12 Volt Camping Fridge for perfect Vanlife food storage
We’re happy to share reviews and top pics for 12 volt refrigerator freezers.
These highly efficient DC compressor fridges will keep your food cold while using very little power.
The current crop of the highest rated 12/24v, 110/240v options are well made with a wide range of sizes, prices and features.
So much modern technology has gone into developing the specifics for these wonderful machines like high quality compressors, super efficient insulation, rugged construction, modern smart electronics and much more.
These incredible 12 volt camping fridges sport full-on coolant compressors like the full size fridge/freezers in kitchens, but more efficient (so they don’t kill your battery) and durable.
Most of all, the best 12 volt refrigerator freezer will keep your food as cold as you desire, all the way down to rock-solid frozen if necessary.
Table of Contents
12 volt compressor refrigerator
Many campers will buy one of these portable units to start out, then when they upgrade to a full size 12 volt refrigerator, permanently installed in their van, keep the smaller one for backup, as a dedicated freezer or road trip fridge freezer in another vehicle.
My van is too small for a permanent 12 volt refrigerator, so my 35 quart is the best 12 volt fridge freezer for my build.
Icebox coolers: The hidden costs of ice
I know what you’re thinking; “A standard ice cooler holds 40+ quarts”. Will 35 quarts be enough for all my favorite, drinks and foods?”.
But icebox cooler interior space is not all it’s cracked up to be, as you’ll read, below…
When you’re calculating the cost of a 12 volt refrigerator, keep the below facts in mind, because they are actual costs that will be eliminated by a high quality fridge/freezer unit.
- Ice can take up 4 quarts or more of space
- The cost of ice, $1 to $4 per bag, adds up fast
- One hidden cost is the time it takes to continually stock the cooler with ice; constantly stopping at convenience stores…
- Icebox coolers don’t keep food at consistent temperatures
- Ambient temperatures will result in either rapid ice melting or a cooler full of food, frozen solid
- Your food gets soggy when the ice melts. Yuck
Best 12 Volt Refrigerator Freezer Pre Purchase Check List
We’ve got some recommendations for the best 12 volt refrigerator freezers available, and here’s a partial list of our criteria for our selections:
- Reputable compressor: This is a biggie, since your 12v fridge will go through many cycles, you need a quality compressor, built to last.
- Good insulation: Better insulation provides less stress on the compressor and lower power usage.
- Low voltage protection: Alerts you before your 12 volt battery gets too low.
- Quality Seals: Impacts all functions of a fridge freezer.
- Power: Needs to run on either 12 volt battery power and 110/240 volt shore power.
- Warranty: The manufacturer must back up their product for quality, function and repair.
While these are truly magical gadgets, I do have a couple of suggestions to make sure your Campervan Fridge Freezer lasts as long as possible.
- You’ll want to make sure your camper van fridge/freezer is anchored well, as they’re a bit heavy and should not be allowed to jostle around.
- But the units on our list are all built well and intended for travel, so it’s not a huge concern.
And then there’s the prices; they’re not cheap.
Consider the craftsmanship that goes into the best 12 volt refrigerators.
Whether you travel a lot and the cost of ice is obvious, or you just like your food to be at safe temperatures and not water logged, you’ll soon realize the bargain that a good campervan refrigeration unit truly can be.
AC DC Refrigerator Power
Many of the available Campervan refrigerators will run on both 12/24 volt and 110/240 volt power.
That means you can plug your campervan fridge into your power inverter or shore power (110/240 volt), or run it off of your solar panels or house batteries at 12 or 24 volts.
The units typically include an AC power cord, as well as a DC power cord with standard connectors.
Check with manufacturers to be sure they either supply both power cords, or offer them as options to purchase.
What’s the best 12 volt refrigerator for a minivan camper?
We recorded a podcast episode to help you decide which 12v fridge/freezer will be best for your minivan campervan design and build.
Please click to listen, or read the episode transcription, below.
Okay today, we're going to talk about the best 12 volt refrigerator for a minivan camper, aka 12v fridge freezers for mini camper vans.
I’m Well suited to answer this question at the moment, because I'm driving is a Toyota Sienna minivan camper.
The best 12 volt refrigerator options for a minivan camper are as follows:
👍 BougeRV 53 Quart 12 Volt Refrigerator
👍 Dometic CFX3 35 12 Volt Refrigerator
👍 ICECO JP42 Pro Rotomolded 12 Volt Refrigerator
And I love it, it's great. for a while, I was very much considering moving on to a full size, full height, sprinter van, and I will be doing that actually very soon, but, for now, my minivan is awesome and I can't recommend enough people building out minivans for camping because they're just wonderful. It's just great to be able to drive anywhere and park anywhere, but I digress.
We'll get back to the 12 volt refrigerator issue and I'll just talk a bit about what I think the best refrigerators are for minivans and give you some guidelines for your personal mini camper refrigeration needs.
Now, if you're more than one person, you need a larger fridge freezer. It's really that simple, unless you can manage to do all of your cooking or the vast majority of your cooking without having to refrigerate or freeze anything. And that's fine. I mean, if you can do that, awesome. If, if you can get by with just some milk and even then maybe you're into alternative milks and your milk doesn't have to be refrigerated.
That's great, but most of us want fresh food and most of us want some cool drinks and a cold beer now and then. So choose your refrigerator, your 12 volt fridge freezer based on, how many people you have in your van and the kind of cooking you like to do and the foods and drinks you want to keep cold.
As you know, as I've talked about a lot, I love to cook, especially at the campsite, and I want fresh food.
I want fresh want fresh vegetables and cheese and milk and cream and things like that, so that I can cook really great food at the campsite. Even if I'm cooking over the fire, not in the van, not on a portable stove. I still want all of the wonderful, fresh foods. So I sacrifice space because I want a larger minivan 12v fridge freezer.
As far as brands go. If you're in a minivan, you probably have less power supply. And so you might consider something like the iceo icooler, which I've done an episode on already. And I will go ahead and include that in show notes, you'll see a link to our 12 Volt Refrigerator and to the iceco icooler. The reason that I think that's a great way to go is because, A- it's a larger 12 volt fridge freezer and B- it has maxed out insulation.
You can run it less or it runs less to keep your food cold. Caveats to that, with regard to brand and design, you know, Dometic does a great job of building 12 volt fridge freezers in a multitude of sizes with a lot of different features that also required very low power usage.
“A poor man can only afford afford the very best”. That's the old expression and Dometic 12 volt refrigerator freezers cost a bit more, but they're built really well. And they last a long time and they do a great job. So you might consider a Dometic, especially if you're going something kind of mid-size to smaller because it's going to be super efficient and it's just going to do a great job for you.
And you're not going to have to think about it or worry about, is it going to work over time? It's an old brand that's been around for a long time and, Dometic again just makes a great product. So if you can afford it, I would suggest going with a Dometic. Especially if you want to save space. So there's that now I'll move on to another brand, which I haven't talked about before.
And in fact, they just came up on my radar. Now this is a weird thing. I don't know why. When you search on Amazon for 12 volt fridge freezer, this company does not come up very often. And I'm not sure why. I don't know if it's because they're just not playing Amazon's games well enough with regard to Amazon engine optimization, or maybe they don't pay Amazon enough in terms of ads or something like that.
I'm not sure what it is, but you have to search for them specifically, unless you just go down to the show notes and click the link that I've provided or go to our 12 volt refrigerator article at vansage.com where you'll see a lot of information about this product.
The company is called BougeRV and they make really nice stuff, really highly rated with thousands of sales, and people love them.
And the price is excellent. Put that on your list for best 12 volt refrigerator for a minivan camper, because they may be able to provide a solution for you without breaking the bank. They're probably half the cost of a Dometic fridge freezer.
Now they haven't been around as long. And what that means is there are a couple of things that you'll want to consider when a company is newer, are there parts for it? And how is their warranty and, you know, if it breaks, will you be able to get it fixed or will you have a $500 boat anchor, right? Something that just needs to be recycled. Uh, give that some thought. I actually don't know the answer to those questions yet because bougeRV is again, a new 12 volt refrigerator on my radar.
So I'll keep you informed in the future, but consider them because people really like them. So it could be a solution for you.
A couple other things to consider with regard to the best 12 volt refrigerator for a minivan camper or mini camper van is how you're going to access it and where you're going to store it.
I've seen some designs where the 12 volt fridge freezer will actually tilt out a bit when you need to access it. Now, some 12 volt refrigerators won't run if they're not horizontal. And that is an advantage of some of the more carefully designed 12 volt refrigerators is that they can be stored at an angle a bit.
And now I wouldn't store frankly, a refrigerator all the time at an angle, but it's nice to be able to tilt it out sometimes and use it for a while and then put it back and you don't want the functionality to be hampered just because of that. And you know, the thing is with a mini camper van, you need might need that kind of flexibility, because space is just so limited.
For me, sometimes I'll just put my 12 volt refrigerator in the passenger seat if I'm traveling alone and I'll throw the seat belt around it and boom problem solved. It's out of the way it can stay right there for most of my journey when I need to do some serious cooking, I've got my chuck box open and my counter, my table out and my fire pit roaring and all that stuff.
I'll go grab that fridge and carry it over to the cooking area and it's fine. It doesn't have to be permanently installed. And of course, that's one of the many advantages of these portable 12 volt refrigerators is that, uh, they're portable and you can move them around as you need.
So, and that's another reason actually to consider kind of a midsize or small size 12 volt refrigerator for your Mini camper van is that they're easier to move around.
If you're fortunate enough to be able to install it and leave it in one spot, and maybe it's under a bed or some other surface, and you just flip up a table or fold the bed up partway, and now you've got access to your 12v fridge/freezer in your minivan while you cook.
It's nice to not have to ever move it, but many of us will have to move it. So think about that. Really think about the size.
You know, another factor is sometimes handles protrude. You'll want to look at comments and reviews on Amazon and other sites and consider things like that. How does the power supply the 12 volt power supply function? Does it leave a great big thing sticking out of the side of the 12 volt refrigerator when it's plugged in, uh, things like that, that you'll have to take into account in your design or your build the storage of the unit and the fact that it really will have to be plugged in the vast majority of the time.
So those are things to consider when deciding on a 12 volt refrigerator for your van. Now, if you have specific questions about your fridge freezer, go ahead and shoot me an email at Podcast@vansage.com. I'm happy to answer as best I can or point you to a resource. And who knows, maybe your question will get answered right here on the podcast.
Again, show notes, you'll see links to all of this stuff, including our 12 volt refrigerator article. And thanks for listening.
What is the best 12V Fridge?
This will depend on your needs, of course.
Our current Top Pick is the ICECO JP42 Pro Rotomolded 12 volt Refrigerator Freezer Cooler, for several reasons.
- Number one, it’s probably the most efficient 12v fridge on the market, since no other 12 volt refrigerator freezer can match it for insulation.
- Also, the rotomolded construction compounds that great insulation by ensuring that the box is air tight.
- This 12v refrigerator is also a great icebox cooler that can hold ice for up to 90 hours, like other rotomolded coolers.
One con of the JP42 is that it’s a bit larger than other 12 volt camping fridge options because the walls are thicker.
But that’s because it has more insulation than the others, and you can’t have it both ways: Thin walls and a lot of insulation!
And it’s only a couple inches of extra space, a very minor issue.
We’re confident that the best 12v frdge is the Iceco JP42 12 volt refrigerator freezer.
Durable and corrosion resistant ABS case – and more suited for Marine applications.
Engel Swing Motor Compressor draws 1 to 2 Amps per hour.
12V/24V DC or 110V/120V AC
25″ x 15.5″ x 18.5″ Internal Dimensions: 14.5″ x 10.5″ x 14.4″.
Our 12 Volt Refrigerator #1 TOP PICK
The highly efficient iCooler from Iceco is a 3 in one, 12v Refrigerator, Freezer and Rotomolded ice box.
Tough, smart fittings, latches, handles, cupholders…
A lot of thought went into this as an off-grid, rugged campervan fridge freezer that will keep your food cold for years to come.
Our review of the Iceco iCooler Jp42 Pro 12 volt Refrigerator on The Campervan Podcast
The Campervan Podcast
The Campervan Podcast is a daily audio program featuring ideas for design and building, cooking, organization, gear and more for a better overall Vanlife experience.
The CFX is an award winning powered cooler that combines durable, deep-freeze capabilities with ultra-low power consumption to bring fresh food and cold drinks anywhere.
Refrigerant, type: R134a. Refrigerant amount, 38g. Noise (DIN60704-1 & 60704-2-14), [dB(A)], 34.
Temperature Range: -7°F to +50°F
Insulation Thickness: 55
Insulation Type: PU (Polyurethane)
This ARB unit provides true compressor refrigeration and freezing.
Never find your lunch water soaked by ice
50 quart is the most popular size.
Suitable for many medium to large campervans, SUV’s and pickups.
Internal capacity holds 72 12 oz cans.
Features the build and insulation home freezers in a small unit.
12v or 110v. Ajustable from -8 °F to 50 °F.
Holds stable temperatures under most conditions.
Insulated steel wall construction.
“Fast Freeze” button rapidly cools the unit to -8 °F.
Comfort handles for easy transport.
Two wire baskets for storage.
|52L large capacity |
Shockproof Design for rough roads and the challenges of vanlife.
Fast Cooling with compressor cooling, 30-minute fast cooling from 90°F to 32°F
ECO mode for energy-saving or MAX mode for fast cooling
3 levels for battery protection to avoid accidental discharge and battery drain.
Digitized temperature adjustment for convenient temperature adjustment.
Another brilliant, efficient, 12 volt refrigerator freezer offering from Iceco.
Set the temperature to Freeze food to last, or keep fresh food and drinks cold.
Features the German Secop Compressor.
Highly efficient, only draws 1 to 2 Amps per hour.
12V-24V DC or 110V-120V AC so whether you’re on the road or at home, you can use your Iceco to make Vanlife easier.
- Compressor cooling vs Themoelectric: Get the safe one.
- The best 12 Volt Fridge Freezer is a valuable, versatile investment that can last many years.
- Ice is expensive and icebox coolers don’t save money, they have very real costs beyond initial purchase.
- Important: Seals, compressor quality, insulation, low voltage protection, warranty, AC and DC power options.
- We’ve found the fridge freezers that meet all these criteria.
- These great machines cost a bit, but they’re worth it in the long run.
AC/DC refrigerator Questions Answered
Of course you have questions about these 12/24v 110/240v refrigerators, so we answer questions like Are 12V Fridges Any Good?
What are your experiences, questions or concerns about 12 Volt Refrigerator Freezers?
Please comment below and we’ll try to answer them here or on The Campervan Podcast.