Just about everyone has a cooler of some sort and has reached in to pull out that tasty treat, only to have it saturated with ice cold water. I can recall pulling into camp and lusting over other camper’s portable fridge/freezers as I reached into my cooler and grabbed my beer out of an icy pool of water.
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While the cooler did get the job done, I had to rely on ice and a source for it. With my camping trips slowly extending beyond the typical weekend, I needed to be vehicle dependant and not rely on a source for ice. This need, and a few too many foods saturated in water, pushed me to purchasing a 12v fridge/freezer.
In order to select a portable fridge/freezer for your Jeep, it is important to first understand the different types available on the market. There are three basic types of refrigeration in portable fridge freezers: thermoelectric refrigeration, absorption refrigeration, and refrigeration using reciprocating compressors. Commonly called a portable refrigerator, these electrically inefficient thermoelectric units are more an assisted cooler than a fridge. They do not use any refrigerant gas, and are limited by the ambient temperature. Absorption units are typically found in RV’s and use a process of heating ammonia to create refrigeration. Due to the design of the heating, these units are not recommended for typical trail use and work best with minimal vibrations and level operating surfaces. There are units that are designed for use in off-highway vehicles that feature a reciprocating compressor, typically these units use a Swing Motor or Danfoss compressors that are designed to handle vibrations intolerances and capable of operating at angles of up to 30° off level.
Although each model of fridge is completely different, selecting the right one for you can be a hard decision. So what do you look for when selecting a 12v portable fridge/freezer? The unit selected should have a heavy-duty compressor, sealed refrigerant system, low amperage draw, and true refrigeration and freezing capabilities. There are numerous brands and sizes of fridge/freezers to choose from to suit your needs, from 14 quarts to 84 quarts. It is best to pick the unit that best suits your needs. The determining factors should be based upon capacity, weight, size, performance, and accessories available.