Types of camper van fridges

Woman cooking in a camper van kitchen with camper van fridges to hand

Types of camper van fridges

Buy or Sell Campers

Buy or Sell Campers

21 July 2023

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📖 Understanding Campervan Fridges

“Regular” Mini Fridge vs 12V Fridge

A common dilemma among campervan enthusiasts is whether to go for a regular mini fridge or a 12V fridge. While both options serve the purpose of cooling your food and drinks, there are significant differences to consider.

A regular mini fridge, commonly found in households, operates on AC power and requires a constant connection to a power source. In contrast, a 12V fridge, as the name suggests, can be powered directly by your campervan’s battery. This makes 12V fridges more suitable for mobile applications, as they don’t rely on an external power source and can operate even when the vehicle’s engine is off.

Top-Load vs Front-Load Refrigerators

When it comes to the design of camper van fridges, there are two primary options: top-load and front-load refrigerators. Each design has its own advantages and considerations.

Top-load refrigerators, also known as chest fridges, open from the top like a chest. They are known for their large storage capacity, making them ideal for longer trips or for those who require ample space to store perishable items. However, accessing items at the bottom can be cumbersome, especially when the fridge is filled to its maximum capacity.

On the other hand, front-load refrigerators, resembling traditional home fridges, open from the front with a door that swings outward. This design offers easier access to items at all levels and allows for better organization. However, front-load fridges tend to have a slightly smaller capacity compared to top-load fridges.

Types of 12V Refrigerators

There are three main types of 12V refrigerators commonly used in campervans: compressor fridges, thermoelectric fridges, and absorption fridges. Each type operates using different principles and offers distinct benefits and limitations.

❄️ Compressor Fridges

Compressor fridges are the most common type of 12V refrigerators found in campervans. These fridges use a compressor, similar to those found in household refrigerators, to cool the interior. They are highly efficient, capable of reaching low temperatures, and have excellent temperature control. Compressor fridges are powered by DC electricity and offer reliable cooling even in hot ambient temperatures.


  • Excellent cooling performance, even in high ambient temperatures.
  • Efficient energy consumption.
  • Precise temperature control.
  • Suitable for long trips and extended off-grid adventures.


  • Relatively higher cost compared to other types of fridges.
  • May produce noise due to the compressor operation.
  • Requires proper ventilation for optimal performance.

🔝 My Top Compressor Fridge Picks

Now that we’ve discussed the pros and cons of compressor fridges, let’s explore some top picks that offer exceptional performance in different price ranges.

Splurge: Dometic Front-Load CRX Pro 65

The Dometic CRX Pro 65 is a high-end compressor fridge that combines sleek design, efficient cooling, and advanced features. With a generous 65-liter capacity, it offers ample space for your food and drinks. The front-loading design provides easy access to items, while the energy-efficient compressor ensures reliable cooling even in extreme conditions.

Budget Top-Load: BougeRV 12V Portable Fridge

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly top-load compressor fridge, the BougeRV Portable Fridge is a great choice. With a capacity of 53 liters, it offers sufficient space for your camping essentials. It features a low-power consumption design and a user-friendly control panel for temperature adjustments.

Budget Front-Load: Alpicool 12V Freezer/Fridge

For those on a tighter budget who prefer a front-load design, the Alpicool 12V Freezer/Fridge is a reliable option. It offers both cooling and freezing capabilities, allowing you to store a variety of items. With a 40-liter capacity, it strikes a good balance between size and functionality.

🔌 Thermoelectric Fridges

Thermoelectric fridges, also known as Peltier fridges, operate based on the Peltier effect. These fridges use a thermoelectric module to transfer heat, cooling the interior of the fridge. While they are not as common as compressor fridges, they have their own set of advantages and disadvantages.


  • Lightweight and portable design.
  • Quiet operation with no moving parts.
  • Can be powered by both DC and AC electricity.
  • Lower cost compared to compressor fridges.


  • Limited cooling performance in high ambient temperatures.
  • Higher power consumption compared to compressor fridges.
  • Less effective at maintaining low temperatures for extended periods.

🏕️ My Top Thermoelectric Fridge Picks

Now, let’s explore some top picks for thermoelectric fridges, categorized based on different requirements and usage scenarios.

High Capacity Thermoelectric Fridges for Extended Trips

For longer trips where you need a higher storage capacity, the Koolatron P95 Travel Saver is an excellent choice. With a generous 45-liter capacity, it offers ample space for your perishables. It features a convenient handle and wheels for easy transport and offers both cooling and warming functions.

Lightweight and Portable Thermoelectric Coolers for Day Trips

When it comes to day trips or shorter adventures, portability and compactness are key. The Wagan EL6224 is a lightweight thermoelectric cooler with a 24-liter capacity. It can fit easily in your camper van while providing efficient cooling for your snacks and drinks.

Thermoelectric Fridges with Low Power Consumption

If energy efficiency is a priority for you, the Alpicool C15 Portable Refrigerator is an excellent option. With a 15-liter capacity, it offers sufficient space for your essentials while consuming minimal power. It features a user-friendly control panel and can be powered by both DC and AC electricity.

🔥 Absorption Fridges**

Absorption fridges, also known as three-way fridges, operate using the absorption cooling principle. These fridges can be powered by three different energy sources: DC electricity (12V), AC electricity (110V or 240V), or propane gas. Absorption fridges are commonly found in RVs and campervans due to their versatility and ability to operate off-grid.

Understanding the Absorption Cooling Principle

The absorption cooling principle relies on a combination of heat, refrigerant, and a solution called an absorber. The process involves the evaporation and condensation of the refrigerant to absorb heat from the interior of the fridge, resulting in cooling.

Benefits and Limitations of Absorption Fridges

One of the key benefits of absorption fridges is their ability to operate on different energy sources, providing flexibility while on the road. They are also known for their silent operation since they don’t require compressors or moving parts. However, absorption fridges tend to have slower cooling times and higher power consumption compared to compressor fridges.

Common Use Cases for Absorption Fridges in Campervans

Absorption fridges are commonly used in campervans for specific scenarios. They are ideal for off-grid adventures, as they can be powered by propane gas, eliminating the need for electricity. They are also preferred by those who frequently camp in locations without access to electrical hookups.

❄️ My Top Thermoelectric Fridge Picks

When it comes to thermoelectric fridges for camper vans, there are options available for different budgets and preferences. Here are two top picks that offer reliable cooling while on the go.

Splurge: Igloo Thermoelectric Iceless Cooler

For those willing to splurge on a high-quality thermoelectric fridge, the Igloo Thermoelectric Iceless Cooler is a fantastic choice. This cooler offers a generous storage capacity and uses thermoelectric technology to provide efficient cooling without the need for ice. It is designed for both cooling and warming, making it versatile for various camping needs. With its sturdy construction and user-friendly features, the Igloo Thermoelectric Iceless Cooler ensures that your food and drinks stay at the desired temperature throughout your camper van adventures.

Budget: Coleman Portable Electric Cooler

If you’re on a tighter budget but still want a reliable thermoelectric fridge, the Coleman Portable Electric Cooler is an excellent option. This cooler offers a decent capacity to store your perishables and operates quietly with minimal power consumption. It features a durable design, easy-to-use controls, and convenient handles for effortless transportation. Despite its budget-friendly price, the Coleman Portable Electric Cooler delivers efficient cooling performance, making it a practical choice for campers looking to save some money while still enjoying the benefits of a thermoelectric fridge.

🔥 Absorption Fridges

Absorption fridges are a popular choice for campervan owners due to their versatility and ability to operate off-grid. Here are the pros and cons of absorption fridges to consider when deciding on the right fridge for your camper van.


Energy Source Flexibility

One of the significant advantages of absorption fridges is their ability to be powered by different energy sources. Whether it’s DC electricity (12V), AC electricity (110V or 240V), or propane gas, absorption fridges offer the flexibility to choose the most suitable power source based on your camping conditions.

Silent Operation

Absorption fridges operate silently since they don’t rely on compressors or other moving parts. This is a great feature for those who prefer a quiet environment while camping or sleeping in their camper vans.

Off-Grid Capability

With their ability to run on propane gas, absorption fridges are ideal for off-grid adventures. They allow campers to keep their food and drinks cool even in remote locations without access to electricity.


Slower Cooling Performance

Compared to compressor fridges, absorption fridges tend to have slower cooling times. It may take longer for your perishables to reach the desired temperature, especially when initially stocking the fridge or after opening the door frequently.

Higher Power Consumption

Absorption fridges consume more power compared to other types of fridges, such as compressor fridges. This can be a concern if you have limited power resources or rely heavily on your camper van’s battery.

Less Effective at Low Temperatures

Absorption fridges may struggle to maintain low temperatures in extremely hot environments. They are better suited for moderate ambient temperatures, and using them in high heat conditions might impact their cooling performance.

🔝 My Top Absorption Fridge Picks

Now, let’s explore some top picks for absorption fridges, considering different budget ranges.

Splurge: Dometic CFX3

The Dometic CFX3 is a high-end absorption fridge that offers exceptional cooling performance and versatility. With a capacity of up to 85 liters, it provides ample space for your food and drinks. It features a user-friendly control panel, efficient cooling, and can be powered by various energy sources.

Budget: SMAD 3-Way 12V Refrigerator

For those looking for a more affordable option, the SMAD 3-Way 12V Refrigerator offers reliable cooling without breaking the bank. With a capacity of 40 liters, it provides sufficient storage space for your camping needs. It can be powered by DC electricity, AC electricity, or propane gas, making it versatile for different scenarios.


Choosing the right campervan fridge is crucial for a successful and enjoyable adventure. By understanding the different types of fridges available, their pros and cons, and considering your specific needs, you can make an informed decision. Whether you opt for a compressor fridge, thermoelectric fridge, or absorption fridge, ensure it aligns with your requirements for capacity, cooling performance, and power source availability. So go ahead, equip your camper van with the perfect fridge and embark on memorable journeys with your favorite food and drinks always at hand.

🔑 Key Takeaways

  • Compressor fridges offer excellent cooling performance and energy efficiency, making them suitable for long trips.
  • Thermoelectric fridges are lightweight and portable but have limitations in extreme temperatures.
  • Absorption fridges provide versatility with their ability to operate on different energy sources, making them ideal for off-grid adventures.
  • Consider factors such as capacity, cooling performance, power consumption, and budget when choosing a campervan fridge.

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