› Camping fridges

Which camping fridge to choose…2-way or 3-way?

A camping fridge may be your most expensive piece of equipment when you go around Oz.  It’s also one of the most important items you’ll take. So, choose wisely before you buy.

Your fridge… like food, water and power…is essential if you want to camp independently. If your fridge fails – you can’t cool perishable food (or beer!). Ice is not always available as a back-up.

Not such a great camping fridge, at Drysdale Station in the Kimberley, WA.You need a reliable camping fridge when you're camping - not one you can make phone calls from...like this one at Drysdale Station.Keeps the public phone cool though!

Which mobile fridge to buy?

The biggest difference between camping fridges is how they are powered. On 240 volt power they perform exactly the same (i.e. via a generator or powered campsite).

When you are using other power sources, things change.

The most well-known brands for both two-way and three-way fridges are Waeco and Engel. There are other manufacturers too. Personally, I’d stick with a reputable brand that can provide you good service even in remote locations.

Here are the pros and cons of 2 versus 3-way camping fridges:

Two way fridges

Sizes: 50 - 110 Litres

Power sources:

  1. 12 volt (battery)
  2. 240 volt (generator/plug-in)

Pros:

  • Easy to get into when you’re on the road.
  • Draws 12 volt battery power slowly, giving you 1-2 days before you need to top up.
  • Can be charged using solar power.

Cons:

  • You need a second battery set up in your car to avoid flattening your main car battery.
  • You need to start your car engine regularly for power (unless you have solar power).
  • It takes up valuable boot space.

Three way fridges

Sizes: 50 - 224 Litres (larger sizes in upright only)

Power sources:

  1. 12 volt (battery)
  2. 240 volt (generator/plug-in)
  3. LPG gas

Pros:

  • Can be powered on a 9kg gas bottle very efficiently.
  • No need to start your car to power your fridge, when using gas.
  • Can be powered on your car battery when driving.

Cons:

  • Draws 12 volt power quickly, will drain a battery within 2 hours if your car is not running.
  • Needs to be level to run efficiently.
  • If you get an upright model, you need to have a suitable place for it. This could be impractical in a low profile camper trailer or tent set up.

If you’ve already got a built-in fridge in your camper, like us, you may be wondering…

Do I need a mobile fridge too?

Great question. One only you can answer. We were going to put a mobile fridge in our car to supplement our camper fridge. At the last minute, we changed our mind. We didn’t want to run dual batteries in the car, or lose the space.

So, we thought we’d try life with just the one little bar fridge. And it was fine, we really didn’t miss having a mobile one. Sometimes we had to jam the beer in, but it worked for us!

Which fridge would we buy?

Ultimately, I think it depends on your set-up.

If I was buying a mobile fridge as my main camping fridge...

I would choose three-way. Being able to run our camping fridge on gas gave us so much more freedom. Plus our fridge temperature stayed more consistent even in hot climates, so food wasn’t freezing then defrosting then freezing again.

When you’re forking out $1000 for a fridge, what’s a $100 more for the extra power option? It may save you buying solar panels…or buying a generator half-way through your trip to power your fridge through the dry season.

If I was buying a second fridge to supplement our camper one...

I would buy two-way. I’d keep it in the car as our ‘day-trip’ and beer fridge. This is also a good option if you have a caravan, but want the freedom to tent camp from time to time.

› Camping fridges