What Is The Best Portable Fridge In 2017?

What is the Best portable fridge for you?
Portable Advisor

Warm beer – it’s a travesty, an abomination, something I was enduring for too long on camping trips!

When I think back to those icepack in a bag days I cringe! Everything melted by the time we had pitched our tents! How did I endure it – how did my friends endure these cans of fire when I offered…good friends!

Thankfully I saw sense and invested in my portable fridge.

The choice of fridge wasn’t easy however – there are a lot of factors to consider, I hope I can save you time with my buying guide below.

Product

Best Feature

 Our Rating

           Price

Midea WHS-65LB1

Great Price

Cooluli Fridge

Made For Small Spaces

Dometic CDF-11

Smallest Fridge

Freezer Combo

ARB 10800472

Large Capacity

The Best Portable Fridge - What To Look For?

Warranty Length

Ensure you check what warranty is offered for the model. Most companies will offer 2 years as standard so look at any additional years offered as a bonus feature. You should also check for different warranty time periods for different parts of the model.

For example, if there’s a separate chiller compartment to the refrigerator (compressor), companies may only offer 1 year warranty for the full product or two years for the refrigerator part

When Was Product First Produced?

You may think you are being shrewd going for the older models which save a few dollars but you must consider the headache you will have when the model breaks down.

Often companies will produce new designs every 2-3 years and discontinue manufacturing the older models. Thus spare parts for the older models disappear, spare parts you may well need to fix your old model!

In the end you could be forced into buying a whole new portable fridge.

Does Fridge Come With Freezer?

This will only relate to those of you going for compressor fridges - this is not a feature of thermoelectric or absorption fridges. You can expect to pay slightly more for the best portable fridge freezer combo than just a refrigerator but ensure it’s worth it. Some models will have a freezer but if it’s only able to fit a few icebags, is it really worth the extra 30 or 40 bucks charged for this combo?

Noise Level

When you are in your house its something you ignore as its not something you can usually hear while sleeping. In a smaller environment like a RV, the humming can be the difference between a good night sleep and nightly insomnia.

The office environment is another place where you do not want that irritating humming sound.

Check customer reviews to ensure there are no noise complaints, I have also noted in my product review, models which are considered quiet

Battery Use/ Power Consumption

The big worry for you is whether your new portable fridge will drain your motor and leave you stranded!

Firstly remember that thermoelectric coolers will drain rv/car/boat batteries quicker than the other two types as they are less efficient.

Secondly, be aware that the risk lies when you leave the fridge charging when the engine is not running. Here is where you must know how much amps the fridge is drawing from the battery, and the amp hours (ah) of your battery .

Typically these fridges draw between 2-5 amps. Anything above 4 amps is heavy drain and you should be very careful when charging. While many 12v battery have a standard total of 100 amp hours (ah), this varies widely depending on the efficiency of the fridge.

For safety, I don’t recommend charging your fridge idly for more than 1 hour but I am very conservative.

If you are dealing with RV batteries, check out our guide here or if you want to learn more in general about batteries, Battery Stuff have put together a great guide you can find here

Suitability In the Wild!

If you will be doing a lot of remote camping, ensure the fridge is suited to that terrain. Firstly, many compressor type fridges will not be suitable for off grid camping as they need to be connected to an electric power source.

Additional features like tie down straps or a padded base can make your life a lot easier, especially with absorption models, as they not effective unless on stable surface

Portability

Invariably, the thermoelectric fridge will be your lightest choice and often the technology that makes up the fridge in the compressor and absorption models can be heavier than people expect. With this mind, it is worthwhile checking the technical details for the weight in the product description before purchasing.

Look for products with built-in handles to make your life easier as well.

Design: Steel or Plastic??

Questions to ask yourself?

Will this fridge fit in my trunk with all the other stuff I need to bring on this trip?

Will there be enough room around the fridge to allow it to ventilate while we travel?

Is there enough room in that fridge for my beers?!

If the answer is no to any of these then it could be time to re-assess. The amount of beers is up to you!

Size and Space Within

This decision will come down to the price you are willing to pay as well as the fridge type. Steel design will set up back extra few dollars and with good reason. It's of higher quality and more durable than plastic designs which can be susceptible to leaks.

If you are just looking for a cooler thermoelectric option however, I don’t see much added benefit of paying extra for the steel.

Which Fridge Is For Me?

See below for our synopsis of the 3 best portable fridge designs on the market or watch the video beneath for a visual roundup!

  • Compressor
  • Absorption
  • Thermoelectric

Thermoelectric Fridge

Your budget option, thermoelecitrcs are not technically refrigerators but coolboxes. These models will only preserve the cool or warm temperature of food and drink for an extended period of time.

Compressors and absortion models will on the other hand actively reduce the temperature of your products. They work on 12v battery or house outlet and are made for using in your office or bedroom where space is confined or a casual weekend trip where you are trying to keep those beers cold until the timings right 

Suitable For

  • Office/Dorm room.
  • Budget option.
  • Need to just keep item cool.

Not Suitable For

  • In very hot weather they are pretty useless. 
  • Can't freeze items. 
  • Must be used in well ventilated area.

Individual Product Summary

There are a lot of considerations to be made when deciding on the the best portable fridge for your situation. 

To take some of the heat pain away I've done some of the grind work and have outlined my top contenders below. Hopefully the pro and con format should help you in your decision making.

Midea WHS-65LB1

Midea WHS-65LB1 Compact Single Reversible Door Refrigerator, 1.6 Cubic Feet(0.045 Cubic Meter), Black

Our Favourite Feature

Great Price

Price

Our Rating

I would recommend Midea for those of you on a budget looking to get the best portable fridge/freezer combo.

For under $100, you’re getting a decent capacity fridge (can hold around 48 cans of beers) which doesn’t take up too much space and also runs very quietly. Mechanical problems are not common for the Midea either.

You will probably have to go for more expensive options if you are want a standard sized freezer because it is very small in respect to overall size of the fridge. Keep in mind that anything larger than a 1 litre bottle will probably not fit in this.

Pros

  • Economical Price.
  • Fridge Freezer Combo.
  • Runs very quietly.
  • Good fridge Storage space.

Cons

  • Small freezer space.
  • Different warranty lengths.

Cooluli Electric Mini Fridge

Cooluli Electric Mini Fridge Cooler and Warmer (15 Liter / 18 Can): AC/DC Portable Thermoelectric System (White)

Our Favourite Feature

Perfect For Small Spaces

Price

Our Rating

As a cooler, the Cooluli will be suitable if you want to casually keep a few drinks chilled, as its not an actual fridge it cant reduce the temperature of any drinks you put in there.

For those of you looking for something for your office desk, bedroom or dorm room, the Cooluli could be a good fit. For places like your office you want something relatively quiet and inconspicuous and this model offers these features.

Its compactness and handle for easy portability also make it a logical choice for confined spaces. I would ignore the warming feature on this though as they simply are not reliable from my experience

Pros

  • Great for confined spaces.
  • Easy to transport/lightweight.
  • Value for money.
  • Runs quiet.

Cons

  • 6 can capacity.
  • Warming feature is not reliable.
  • Drains battery in car.
  • Can't cope with high outside temperatures.

Dometic CDF 11

Dometic CDF-11 Smallest Portable Freezer/Refrigerator

Our Favourite Feature

Smallest Fridge Freezer Combo​

Price

Our Rating

For those of you where space is limited, and you really need the freezing feature then I would consider the Dometic CDF-11 which has 10.5 liter capacity.

This model can reach subfreezing temperatures regardless of the heat outside and with an average running time of 3 amps per hour it’s an extremely energy efficient in comparison to any thermoelectric cooler.

The compromise comes with the price as this is priced in the premium range ($300 dollars upwards.) If 10.5 litres is too small they also have versions going from 18L to 106L

Pros

  • Smallest fridge freezer combo.
  • Energy efficiency (3 amps per hour).
  • Reliable and fast freezing feature in extreme conditions.

Cons

  • Premium price.
  • Inconsistent thermostat readings.
  • Lid can be flimsy after prolonged use.

ARB 10800472 Fridge Freezer

ARB 10800472 Fridge Freezer- 50 Quart

Our Favourite Feature

Large Capacity

Price

Our Rating

The premium recommendation on the list, the ARB is for the serious traveller spending considerable time on the road like truck drivers, RV’ers or small travel groups.

The 50 Quart model is a proper spacious compartmentalised fridge freezer (can hold 72 6 oz cans, see pics below) and it has a more heavy duty design than other portable fridges. There will be no issues for you with flimsy lids or hinges which I suppose should be expected from paying this kind of money.

You’re paying for quality here and the ARBs energy usage reflects that. It uses 0.87 amps per hour from a 12V source, less than a standard headlamp.

If you can can handle the pain of the price you will be rewarded with a premium product that is strong in every area.

Pros

  • Energy use 0.87 amps per hours.
  • Heavy duty long lasting design.
  • Capacity for 72 cans and other larges bottles.
  • LED lights for night time.
  • Compartmentalised design.

Cons

  • Issues with temperature readout ( can be 7-8 degree off).
  • Very expensive. 

About the Author Rick Rose

Irish-American husband, dad of three and gadget enthusiast! Sandy and I have been RVing since the mid-nineties after embracing the boondocker way of life. We now practice what we call the 'Portable Lifestyle' - the ability to ‘get up and go’ and explore new places throughout the year while maintaining our income.

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