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Camping Refrigerators

Camping refrigerators are wonderful accessories if you camp frequently or for long periods. If you are tired of buying ice for your cooler - or with dealing with melted ice at the bottom of the cooler - consider a camping refrigerator!

There are a number of options. Be sure to choose the perfect one for your family!

Look for a unit that operates on not only 12-volt or 24-volt DC but also 120-volt AC so that you can plug it in at home and get it cold before you move it to your vehicle.

Electric Coolers

An electric cooler has all of the benefits of a regular cooler - without the hassle and expense of buying ice.

A typical electric cooler will chill the interior to about 40 degrees Fahrenheit below the outside temperature. (That’s pretty good! On a hot 75 degree day, the inside of the cooler will be a chilly 35 degrees!)

An electric cooler is not a refrigerator. It can’t cool your food down, so you need to be sure that your food is cold before it goes into the cooler.

Tips for Using an Electric Cooler

Turn on the cooler and let it cool down before putting anything in it.

Always chill your food before putting it in the cooler.

To boost the cooling power of your electric cooler, put some frozen bottles of water in the cooler.

Portable Fridge

A portable fridge can cool food, just like your fridge at home.

Most models run on both AC and DC power. Some, like this one, can also run on propane.

Tips for Using Camping Refrigerators

Like any fridge, these units put out heat. Store your camping fridge outdoors if possible, rather than in your RV.

If you power your fridge with propane, it must be stored outside.

Electric Cooler/Warmer

This unit keeps your food cold, and also gives you the option of using it to warm food too. You have to choose, though; you can’t use both features at once.

I’ve been trying to imagine when I would use the portable warmer, and I haven’t come up with any ideas. I don’t think many others have, either! I couldn’t find a single review from someone who had used this as a food warmer.

My recommendation

A Portable Fridge/Freezer

A portable fridge/freezer gives you the ultimate in camping freedom. You can easily keep foods cold, just like you do at home.

If you want a freezer, set the temperature below freezing. The entire unit will be a freezer. If you want a fridge, you can set the temperature so that you have a fridge.

Some models - like ours - let you use the unit as a freezer and also store some non-frozen foods too.

We have a Dometic CF-050 and we are very happy with it!

It is sturdy but lightweight. It's weather-resistant so that you can keep it outside your tent or RV.

The handles make it easy to carry, and they can be removed easily when it's time to store the fridge.

We like the detachable and reversible lid.

There's a separate crisper for fruits and vegetables.

The coated wire basket keeps food from sticking to the outside walls and is divided into two compartments for ease of organization.

interior of camping refrigerator

The controls are easy to use, and the LED digital display is easy to read.

The temperature can be set anywhere between -8F to 50F.

camping fridge digital display

We used our camping fridge on a nine week long family camping trip.

camping fridge in a packed pickup truck

Although you can plug the unit into the cigarette lighter of your vehicle, we decided to buy a separate car battery for the fridge. It worked beautifully!

camping fridge with battery

We bought groceries every couple of days, and knew that they would stay fresh and safe.

Meal preparation was a breeze! (I can't imagine trying to do such a long trip with a cooler and ice!)

Who needs camping refrigerators?



Just because you are sleeping in a tent, you don’t have to eat warm food! A camping refrigerator can make the difference between ho-hum food and camping banquets.


Although you have a fridge in your RV, it’s handy to have extra fridge space. Stock the portable fridge with the most used items, and keep it outside the RV to keep people from running into the RV (with their sandy feet) all day long!

When you go on day trips, take your lunch along in the portable fridge.

Long Haul Truckers

Many truckers keep a camping fridge in the cab of their truck to store groceries. They can save on food costs and avoid greasy spoon eateries.


One of these units would fit easily in a smallish boat. Imagine enjoying fresh food and cold drinks in the middle of the lake on a hot afternoon!

Picnickers and Tailgaters

No more melted ice! No more warm beer! No more wondering if the deviled eggs are safe to eat!


Use a portable fridge at home as a second refrigerator. A large model like the Dometic will fit a 14 pound turkey!

In case of a power failure, you can put really important items - like medication that must be kept cold - in the fridge and run it off your car battery.

You might be surprised at how many uses you'll find for a camping fridge!

Now that you know all about camping refrigerators, it's time to start thinking about what to cook! Click here for our favorite camping food ideas.

Are you planning a camping trip? Visit The Camping Family home page for help with every aspect of your trip.

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