So at this point, you know why a compressor-based camping mini car fridge 12v is the way to go. But with so many camping fridge sizes, manufacturers, and models to choose from it can seem a bit overwhelming.
To help overcome this we recommend breaking your decision down into 3 parts:
STEP 1: Select the Camping Fridge Size/Capacity
First narrow down your desired size and capacity.
For you this may be enough space for a weekend of camping with your family, a short road-trip or overland adventure, or maybe - like us - you’ll use your camping fridge on the road for weeks or even months at a time.
Whatever your case may be, no one likes to run out of food earlier than expected.
Thankfully most manufacturers offer options from smaller 45 liter up to whopping 100+ liter models. For us, the sweet spot is around 60 liters - large enough to pack generously for a long weekend of family camping, or strategically get by for 5 or so days on the road.
But consider your own needs, vehicle space, and usage before selecting capacity - just remember, you won’t need room for ice!
STEP 2: Select a Camping Fridge Manufacturer
Once you’ve decided on how much capacity you need in your camping fridge, it’s time to narrow the scope by manufacturer.
There are dozens out there, and new manufactures are entering the market all the time. But we recommend sticking with manufacturers that have been in the camping fridge market long enough to develop a solid reputation for making a durable, high-quality camping fridge.
Whether you’re living it up at the local full-hookup campground or exploring the wilderness on old forest service roads (or no roads at all), you don’t want something that you’ll be constantly concerned with breaking down - you want something you can trust.
Dometic and ARB have been making them for decades, have proven reputations, and were our first choice when looking for a camping fridge. And we highly recommend them.
STEP 3: Select a Camping Fridge Model
Finally, you’ll refine your choices down to your favorite compressor-based model from each of the trusted manufacturers.
This is where personal preferences and feature-sets come more into play, but some criteria is pivotal to selecting the best camping fridge for your setup:
DC Power Consumption: No matter what your usage scenario - the lower the power consumption, the better.
In our case, we would be running our camping fridge 100% full time off our dual battery setup using our Inergy Kodiak solar generator - so this was a major factor in our decision making process. Thankfully ARB and Dometic lead the pack in energy efficient camping fridge models.
A quality camping fridge will:
Draw less than 1amp/hour at 12volts DC power
Include built-in battery protection - so that you don’t have to worry about the camping fridge leaving your vehicle with a dead battery.
For help understanding camping power, go check out this post - Portable Camping Power: Electrical Terms and Principles Made Simple.
Dimensions: Take into consideration the external dimensions of the each fridge and your available space if you’ll be mounting your camping fridge on the interior of your vehicle, as one model may prove to be a better fit over another.
Special Features: These are things like
remote temperature monitoring
how the lid opens or if the lid is removable
does it offer built-in battery protection
how weather resistant it is, etc.
if it is a fridge OR freezer (one setting) or a fridge AND freezer (dual zone temperature settings)
For our purposes, we needed our 12 volt cooler refrigerator car to be weatherproof because of our custom hitch mount plan - a great alternative to the traditional fridge slide that frees up a ton of interior space.