Wherever you’re exploring this summer, you need to know there’s a portable fridge freezer keeping your food and bevvies cool for the whole trip. If you’re planning to buy a portable fridge freezer, we’ve got the inside word on the best portable fridge freezer brands around.
Portable Fridge Freezer : WAECO
Waeco (owned by Dometic) knows how to build portable fridge freezer that tick all the boxes. You need a built-in USB charging point? Tick. Need drop down handles for more space in your vehicle? Tick. Ability to remote monitor? Tick. Waeco has the most advanced technology, the best performing, and the best range of portable fridge freezers on the market. And we shouldn’t expect anything less from a brand that’s been in the portable fridge freezer game for decades. They also use their own compressor now, whilst many other brands will use a universal compressor, Dometic Waeco have a purpose built compressor designed with the Australian environment in mind…
The Waeco compressor is hard to beat and the company’s electronics mean you benefit from a soft start and turbo cooler in one unit. With a CFX, you know you are getting the latest and greatest – they are constantly innovating to stay ahead of the curve: for example, the latest Dometic Waeco CFX models which have WiFi enabled capability so you can monitor and control your fridge from your smart phone! Their range includes models from 280 to 100 litres, with the most popular model being the CFX-95 Dual Zone Fridge Freezer; 95 litres in total which includes 40 litres of freezer, it boasts Dual Zone, Dual Temperature Control, and dual lid.
Verdict: Dometic Waeco portable fridges are the all-rounders; they’ll satisfy just about every portable refrigeration requirement there is: camping, RV’ing, boating, picnics, small events, work vehicles, small business and more. They have excellent warranty and national spare parts / servicing support and a full range of accessories to help secure your Waeco portable fridge freezer in your vehicle. Any downsides?: not many…there are cheaper brands, and if your requirement is more niche, then there are brands (read below) that offer certain portable fridge models with features to satisfy specific applications…as we said, these Dometic Waeco units are the ‘all-rounders’.
Portable Fridge Freezer : ENGEL
Engel has been making portable fridge freezers since dinosaurs were taking road trips. Okay, that might be an exaggeration but they have been around since the sixties. Engel is a hugely popular brand for the Aussie bush because, to be frank, they never die. Built tough, the portable fridge freezers are ideal for heavy-duty outdoor adventures – fishing, 4WD touring, caravanning…you name it. Plus, Engel’s latest range, the tri-voltage “F” series, not only has the advantage of 12 volt, 24 volt and 240 volt operation but can work from a generator or solar panel through a battery.
Engel’s most famous fridge models have a rugged steel construction and all units incorporate their famous Sawafuji Swing Motor (which only has one moving part, hence their longevity!).
Verdict: Engel have been tried and tested for decades. Farmers and bush folk swear by them and in particular, their durability. Their most popular range have metal cabinets, which some customers prefer if they intend to keep the fridge in the back of a ute / work truck where its likely to cop a few knocks…however the metal material makes the unit heavier. Also backed by a national service agent and spare parts network. Being at the premium end of the market, you’ll pay good money for the brand.
Portable Fridge Freezer : BUSHMAN
Bushman are a 100% Australian owned family business and have been since 1982. These guys produce a similar portable fridge to the popular Engel metal cabinet models; they are built seriously tough and you’re investing in something that will serve you for the long, long haul. Whilst they have a 3-way absorption portable model that is great for running on gas, Bushman are most notable for their Original Bushman Portable Expandable Fridge 35L-52L: it has the versatility to run a smaller fridge at 35 litres for your shorter trips, 45 litres for in-between and 52 litres for the longer tips away. Again, tough is the focus with this brand, German designed Secop Danfoss compressor, Powder coated steel cabinet, Heavy duty anchor points, Steel slip hinges, Adjustable latches, 20mm rubber feet.
Verdict: This family owned business puts a lot of TLC into their product and you are getting a fridge that you know will last you for years and years to come. If you prefer a metal cabinet style fridge (as opposed to the polyethylene/hard plastic style), then you can’t really go wrong with a Bushman or an Engel…the deciding factor might be how energy efficient on a 12V power source your required model size is: the Bushman 35-50L expandable model has an impressive power consumption of 0.67amp hours/hr. Best to compare each of the specs for the model sizes that suit you. Like the brands above (and all of the portable fridge brands we stock), Bushman is backed by a national service agent and spare parts support network. You’ll also pay good money for this type of quality.
Portable Fridge Freezer: Evakool
Evakool have been around since the early 90’s and boy their range has grown! Whilst most other portable fridge freezer brands might have a handful of different models, Evakool has over 35 different portable fridge models, and counting! Their range includes polyurethane, fiberglass, and metal cabinet models. Looking at their Fiberglass range, these are the premium offering from Evakool and their fiberglass material mean they have exceptional insulation and will always perform very well, even in extremely hot environments. No need for an external fridge cover. They will reach desired low temperatures quicker than plastic cabinet fridges. The fiberglass material also makes them easy to clean and they will not absorb any smells – they are consequently popular for fishing requirements, among many other uses. Evakool make these models in Australia and they come with a 5 year warranty. Very popular for camping, caravan/camper trailer trips, 4WD’ing and boating. You will pay slightly more for these models, but the benefits are very compelling.
Their other ranges include strongly built polyethylene material fridges such as the Fridgemate Range (built for tradesmen) and the Travelmate TMX Range (similar to the Dometic Waeco CFX models). Their metal cabinet models can be found in the Glacier Range (dual compartments) and RV Range (single tubs). What we like about these aforementioned ranges is that they are still very high quality portable fridges, but are priced lower than most of the other premium fridge offerings.
Verdict: We really like Evakool. They may not have the same brand recognition as say Waeco or Engel, but they make great portable fridges for the Australian environment, and their range covers all sizes and applications. If you’re willing to pay a bit extra, then their Fiberglass range performs exceptionally well in heat: these models will get to desired temperature quickly and will keep your drinks cold and food fresh on the extra hot days without issue. As for the other Evakool ranges, these are just as compelling, but more so form a price point of view. Check the Glacier, RV, Fridgemate and Travelmate ranges against other brands with comparable ranges and the Evakool offerings will stack up very well. Like the other ranges, Evakool have a national service agent and spare parts network.
There are plenty of other portable fridge freezer brands on the market for your next camping trip. Other quality brands on offer include; National Luna, Dobinsons, Ironman, ARB and many others. One thing quite a few of these brands have in common is that they all use a Danfoss (now Secop) Compressor. The Secop compressor was once used by Waeco (and still are in their older Waeco CF Fridge range), but Dometic Waeco now use their own Waeco Compressor for the leading CFX range, which is designed with the Australian conditions in mind. The Secop compressor is considered the universal/common portable fridge compressor. Bushman and some of the Evakool models also use a Danfoss (Secop) compressor.
WHICH DO YOU CHOOSE?
We think that Dometic Waeco, Engel, Bushman, and Evakool are the premium brands for portable fridges. With a portable fridge from any of these brands, you are going to get a great product that will enhance your travelling experience. Among other things, they offer:
- Battery protection
- 12/24volt and /240volt operation capability
- Comprehensive warranties with national service support
- Premium grade compressors designed with the Australian environment in mind
- Digital control and display
- Impressively efficient power consumption
As we have said, you really can’t go wrong with any of them…however a couple of differences to help you make your decision:
Material: The Engel Platinum series and the Bushman fridges have a steel cabinet and steel handles…some people prefer the steel exterior (particularly farmers) as opposed to the plastic (polyethylene) material used by brands such as Dometic Waeco and Evakool (for some models). However, the steel material typically makes the fridge slightly heavier when comparing models on a like for like size basis. The plastic fridges are also very tough these days and can handle some knocks too, so it depends how important the metal cabinet is to you. In terms of volume of sales, we would sell more of the plastic material style fridge than the metal. Don’t forget the fiberglass models from Evakool, whilst these might not be as sturdy on the outside to handle heavy knocks, the fiberglass insulation promotes excellent cooling in hotter temperatures.
Extras: If the small things matter to you, then look for things such as; USB charging outlets, drop down handles, drainage plugs, ability to remote monitor, compatible accessories, etc.
Price: If you’re still in two mind between brands, then perhaps look at the pricing and see which model is cheaper in the size you need.
What should you NOT choose?: whatever you decide, be sure to opt for a portable fridge brand that has national service agent and spare parts support. Don’t go for a cheap no-name brand (often found on the likes of places such as eBay) that do not have a service agent backing. You run the risk of throwing your money away with a cheap brand as you are unlikely to get any warranty or after service support if something goes wrong with your product…which can often happen with a cheaper brand.
Ready to browse for a quality portable fridge freezer for your next Adventure? Check out our range online HERE.