Apr 01, 2024

Fridge vs. Cooler: Choosing the Right Option for Overlanding

Overlanding shares similarities with tailgating, especially when it comes to unpacking, setting up, and preparing food upon reaching your destination. One crucial piece of equipment for overland vehicles is the cooler or fridge. But how do you decide between the expedition cooler and fridge?

Let’s explore both options and examine some popular choices.

Coolers: Portable and Versatile

Coolers have undergone significant evolution in the past decade, with brands like YETI pioneering hyper-insulated designs capable of keeping food and drinks cold for 3-4 days. These heavy-duty coolers, including brands like Pelican, ENGEL, and Coleman, utilize foam insulation and thermomolded plastic to maintain cold temperatures. Prices can range from $40-$200 for Colemans and $300-$800+ for YETI coolers, depending on size.

Heavy-duty O-rings, latches, and purge valves help seal these coolers, keeping hot air out and cool air in. This results in ice lasting 2-3 days before completely melting, with potential for longer preservation if the cooler is pre-chilled before adding ice or cold packs.

A key factor in temperature retention is minimizing how often the cooler is opened and closed. For cooler users, a two-cooler system is recommended—one for perishables like meats and vegetables, and a smaller one for frequently accessed items like beverages. When the second cooler loses its effectiveness, a single bag of ice can quickly recharge it.

Advantages of coolers include easy loading and removal from the vehicle, ability to be stored outdoors, and mobility around the campsite. Most coolers have tie-down spots for secure attachment to the vehicle and require no electricity or maintenance.

Fridge: Ice cream on Demand

The alternative to coolers is a fridge/freezer system such as ARB, National Luna, Dometic, or SnoMaster. These systems, resembling scaled-down versions of kitchen refrigerators, require electricity to operate and typically range in price from $600-$1000+.

Vehicle-mounted fridges/freezers offer the convenience of carrying a wide assortment of foods without the need for ice. They maintain consistent temperatures, preventing food from becoming soggy or frozen items from melting. Additionally, they provide cold drinks and snacks during travel or daily use.

One downside is power consumption; most fridges run for 5-7 days before shutting down due to low voltage. However, quality fridges will shut down rather than drain the vehicle's battery completely.

Volume and Capacity

Both coolers and fridges typically have smaller storage space than their physical size suggests, typically in the 40 to 50 qt range. For longer trips, space can fill up quickly.

Expedition Cooler vs. Fridge: Splitting Hairs

For shorter trips of 3-4 days where sleeping in the vehicle is common, a cooler is recommended. However, for longer trips exceeding a week where sleeping outside the vehicle is preferred, a refrigerator is a great option.

Ultimately, neither option is necessary, but they significantly enhance the outdoor exploration experience. They offer more than just dehydrated food and bottled water, elevating the trip with convenience and comfort. The choice between a cooler and a fridge depends on your budget, desired comfort level, and the duration of your adventures.

After a long day on the trail, nothing beats a cold drink or fresh steak. How you keep them cold is up to you.


KASSICO, a leading aluminum box factory in Ningbo, China, has 21 years of production experience. Since 2015, combining the advantages of camping kitchen boxes, KASSICO has expanded its business scope to outdoor camping gear and equipment, including design and supply of camp furniture, camping tents, camp kitchenware, camping lights, tools, etc. With multiple sets of outdoor product solutions. KASSICO provides customers around the world with hundreds of innovative and affordable outdoor products. We will be your reliable suppliers, and we will try our best to serve you better and to be your honest partner. 
More Details: https://www.kassico-outdoor.com/ 

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