Best Portable Refrigerator Freezers 2022 and Why You Need One

Portable Car Refrigerator Freezer Overland

Portable Refrigerator and Freezer Comparison

  • Portable refrigerator and freezers keep food safe on long road trips or off-grip camping
  • Overlanders and off-roaders can benefit from using portable refrigerators and freezers
  • What to look for in a portable refrigerator and freezer

(Scroll to the bottom for our 2022 best portable refrigerator and freezer picks!)

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Portable Refrigerator and Freezer are Necessity for Long Overland Trips

If you are planning on traveling or camping for long periods of time, a quality portable refrigerator and freezer is one of the best investments you can make. It’s a luxury, sure, but an investment in your comfort, and an investment that will last for years. You can keep perishable food fresh, milk and other drinks cold, and even have access to ice on the road or trail.

All our choices are 12V-powered refrigerators/freezers that plug into your vehicle’s power socket (also known as a cigarette lighter). When plugged in to your car or RV they run off the vehicle’s battery which is recharged by the alternator while driving. When not plugged into your vehicle they can be powered by optional solar panels making it possible to cool wherever the sun shines.

Why use a portable refrigerator and freezer?

Portable refrigerators and freezers have become standard equipment for people who like to travel. They allow you to bring food with you that would otherwise not be available at your destination.

A portable fridge or freezer allows you to keep perishable food cold or frozen while traveling, which is important on trips that last more than a few days. If you want to bring things like meat, fish, cheese, milk, eggs and ice cream along with you on your travels, a portable refrigerator or freezer is essential.

How do these portable refrigerators function?

To begin, it’s important to get a good grasp on how your portable refrigerator and freezer functions. These units use a compressor refrigeration cycle to chill the contents inside. The most important thing is that these fridges operate by drawing air from the outside of your vehicle, compressing it with a motorized compressor and then forcing it through an evaporator. This causes the liquid refrigerant inside to change phases into a gas but in doing so absorbs heat from whatever food or drinks you have inside. Once this hot refrigerant leaves the evaporator, it passes through another part of the fridge called a condenser before returning to the compressor where the whole process starts over again. In short, cold air is created by removing heat from whatever you put inside your fridge and then expelling that heat out into ambient air.

What type of compressor do portable refrigerator and freezers have?

As you can see, the type of compressor plays a major role in determining the cooling performance and efficiency of your portable refrigerator and freezer. The more powerful the compressor is, the faster it will be able to cool your food or drinks. Consequently, this also means that you’ll need less energy to power it.

The next thing to consider is how much noise the compressor produces when operating at full capacity. You don’t want your fridge waking up you or your family when it’s running throughout the night. Most new models come fitted with dampened compressors which do an excellent job of reducing noise levels and keeping vibrations to a minimum.

What are the key variables to consider when picking a fridge/freezer?

In this section, we’ll review each of the variables listed above and explain why you should consider them before making a purchase decision.


How much space do you need for your food/beverages? Make an estimate based on how much camping or road-tripping you expect to do in the future, and pick the appropriate size. The range is from 20L (5.3 gallons) to 120L (31.7 gallons).

Power Source & Power Draw

Do you need refrigeration during off-grid adventures? If so, make sure your fridge or freezer runs off DC power with a low amp draw. Most units are capable of running both on AC and DC power, but some are only capable of running one way or another. The lower the amp draw at 12V, the longer your fridge will run on battery power without killing your battery bank or sucking down too much juice from your generator to keep it topped off while dry camping. In our opinion, a good refrigerator should not pull more than 2 amps per hour when operating at full capacity in typical outdoor temperatures. Any higher can be unnecessarily inefficient—and that means wasted dollars if you’re using a generator to keep it powered up! That said, some models pull less than 0.5A / hour while others draw close to 4A / hour—so make sure that whatever unit you select operates within safe parameters for your specific needs and existing power sources!

Low Amp Draw: 0 – 2 Amps per Hour

Medium Amp Draw: 3 – 4 Amps per Hour

High Amp Draw: 5+ Amps per Hour

What size portable refrigerator should I get?

When it comes to choosing the size of your fridge, you need to think about what you’ll be fitting inside. If you are traveling solo or with one other person, a smaller fridge will probably suit you just fine. But if you have a large family or plan on traveling with a group, then you will probably want to look at the larger options.

If the fridge is going in a particular location in your vehicle, make sure that you know the measurements before purchasing. You don’t want to buy it and then find out that it’s too big!

ARB and Dometic portable refrigerators are the two most dominant brands in the industry.

In Australia, ARB is the most popular brand. They are also more expensive and sell reliably built fridges. In the past, ARB had some reliability issues, but these have been resolved over time.

Dometic is a cheaper alternative to ARB. Their fridges are reliably built and they still get the job done and will meet your needs if you’re on a tight budget or don’t need an extremely durable fridge (if you only plan to use it when camping or boating).

National Luna is another brand with great reliability ratings from consumers who own them—though they aren’t quite as commonly sold as Dometic or ARB in the US.

Alpicool is a newer brand of portable refrigerators that has gotten good reviews online for performance and quality—though we have not yet conducted an extensive survey of consumer experiences with this brand at the time of writing.

Does it have any fancy features?

Some models have a built-in battery monitor to help you keep an eye on your power usage and make sure you don’t run out of juice. Some models, like the Dometic CFX 95DZW and the ARB 78104101, also come with a drain plug tucked away in the bottom of their front casing for easy cleaning.

Some models offer seperate freezer and refrigerator sections to keep your frozen foods frozen and your other foods cold. However, this can reduce the available space overall and may not be as flexible if you need more refrigerator space.

Other options to consider are how you will mount the refrigerator in your vehicle, carry handle and case options, temperature readout displays (including wireless), available baskets for organization, and other options.

In Conclusion

A portable refrigerator or freezer can be a great addition to your overland gear setup allowing you to skip the ice bags and keep your food in safer, more controlled temperatures on long off-grid trips.

Top 5 Portable Refrigerators and Freezers in 2022

ARB 10802692 ZERO Portable Fridge Freezer 73 Qts Dual Zone

Dometic CFX3 45-Liter Portable Refrigerator and Freezer

Dometic CFX3 45-Liter Portable Refrigerator and Freezer

ARB 10801352 Portable Fridge Freezer 37 Quarts

Alpicool C20 Portable Refrigerator 21 Quart

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