster than any fridge in the category, complete with a rapid freeze plate that allows you to make ice at a fraction of the time. It’s also one of the few portable fridges that come with a companion app, which lets you easily check and set temperature while keeping a detailed record of the device’s performance history.
This particular model comes in seven sizes between 25 liters and 100 liters, with both single zone and dual zone options, so you can get just the exact type of fridge you need. It’s ruggedly built, too, making it perfect for outdoor adventures, all while operating so quiet you can keep it in the van while you sleep right next to it. Power draw is on the lower end among most portable fridges in the market, although there’s no Eco mode, so you don’t get a more efficient power-conserving option. Still, it performs very well as far as overall power-consumption is concerned, even though it doesn’t quite get as frugal as Engel’s fridges.