Why Are Camping Fridges So Expensive? (Hint: Active Chill Tech)

While camping, there are only so many ways to keep food cold. The first and most affordable option is to camp in the snow throughout the winter. Since that isn’t for everyone, the second option is to acquire that cheap cooler, fill it with loads of ice, and eat your food as soon as possible before the ice melts. 

Another better option is to purchase a camping fridge, which will keep your food cold for as long as you are camping.

The major reason camping fridges are so expensive is that, while they look to be merely a high-tech cooler, they actively chill, rather than passively, like a typical cooler does (like a miniature version used in a normal refrigerator).

To work efficiently, camping fridges are built with extra insulation and engineered to run on AC power (from a wall outlet), DC power (from a car’s cigarette lighter port), and even solar power. Many also offer other valuable functions, such as USB connections for charging phones and other small gadgets. Your smartphone even controls some.

The Main Reasons Why Camping Fridges Are So Expensive

  • They are actively cooled with a small, efficient compressor.
  • They need to be designed to be more energy-efficient, with more insulation.
  • They must work with different power sources (like power from a car or solar panels).
  • They often have other helpful features, like USB ports or the ability to be controlled by a phone.
  • Some more expensive models can even be locked with a pin code to keep the contents from getting into the wrong hands.

Is the Price For Camping Fridges Worth It?

People who have camping fridges say they can’t live without them, but you need to research to find a reliable model with the features you want that will keep your food and drinks nice and cold.

Even though ice can keep your food cold for a while, it will eventually melt, so you will have to go get more ice or go without cold food. If you’re only going camping for a day or two, that might be fine, but if you want to keep your food cold for a longer trip, a passive cooler won’t work. Unless you want to stop your camping trip every day to go to the nearest gas station, that is.

Still, it’s important to remember that camping fridges need power, so you’ll need to buy some portable solar panels or use the battery from your car. Even though they are made to work with a car battery, it’s essential never to use the car’s battery past 50 percent because it can damage a lead-acid battery. This means turning the car on and running it every once in a while to recharge the battery.

When a camping fridge is first turned on and cooling to the right temperature, it uses the most power. After that, it uses less power, and usually only sometimes.

Some fridges have a built-in system to protect the car’s battery from being drained too much, but you have to look at the fridge’s specifications and read its manual to find out what it can and can’t do.

Because of the price and the amount of power needed, a passive cooler might be a better choice. If you’re camping for a week, there’s no better way to keep your food and drinks cold.

How Long Can a Camping Fridge Run On My Car Battery?

Since the main car battery is used to start the car and isn’t meant to be drained very much, it’s not a good idea to run a camping fridge off it for long. It wouldn’t be wise to run the fridge for more than a few hours on the main car battery without recharging it.

It would be better to use an extra deep-cycle battery for this. For example, a small 36-quart fridge could run for anywhere from 49 to 82 hours, depending on the size of the battery. A bigger 82-quart fridge would run for 39 to 65 hours on the same range of battery sizes.

No matter what, it’s a good idea to run your car frequently to keep the battery healthy when using a camping fridge.

Why Can’t I Just Buy One of Those Electric Coolers?

Even though powered coolers are cheaper, they don’t cool down food as much as they keep food that has already been cooled without ice. Most coolers can only keep their contents about 30 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit (17 to 22 degrees Celsius) cooler than the temperature outside the cooler. 

This means that the hotter it is outside, the less cool the contents will be. If you need to actively cool down or freeze your food, you have to buy the more expensive camping fridge.

How Much Do Camping Fridges Weigh?

Fridges for camping can be heavy. Most smaller ones weigh about 14 kilograms, or just over 30 pounds, while the bigger ones can weigh more than 70 pounds (32 kilograms). This means that while a single person can move one of the smaller fridges, it’s best to get help moving one of the bigger ones.

What Size of Camping Fridge Do I Need?

This is a fundamental question, and the answer depends entirely on what you want. If it’s just you and maybe one other person, and you’re only going camping for one day, a 26-37 quart (24.6-35 liter) fridge would be fine, especially if you don’t plan to bring a lot of food and drinks that need to be kept cold. 

No matter what, you should get a 50-82 quart (47.3-77.6 liter) fridge or bigger if you have a family and/or plan to stay out for a while. Remember that the bigger the fridge, the more electricity it will use.

What Vehicles Can I Run a Camping Fridge On?

Since most cars have a DC outlet (often called a cigarette lighter socket or accessory socket), they should be able to run a camping fridge. It’s important to know how much energy your battery can hold, so you don’t drain it too much by using a camping fridge.

Can I Run a Small Refrigerator On A Power Inverter Instead?

It is possible to run a small, energy-efficient refrigerator with an inverter hooked up to your car, but you need to pay close attention to how much power the fridge uses. You should also know that when a fridge starts up, it uses about three times as much power as it normally does.

You also need to know how much power your inverter can change from a DC current to an AC current. Most inverters show two capacity numbers. The “continuous wattage” is how much power the inverter can keep putting out as long as DC power is coming in, and the “peak surge wattage” is how much power it can put out in a split second.

Lastly, you should pay attention to how much energy your battery can hold. A small refrigerator is made to be powered by a regular wall outlet, so it won’t work as well with a car battery.

All of that said, a small fridge isn’t made to be run by a car, so it’s probably a better idea to spend a little more and get a camping fridge, which is made for cars and can often keep food cool even when there’s no power for short periods because they are so well insulated.

Conclusion 

While camping, there are many ways to keep food and drinks cold. Camping fridges actively cool food and drink rather than passively like a normal cooler. They can be more energy-efficient and run on different power sources, such as solar panels or car chargers. 

There’s no better way to keep food and drinks cold while camping than a camping fridge. Still, it’s important to remember that camping fridges need power, so you’ll need to buy some portable solar panels or use the battery from your car for it.

The bigger the camping fridge, the more electricity it will use. This means that the hotter it is outside, the less cool the contents will be. If you need to actively cool down or freeze your food, you have to buy the more expensive camping fridge. It is possible to run a small refrigerator with an inverter hooked up to your car. 

A small fridge isn’t made to be run by a car, so it’s probably a better idea to spend a little more on a camping fridge. Most inverters show two capacity numbers.

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