Camping fridges are extremely handy whether you are heading out for a picnic, going for a long weekend camping trip or even looking to add more fridge space to your campervan or motorhome. But sadly they aren’t as cheap as you might think.
Camping fridges can be expensive due to the small compressors and technologies in place to create a portable yet useful fridge for keeping food and drinks cold. Many also inflate in price due to the extra insulation needed along with the multiple power sources and multi-temperature settings.
In this article we are going to talk about why camping fridges are expensive, what you should be looking for and how to save money on a cmaping fridge.
Why Are Camping Fridges So Expensive?
The biggest reason why camping fridges are more expensive goes way beyond just appearing like some high-tech refrigeration compartment; Both normal refrigerators and camping fridges use compressors to make cooling possible.
Overall, camping fridges are just miniature versions of normal refrigerators with smaller sized compressors. Here are further reasons why camping fridges are so expensive:
Extra insulation is included in its design to keep the transfer of heat at the barest minimum. Insulation plays a major part in the overall build and design.
Without the insulation heat can travel in and out of the refrigeration compartment, making the cold food/drink in the refrigerator get warm, hence the need for insulation to stop this happening.
The application of small compressors is a major difference from regular refrigerators. As the name implies, these miniature compressors are small in size, which makes them compatible in the overall portable design of the camping fridges.
Camping fridges are a compressor fridge type; a compressor fridge has a tiny compressor device that creates its cooling system, and this is where its name originates from.
This fridge is often called a two-way refrigerator since it typically has two methods of supplying power to the compressor: a 240v mains supply and a 12v battery. This two-way power supply system allows the use of a car battery or solar panels for powering the refrigerator.
Some variants are even spotted with microcontrollers option today that allow major convenience. These microcontrollers can use wifi to enable you control your fridge with remote access from your smartphone devices, while some other variants have USB ports options.
These extra features made possible by microcontrollers’ application have contributed to how expensive the camping fridge has become.
Pin Code Locks
More expensive models of the camping fridges now come with a fancy pin code lock. This could be a preference for those who would love to have restricted access put in place for their fridge content, particularly if they have children aboard the trip.
It can also serve as a method of putting some privacy to your refrigerator just if you’re in a public place.
Hot & Cold Temperatures
Another element to camping fridges that can raise the cost is having dual settings for both hot and cold. As many camping fridges may be needed to do a multitude of tasks from keeping food warm to keeping food cold and some things just at room temperature having a temperature gauge can be extremely handy.
This can often mean that needing dual purpose temperature settings within a camping fridge can cause certain brands and models to be more expensive than more basic models which include cool temperatures only.
Multiple Power Sources
The majority of camping fridges owners claim they can’t go camping/travelling without it. Carry out your research on mini-fridges if you wish to get one, this way you get to know what you want and seek out models that have desirable features. Overall, the fridge must be able to keep your food in its cold state for a long time.
If you’re camping for a day, using an “ice cooler” might work just fine for you. But as the ice melts, you would need to replace the ice or ice packs to keep your content in their cool state. If you’re the kind who goes on longer camping trips, you should get a camping fridge.
It would be better for your budget in the long term along with being easier for you to keep your food cool over an extended period of time and wouldn’t need to replenish with ice or ice packs.
Getting a fridge is a personal choice that includes carrying out some basic findings. If you are getting one, then you’d need to know a bit about powering it. A camping fridge runs on electricity, this can be by the mains plug, car battery or some higher-spec camping fridges can be charged by solar power.
But most people just use their car battery. When using your battery do ensure you don’t over drain it; the best practice would be to use 50% and never go beyond that. Always start and run the car to recharge the already depleted battery power. This way, you won’t destroy your battery (lead-acid battery to be specific). The power drain is higher when the fridge is first turned on and the compressor begins work.
This stage is when the highest amount of power is consumed. Once the refrigerator is cool to a desired temperature, then the power consumption drops significantly. This happens intermittently.
Some refrigerators have a battery protection device built-in to prevent the car battery drain from going critical, check the refrigerator specifications and read its manual to see what its strengths and limitations are. Knowing all of this would provide a better understanding of how to use it while preventing your car battery from getting damaged.
This is the most significant difference between your small fridge at home and the camping fridge. Camping fridges are made in small sizes to allow easy movement making it very useful during camping, the compressors on them are also very small.
Smaller in size than the regular small refrigerators at home since they use regular-sized compressors.
Smart Power Usage
Camping fridge does come with smart battery/power usage that prevents them from overusing your car battery. Not all camping fridge models have this feature, but most do; designers have considered the power consumption rate and have made the fridge able to stop on its own after a continual run. This option helps prevent damage to your car battery.
The small fridge at home doesn’t have features like this. They are connected to the socket just like every other electrical appliance and run continuously until they are disconnected or power interruption occurs.
Wifi And Size Ranges
You can get camping fridges that ship with wifi receiver. This would enable it to double your device as a remote control once connected with the fridge. This feature allows you to use your mobile device to control the temperature.
You can decide to vary the temperature in different compartments (Freezer and refrigerator). Camping fridge also comes in varying sizes, usually indicated in L.
They can be as little as 25L(holds up to 27cans) or even as large as 80L+(hold up to 120cans). Your buying choice would depend on how many people this camping event is for.
What To Look For In A Camping Fridge
Camping fridges are sold in three different options and as you could have guessed, the price varies differently for all three. Here are the three options:
- Fridge only compartment: This option offers only a Fridge compartment.
- Freezer and fridge compartment: This type of fridge has both a freezer and fridge compartment. These models happen to be the most popular, which you’d find on the internet. Depending on what you’d be cooling, you can choose either the fridge or freezer. You can also turn off the freezer to reduce power usage or defrost its content.
- Dual-zone: This type is the most versatile with its two compartments, capable of being a fridge or freezer. With this type of camping fridge, you can use two fridges, two freezers or one fridge and one freezer. The choice is yours, do remember the power usage and check the instruction manual for the specification of use to avoid draining your car battery.
Camping fridge differs by model, age, price, size, brand and temperature control(automatic or manual defrost). You’d need to check for two major things if you’re purchasing one:
- The main purpose of the fridge
- Number of people you’ll be accomodating
- Are you wanting dual temperature settings?
- How long do you intend to use it for?
The biggest limits to the camping fridge are its size and power. If the wrong type is purchased, you will get stuck with a fridge that can’t contain enough food/drinks to cater to everyone. Another limit is the power if you don’t use a type that automatically controls the power usage.
The fridge might end up draining your battery, leaving you stranded in your location with a car that won’t start.
How To Save Money On Camping Fridges
Now you know why camping fridges can be expensive, what you want to look for in your own camping fridge here are some ways in which you can save money or find a better deal on a camping fridge.
1. Borrow From A Friend/Family
If you are new to camping you might not be completely sure if it is something you are going to do often and whether having your own supply of camping equipment is worth it. If this is the case look at borrowing from a friend or family member to test the waters.
This was something we did as we went camping for out first time together as a couple and so borrowed some things from my parents for our trip, one of which was a camping fridge. It might also be a item you are unsure you will want and need, I suggest borrowing one, trying it out and if you find you like it, feel you need it you can then go from there.
2. Rent A Camping Fridge
While this may sound a little strange you can rent camping fridges from camping stores and suppliers. If you don’t have any friends or family in which you can borrow from you can turn to renting for your trips.
This can work out as a cost effective way of using a camping fridge for your trips without having to purchase one. This is also great if you are tight on space in your home for storing the fridge when it isn’t being used.
It is also a great way of testing out if you want a camping fridge or even testing out the type and size of camping fridge you might want.
3. Buy In The Off-Season For Cheaper Prices
While finding a camping fridge in the off season might be a bit harder you might have a better chance of getting a better deal. As in spring/summer time you will find that they are much easier to find, you may also notice that the price is much higher as they are in more demand from other people buying them for their own trips.
Buying in the off season you can find better deals on the camping fridges as they are not as in demand in Autum/Winter season.
4. Use Coupons & Discount Codes
We have been signed up to a number of programs which are loyalty cards which often mean we are on a system to receive discount codes and vouchers on products.
Take advantage of these free sign up cards (make sure there is no fee or payment schedule to be apart of the voucher list) these can often give you a good discount on products you might need, including camping fridges.
You can look in advance at the fridge type and size you want and keep and eye on different deals that come up for that one. Create a price which you would be happy to pay up to and keep that in mind when the vouchers and deals come around.
5. Buy Second Hand
Buying second hand doesn’t just help the planet it can also help you save money. We buy quite a few things second hand and find it a great way of saving money an getting a quality product.
Look at buying a second hand camping fridge from online platforms or local selling sites and charity shops. These can be great quality products at a fraction of the RRP in stores and brand new.
Again the best way to do this is to look at the size and type you want for your trip and look out for those. I would also suggest looking to buy within Autumn/Winter and the beginning of spring when people are cleaning out their homes and getting rid of items they no longer need.