Last updated: August 11, 2021

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Do you like to go camping and love spending time in nature, far away from the stress of everyday life and the noise of the city? Do you enjoy adventures and are one of the more than 11.4 million Germans who regularly go camping? Then a camping fridge is just the right investment for you. You no longer have to do without a cool drink or tasty food while travelling. You don't have to depend on a restaurant or shop, because you always have your food with you.

With our big camping fridge test 2021 we want to help you find the best camping fridge for you. You will learn about the differences between camping fridges with compressor and camping fridges with absorber. You can also read about the possible alternatives. With this article, we want to support and help you with your purchase decision.




Summary

  • The camping fridge is a very useful device when it comes to keeping drinks and food cool for a long time during excursions. It is important to note that different cooling systems such as the compressor or absorber have their own advantages and disadvantages.
  • A good alternative to a camping fridge is the cool box, which can also be divided into different cooling systems. Passive, thermoelectric, with compressor or absorber have their advantages, but also disadvantages.
  • Camping fridges for 12V or 230V are very different and depend very much on the environment or type of trip. This should definitely be considered in advance.

The Best Camping Fridge: Our Picks

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying a camping fridge

What is a camping fridge?

You want to go camping with your motorhome and don't want to consume only canned food? Then a camping fridge is just the thing for you. With a fridge, your drinks and food stay nice and cool and you can eat them without worrying.

However, you should bear in mind that a camping fridge consumes more or less electricity, depending on the equipment and size. Another option is a refrigerator with a gas connection. It's best to think in advance about what you could use a camping fridge for and what your fridge should have.

How does a camping fridge with compressor work?

The basic principle of how a refrigerator works is very simple. Heat is extracted from the interior and then released to the outside. This process is the same for all devices. However, different physical-chemical processes ensure that this happens in different ways.

You can recognise a compressor refrigerator by the fact that it has the typical black coiled bars on the back.

The compressor refrigerator, which is found in every household, works by passing a refrigerant through a special device in the interior and thus extracting heat. This cools the interior. A compressor compresses the agent and directs it to the back of the black cooling bars, where heat is generated.

A camping refrigerator with compressor must be permanently connected to a mains supply, otherwise it cannot cool, so it is only suitable for motorhomes. Gas operation is therefore not possible.

How does a camping fridge with gas work?

A gas fridge or also called an absorber fridge works on the principle of evaporative cooling. Here we explain how the process works:

  1. Heating ammonia and water: This involves heating a water-ammonia mixture. This can be done with electricity, i.e. electrically, or with a gas flame.
  2. Separation of ammonia from water: The gaseous ammonia is separated from the hot water vapour and passed through a condenser, where it is liquefied and releases heat to the outside.
  3. Path to the evaporator: The liquid ammonia then goes to an evaporator, which is inside the refrigerator.
  4. Evaporation of ammonia: Due to the hydrogen, the ammonia evaporates and extracts heat from the environment, i.e. it becomes cold.
  5. Mixing of ammonia and water: In the absorber, water and ammonia are mixed again and a new cycle is created, which starts from the beginning as in point 1.

How much does a camping fridge cost?

A camping fridge can quickly cost several hundred euros, depending on its performance and features. In our research, there were already models for less than 100 euros, but also some for more than 1,000 to 2,000 euros. The decisive factors here are the quality of the appliance, the features and the performance.

Another point is the size of the fridge. Do you want one with a freezer compartment and a refrigerator compartment or do you need a lot of space in your fridge? These factors can drive up the price even further and should definitely be taken into account.

Camping Kühlschrank-1

With a practical camping fridge you can have cold drinks and food anytime and anywhere.
(Image source: pixabay / MemoryCatcher)

Basically, there are subtle differences in price between a refrigerator with a compressor and one with an absorber (gas). Therefore, if you buy a high-quality product, you will enjoy it longer than if you buy a supposed bargain.

What are the alternatives to a camping fridge?

An alternative to a camping fridge is the camping cooler. There are passive coolers, thermoelectric coolers, compressor coolers and absorber coolers.

Alternative Description
Passive coolers As the name suggests, they cool passively, which means you have to insert cooling batteries or ice. This cooler is more than sufficient for one day, but not for more.
Thermoelectric coolers must be connected to electricity and can cool down outdoor temperatures of no more than 30 degrees. The cheaper the model, the worse the cooling can be.
Compressor coolers work with the same system as the compressor refrigerator and have the best cooling performance among the coolers. However, they are relatively expensive to buy and quite small, so many people are advised to switch to a compressor fridge straight away, as you need a power connection anyway.
Absorber fridges Basically, they are nothing other than absorber fridges. They can run on gas and allow you to be location independent. They also consume relatively less gas than a refrigerator and can last for several weeks on one gas cartridge. However, they do not cool quite as well as compressor coolers, which is still sufficient in most cases.

If you are not sure whether you need a camping fridge or a camping cooler, you might find this video helpful, which explains the advantages and disadvantages of camping coolers and camping fridges.

Decision: What types of camping fridges are there and which one is right for me?

If you have decided to buy a camping fridge, you should distinguish between the following types:

  • Camping refrigerator with compressor
  • Camping fridge with absorber (gas)
  • Camping fridge with 12V or 230V

To make your decision easier, we have listed the different types for you and worked out the respective advantages and disadvantages.

What distinguishes a camping refrigerator with compressor and what are the advantages and disadvantages?

You have already read above how the principle of the compressor refrigerator works. The camping fridge with compressor is characterised by the fact that its cooling capacity is the best of all, but the fridge can be somewhat louder than others.

Advantages
  • Good cooling performance even at high outside temperatures
  • freezer compartment possible
  • camper doesn't have to stand on a level surface
  • consumes less than an absorption fridge when operated at 12 V
Disadvantages
  • Is often very noisy
  • Solar system or power source required
  • Is a lot more expensive to buy than coolers
  • If the battery is flat, you can't switch to gas and the fridge no longer cools

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a camping fridge with absorber?

You are already familiar with the subject of the absorption refrigerator, which has both advantages and disadvantages. Running on electricity or gas is a clear advantage and extremely practical. However, the best absorber creates a temperature difference of no more than 30 degrees outside.

Advantages
  • Independent of power source, as it can also be operated with gas
  • Quieter than a compressor refrigerator
  • Long service life possible
Disadvantages
  • Only create a temperature difference of max. 30 degrees outside temperature
  • Must be placed on a level surface
  • High consumption when operated with electricity

What is the difference between 12V and 230V and what are the advantages and disadvantages?

If you are interested in camping refrigerators, you have probably already asked yourself what the difference between 12V and 230V is. We would like to explain it to you here.

Type of energy Description Advantage Disadvantage
12V Runs on the alternator. A compressor fridge also runs very efficiently on 12V and can be operated while driving. In addition, having your own solar system is a real advantage. Most compressor models have both connections Suitable for compressor fridges, charged while driving Unsuitable for absorber fridges. When energy is gone, no more cooling. More expensive to buy than those with 230V.
230V Only used at campsites with shore power, as the camper cannot manage this energy. Suitable for absorption refrigerators, which cannot cool down at 12V and the gas must not be operated while driving Unlimited use with shore power is possible. It is usually cheaper to buy the flat rate for electricity consumption at campsites is usually very high.

Therefore, you need to know in advance how much electricity you have available and where you want to go with your caravan. In addition, larger models consume more electricity than smaller ones.

Buying criteria: You can use these factors to compare and evaluate camping fridges

Here we would like to show you which aspects are important when buying a camping fridge and how you can distinguish between them.

For this purpose, we have listed the following aspects, which will then be dealt with individually:

In the following paragraphs we will explain what is important when buying a camping refrigerator and how you can differentiate between them.

Cooling system

A decisive criterion is the cooling system. You have already read a lot about the type of compressor fridge and the absorber fridge.

Compressor or absorber?

As described, both have their clear advantages and disadvantages, which should be clear to you in advance. Are you travelling in a hot holiday country and don't want to do without cool drinks? Then the compressor fridge is definitely the best choice for you.

You want to be flexible and can't fall asleep to the hum of a fridge and therefore need absolute peace and quiet? Then the absorber fridge is the best choice for you.

Of course, you need to know in advance where you're going and how much stuff you actually have to refrigerate. If, for example, you only want to cool your milk for your coffee in the morning and otherwise always eat in restaurants, then the cool box would also be a suitable alternative for you.

Equipment

Depending on your preferences, camping fridges come with different features. For example, the integrated freezer compartment, which comes with one or two camping fridges with a compressor. Of course, this is all a matter of taste. You can find more equipment variants here:

  • Outer doors with handle
  • Two separate doors for opening freezer compartment and refrigerator
  • Adjustable cooling temperature
  • Pull and carry handle for easy transport
  • Rust-resistant and safe drain
  • Good insulation

Of course, it is up to you which equipment you would like to have in your camping fridge. However, you should bear in mind that one or two additional functions or features may consume more electricity.

Weight

The weight is especially relevant for camping fridges that are not built in and therefore have to be carried. However, this depends partly on the size of the refrigerator. In our research, we found models with a net weight of around 10 kilograms. However, there were also some with a weight of around 25 kilograms, which depends very much on the equipment and size.

A connection between the weight and the cooling system could not be established during our research. This means that a camping fridge with a compressor is not necessarily heavier or lighter than a camping fridge with an absorber. If you want to install the camping fridge in your caravan anyway, the weight is ultimately irrelevant to you.

Contents

How much can you fit in a camping fridge is a fair and good question. Of course, it depends on your preferences and how you use it. Small fridges are available from 30 litres. However, for some people, not so much will fit inside. Large bottles in particular are difficult to fit.

Of course, there are also models that have more capacity, but these often cost a little more. By the way, coolers are also available for 30 litres and more.

A 30-litre refrigerator would not be enough for a large family, as this size is intended more for individuals. Therefore, as a family, you have to buy much larger and more expensive products.

You need to think carefully about what you want to cool in a camping fridge and exactly what you need it for. You can then use this as a guide to the perfect size for you.

Consumption

Consumption depends entirely on the cooling system of your camping fridge and what size it is. Cooling systems with a compressor are much more energy-efficient and use less electricity than their competitors with an absorber system. While you can safely switch to gas for camping refrigerators with absorbers, you have to rely on electricity for a camping refrigerator with a compressor.

It turns out that the fridge with absorber needs a lot of energy at the beginning to cool down accordingly. Due to its different mains connections (12V or 230V), this is sometimes more, sometimes less of a problem. Calculated, the camping refrigerator with compressor consumes relatively less energy than its colleague with absorber, which can be a little cheaper to buy and has a longer lifespan.

Camping Kühlschrank-2

Depending on where you are camping, one or the other cooling method has advantages and disadvantages. Please consider in advance what you need a camping fridge for.
(Image source: unsplash / Markus Hmr)

Trivia: Interesting facts about camping refrigerators

How does a camping fridge behave in the heat?

Since the camping fridge with absorber cools less effectively than the one with compressor, it may happen that it does not cool properly on a very hot summer day. This is because the best appliances can only manage a temperature difference of 30 degrees. With these tips you can increase the cooling capacity of an absorption fridge:

  1. Shade: If your absorption fridge is outdoors, it is advisable to place it in the shade or protect it from the sun. If it is in a motorhome, you may want to park it in the shade so that no direct sun can shine on it.
  2. Cool down with electricity before driving: It is best to leave your absorber fridge connected to the mains for 2-3 days before setting off to ensure that the fridge is properly cooled down. If you plug it in when you get there, it will consume a lot of electricity and there is a risk that it will not cool properly.
  3. Chill frozen food at home: Ideally, chill the goods well in advance at home and only put them in the fridge shortly before departure. Cooling batteries also support the refrigerator if they have been cooled well beforehand. If you don't have cooling batteries, you can fill conventional PET bottles 3/4 full with water and freeze them.
  4. Remove the exhaust and draught grilles: If the outside temperature is very high, it is advisable to remove the exhaust and draught grilles so that the air can circulate better.

Camping Kühlschrank-3

With the right cooling system, you can enjoy cold drinks even in very hot weather.
(Image source: unsplash / Catalin Apostol)

What happens if I turn the camping fridge upside down?

In many forums you can read about what it means to turn the fridge upside down. If the camping refrigerator with absorber no longer works properly, it is recommended to turn it upside down. The reason for this is that a gas bubble has formed in the pipes and is hindering the cooling process. If the gas bubble is completely above the direction of flow of the absorber, it can block the cooling liquid.

This phenomenon can also be transferred to an air bubble in the heater. Basically, by turning it upside down, you make sure that the bubble gets back to where it belongs. It should be noted that this trick only works with absorption refrigerators. For some appliances, this procedure is even mentioned in the instructions for use.

Please check the instructions carefully to see if you can use this trick with your refrigerator so that no further damage occurs.

How long will the gas last if I use a camping refrigerator with gas?

How long the gas lasts in a camping fridge depends on several factors. Firstly, how big the fridge is and how well it is insulated. Another is how warm it is outside and how full the fridge is.

Another factor is the pressure. This should be between 30 and 50 mbar.

It also depends on how often you connect the absorption refrigerator to the mains and how often or for how long it is operated with gas. In general, the warmer it is outside, the more energy the refrigerator needs to cool down the temperature inside.

However, with an 11kg gas bottle you should be able to get by for several weeks without any problems. However, if other appliances such as the cooker etc. are also operated with gas, the duration will be shorter. All in all, it is very difficult to answer this question, as a wide variety of factors affect the durability of the gas bottle. The best thing to do is to check the instructions for use or the technical data sheet, or do some research on the manufacturer's website to find out how long a conventional gas cylinder will last.

Picture source: Tuntisavee/ 123rf.com

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