Coolers, Refrigerators, & Overland Camping
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Overland camping has become increasingly popular in recent years, and as more and more people venture out into the great outdoors, the debate over the best way to keep food cold has become a hot topic. There are two main options when it comes to cooling your food and beverages: coolers and 12V refrigerator/freezers. Each has its own set of pros and cons, so let's dive in and take a closer look.
Coolers are a traditional and reliable
method of keeping food and drinks cold
while overland camping. They come in a variety of sizes and styles, from small personal coolers to large, heavy-duty models that can hold enough food for an entire camping trip. One of the biggest advantages of coolers is that they don't require any external power source. All you need is some ice or ice packs, and you're good to go. Additionally, coolers are generally more affordable than 12V refrigerator/freezers.
However, there are also some downsides to using coolers. First and foremost, they require regular maintenance, as you will need to replace the ice or ice packs every few days to keep your food cold. Additionally, they are less efficient at keeping food cold in hot weather, as the ice will melt more quickly. Finally, coolers can take up a lot of space in your vehicle, especially if you are using a larger model.
Top 5 Coolers:
YETI Tundra 65 Cooler: The YETI Tundra 65 is a highly durable, roto-molded cooler designed to keep food and drinks cold for extended periods of time. It can hold up to 39 cans and 25 pounds of ice. The lid is bearfoot non-slip, and the cooler has T-latches, so it stays securely closed.
Coleman Steel Belted Cooler: The Coleman Steel Belted Cooler is a classic cooler that has been around for decades. It has a steel exterior, rust-resistant hinges, and can hold up to 84 cans. The cooler also features a built-in bottle opener, cup holders, and has an insulated lid and walls to keep items cold for up to 4 days.
Igloo MaxCold Cooler: The Igloo MaxCold Cooler is a large, wheeled cooler that can hold up to 100 cans. It has Ultratherm insulation in the body and lid, which keeps ice frozen for up to 5 days in temperatures up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. It also features a lockable lid, cup holders, and a fish measuring ruler on the lid.
Pelican Elite Cooler: The Pelican Elite Cooler is a high-end cooler that can hold ice for up to 10 days thanks to its freezer-grade gasket and 2-inch polyurethane insulation. It is also certified bear-resistant and features a built-in bottle opener, cup holders, and a lifetime guarantee.
ORCA Hard Sided Classic Cooler: The ORCA Hard Sided Classic Cooler is a highly durable cooler that can hold ice for up to 10 days. It features a lid gasket that ensures a tight seal, and the lid can be easily opened with one hand. It also has a padded carrying handle and cargo net attachment points.
A 12V refrigerator/freezer is a more modern option that has gained popularity in recent years. These units run off of your vehicle's battery and can keep food cold for much longer than a traditional cooler. They are generally more efficient in hot weather and require less maintenance, as they don't need to be refilled with ice.
However, there are some downsides to 12V refrigerator/freezers as well. First and foremost, they require a power source, so you will need to have a reliable battery or a way to recharge it (such as solar panels). Additionally, they are generally more expensive than coolers, and may not be within everyone's budget. Finally, they can take up a significant amount of space in your vehicle, and may require a bit more planning when it comes to packing your gear.
Top 5 Refrigerator/Freezers:
Dometic CFX3 45 Refrigerator/Freezer: The Dometic CFX3 45 is a portable refrigerator/freezer that can hold up to 66 cans. It has a powerful compressor that can cool items down to -7 degrees Fahrenheit and is Wi-Fi enabled, allowing you to monitor and control the temperature from your smartphone. It also has a USB port for charging devices.
ARB 50QT Fridge/Freezer: The ARB 50QT Fridge/Freezer is a highly efficient refrigerator/freezer that can hold up to 72 cans. It has a large backlit display panel and can cool items down to -7 degrees Fahrenheit. It also has a built-in 12/24V DC power supply and can be connected to solar panels for off-grid use.
Engel MR040F-U1 Portable Fridge/Freezer: The Engel MR040F-U1 Portable Fridge/Freezer is a high-quality option for overland camping. It can hold up to 42 cans and can be powered by 12V, 24V, or 110V power sources. It has a digital thermostat with a temperature range of -4 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, and it can cool items down to -4 degrees Fahrenheit.
Whynter FM-45G 45-Quart Portable Refrigerator/Freezer: The Whynter FM-45G is a portable refrigerator/freezer that can hold up to 60 cans. It has a powerful compressor that can cool items down to -6 degrees Fahrenheit and can be powered by 12V, 24V, or 110V power sources. It also has a low voltage cutoff feature to protect your vehicle's battery.
Bodega RV Cooler: The Bodega RV Cooler is a high-quality option for overland camping. This is the current choice for the VORSHEER XCT overlanding trailer. It can hold up to 82 cans and has a temperature range of 32 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. It has a powerful compressor that can cool items down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit and can be powered by 12V or 24V power sources. The Bodega RV Cooler also has a low voltage cutoff feature to protect your vehicle's battery.
Power sources and time frames:
If you choose to use a cooler, you will need to have a way to keep your ice or ice packs cold. This may mean stopping at a gas station or grocery store every few days to replenish your supply. Depending on the outside temperature and the quality of your cooler, you can generally expect to keep food cold for 3-5 days.
If you opt for a 12V refrigerator/freezer, you will need a reliable power source. This could be your vehicle's battery, a portable battery pack, or solar panels. Depending on the size and efficiency of your unit, you can generally expect to keep food cold for several days or even weeks.
Bonus Mention: Dry Ice Dry ice is a popular option for keeping items cold on longer camping trips. It is made by freezing carbon dioxide gas to -109 degrees Fahrenheit and can keep items frozen for several days. However, it is important to handle dry ice with care as it can cause frostbite and can be dangerous if ingested or left in a poorly ventilated area.
Overall, when considering whether to use a cooler or a refrigerator/freezer for overland camping, it's important to consider your power source and how long you need to keep items cold. Coolers are generally more durable and can keep items cold for several days, but may require more ice and can be heavier to transport. Refrigerator/freezers are more efficient and can keep items at a specific temperature, but require a power source and may be more expensive.