Having a refrigerator for your overlanding adventures can introduce a whole new level of enjoyment to your experience. Though the upfront cost may be hefty, you can save money in the long run by packing groceries and drinks instead of eating out. Plus, you’ll be able to store food longer without it going bad. But how much fridge is too much for an overland rig?
When you consider the basic needs of an overlanding trip, the best size fridge for overlanding is 35-40 liters. A 35-40 liter fridge will give you enough space for food and drinks for the average Overlanding trip.
You’ll get great versatility, enabling you to store approximately one week’s worth of food without completely blowing your budget. If you are going on an extended trip for a few weeks or more in remote locations I would consider a 50 liter fridge for added space.
This is currently my top pick for an overlanding fridge.
- Heavy-duty yet lightweight ExoFrame construction with fender frame–protected edges; strong, spring-loaded aluminum handles make it easy to lift and carry
- Powerful VMSO3 compressor cooling technology efficiently refrigerates and deep-freezes to -7°F
- Active Gasket technology provides a superior seal to retain cool air and minimize power consumption
- Easy-to-read high-resolution color display and soft-touch buttons enables seamless control and monitoring of cooler performance
- 3-stage dynamic battery protection system prevents dead car battery and allows deep draw on dual batteries
- Generous 36-liter storage capacity holds up to 50 cans
Of course, different overlanding styles have different needs. What works for most might not work for you. There are many different factors to consider when choosing the appropriate size for your trip.
Why You Need a Fridge When Overlanding
Having a refrigerator during your overland expeditions can significantly enhance your quality of life during your trip. You won’t have to compromise nearly as much when it comes to your food options. And with the increased food storage longevity, you can even extend your trips!
In addition to simple convenience, a refrigerator can be essential people who need to keep medication cool.
Here’s a great video from Overland Bound that talks about whether or not you need a fridge while overlanding.
Once you’ve decided that you want to bring a refrigerator on your travels, you need to choose which type of fridge best suits your needs. One of the most important factors to take into consideration is the size of the fridge. In an overland rig, space is essential. You want a fridge that can hold all your food but small enough to fit in your rig. Plus, the bigger the fridge, the harder on the wallet.
How to Choose the Best Size Fridge for Overlanding
To choose the perfect size fridge for your overlanding trip, you’ll have to consider the following:
- How many people are you feeding? Obviously, the more people you need to feed, the more food you’ll need to store and the bigger fridge you’ll need.
- What needs to be stored in the fridge? What types of food will you bring on your trips? Are you going to bring all the groceries to cook every meal or just a few snacks and beverages to sustain yourself between eating out? Don’t forget about drinks. Large bottles take up lots of space!
- How long will your trip be? The longer you’ll be away, the more food you’ll need to store.
- What size would best fit your vehicle? There’s no use buying a large fridge to store a bunch of groceries if you can’t fit it into your vehicle! Measure your storage space to determine which size fridge will fit before buying anything.
The best, most versatile fridge size you could choose is one with a 40-50L capacity. That may sound like a lot, but once you compare it to a 30L, you’ll be surprised at how small the 30L truly is. Fridges between 40-50L capacities can carry about a week’s worth of food and can fit in most overland rigs.
If you don’t need to bring that much along, that’s okay. These size fridges are perfect for day trips for which you just want to bring a few drinks along. Smaller fridges are also shorter, which means they won’t be able to fit many bottles—especially large two-liters or gallon jugs.
Other Considerations for an Overland Fridge
In addition to space considerations, you’ll also need to think about how you want to power the fridge. Just like most travel appliances, camping fridges use 12V power. Make sure you have a power outlet readily available in your rig. Otherwise, you just bought an expensive cooler.
Your overlanding fridge will use around 1-4 amps during compressor use (1-3/5 amps is typically what owners see). The exact amperage is influenced by many external environmental factors:
- Hot temperatures – When temperatures are high, the unit will have to work harder to keep the food inside cold. This will increase the amp draw.
- Opening and closing of the fridge – Just like your fridge at home, the camping fridge must compensate for temperature fluctuations every time you open the door. As heat flows in and cold flows out, the unit must re-stabilize its internal environment every time something is removed or added (especially if the door is held open for extended periods). Like your mom always told you: keep the fridge door shut unless you’re getting something! It’s a waste of energy.
- Position in your vehicle – If you put the fridge next to a window or somewhere in your rig where it’s hit by direct sunlight, it could cause the temperature to rise and make the cooling system work harder. Keep energy usage down by putting your fridge in a part of your rig that’s nice and shaded.
Overland refrigerators are designed for tough conditions. Whereas thermoelectric coolers (like your home fridge) function by relying on ambient temperatures to keep your food cool, compressor-driven units (like overland fridges) will maintain a consistent internal environment regardless of the external circumstances.
The only way a compressor is affected by external temperatures is when you open the door and raise the internal temperature.
Factors That Affect Fridge Performance
There are certain elements of a fridge’s construction that influence its performance. For instance, some refrigerators need to be latched for the door to close tightly. This might be a problem for those who enjoy riding over uneven terrain. One bump could open your fridge and cause all your food to spoil—plus waste tons of energy.
The weight-to-space ratio is another factor to consider. There’s no use in purchasing a 65lb fridge if it only stores 30L of food.
You’ll also want to consider the material the fridge is made of. Most camping refrigerators are made from one of three materials:
- Fiberglass – These fridges are lightweight and have excellent insulation. They can cool to the desired temperature faster than the other materials, especially in hot temperatures. Their major downside is durability. Fiberglass fridges don’t hold up to big hits like plastic and steel can.
- Steel – There’s nothing stronger than steel. These fridges can take a beating and keep coming back for more. Of course, with extreme durability comes extreme weight. If you don’t plan on moving your fridge around very much, steel might be the best choice for you.
- Plastic – Plastic camping fridges fall in between fiberglass and steel. They cool better than steel and are more durable than fiberglass. They’re also not as strong as steel or as efficient as fiberglass. They’re just a good all-around option for any overland setup.
Choose the Right Fridge for Your Needs
When picking out a camping refrigerator, consider how many people you need to cook for, the amount of food you need to bring, and the construction of the unit. Choose one that can keep up with your overlanding style. If you’re a fan of rugged off-road trails and rough camping, a steel fridge might be best suited for your rough-and-tumble style. Looking for a more cost-effective option? A plastic fridge could do the trick.
No matter which option you choose, a camping refrigerator is a great addition to any overland rig. A 40-50L fridge will give you the ability to carry about a week’s worth of food to last throughout your entire adventure.