fbpx

Free delivery over £75

Try the ultimate electrical design service

1% for the Planet 

Cart 0

Best campervan fridge available in UK today

Contents

To save you the effort of scrolling through product manuals and dodgy forums, we’ve found the best campervan fridge available today. We’ll talk you through the pros and cons, steer you away from the sub-standard models, and compare our favourite brands. 

If you’ve already started your search, you’ll have noticed a big difference in price between the cheapest and most expensive campervan fridges for sale online. Read on if you want to know why some models are so much cheaper and find out which ones are best avoided.

Do you need a campervan fridge? 

Creating a kitchen in your campervan is a great way to make it feel like a home away from home. A 12V fridge will make your campervan kitchen much more functional and will make off-grid living that little bit easier. 

With a campervan fridge, you can spend less time in supermarkets and more time exploring. By filling up the fridge at the start of the week, you can get more remote and escape the crowds. 

If you’re trying to keep your campervan really basic, you could get by without a campervan fridge. In cool weather, you could rely on a coolbox or just the cold spaces in your cupboards. However, if you want to explore off-grid for multiple days in a row, a proper camper fridge will let you store food for longer and give you the flexibility to cook tasty food from fresh ingredients.

In short, if you want to use your campervan for more than just a weekend away, a camper fridge is a good choice for you.

How to choose a fridge for your campervan

Other than price, there’s a few different factors you need to consider when choosing the best campervan fridge for you. Here’s what you’ll need to keep in mind:

Capacity (volume) 

Most campervaners will choose a capacity of around 50L to 100L, but there are smaller options which go down to 25L. Alternatively, you may want a monster fridge to feed a big family – the largest go up to around 170L.

Top-loading or swing door

Depending on your preference, you can choose a portable, cool-box style fridge, or a free-standing fridge which is designed to be permenantly fitted into your campervan kitchen.

Portable top-loading fridge

Freestanding fridge

Power source

If you’re always going to be based at campsites, you can use your 230V electric hook-up. But if you’d like to roam off-grid and last on your battery’s 12V power, you’ll need a fridge which can be powered by 12V or LPG gas.

Temperature operating range

Some fridges won’t be able to get cold enough in warm weather. More on this later.

What’s important to you?

Always consider your own, unique requirements to find the best campervan fridge for you. For example, how much battery capacity do you have? How many people are you trying to store food for? And how long do you want to last between supermarket visits?

Once you’ve had a think about each of these factors, the first question to answer is this: absorption or compressor?

dometic cfx3 45 fridge coolbox cool box campervan
dometic campervan fridges

Absorption vs compressor fridge 

When you first start googling ‘campervan fridge’, you’ll come across the terms compressor, absorption, 2 way and 3 way. This mix and match of terms can get a bit confusing. 

To begin with, you should know that ‘2 way’ is just another name for a compressor fridge. Similarly, ‘3 way’ is another name for an absorption fridge. 

2 way fridge    =    Compressor fridge

3 way fridge    =    Absorption fridge

But what’s the difference between a compressor and an absorption fridge?

How do they work?

Absorption and compressor fridges both work by circulating refrigerant fluid around a circuit. 

how does a campervan compressor fridge work

A simplified version of the refrigerant cycle

At one point in the circuit, the fridge uses energy to turn the refrigerant from a vapour into liquid. At another point in the circuit, the liquid is allowed to turn back into vapour. As the liquid turns back into a vapour, heat is drawn from the fridge space and this continual circuit keeps the fridge cold.

how does a campervan compressor fridge work

Heat moves upwards and out of the fridge space, into the coolant pipes, then out into the atmosphere

The difference between a compressor and an absorption fridge is in the way they turn the refrigerant from vapour into liquid:

A compressor fridge uses a compressor motor to turn the vapour into liquid. The compressor motor needs electricity to run, so these fridges can be powered from 12V DC, or 230V AC. For this reason, they are often referred to as 2 way fridges

An absorption fridge uses heat to turn the vapour into liquid, so they are usually powered by LPG gas. However, they can also be powered from 12V or 230V electricity, so they are sometimes called 3 way fridges

Although an absorption fridge can run on 12V electricity, it will use up a lot of battery power. Instead, either LPG or 230V power is the recommended set-up for an absorption fridge.

What’s available?

When it comes to choosing a fridge, you’ll have fewer options if you’re looking for an absorption fridge. For example, Dometic have a few different types of absorption fridge available, such as the 5 Series, RM 10 Series and RMS Series. However, most of these are over 100L in volume. If you need something smaller, Vitrifrigo makes a 40L absorption fridge, called the VTR5040.

DometicRMS10T

Dometic RMS 10.5T – 83L absorption fridge

Vitrifrigo VTR5040 – 40L absorption fridge

In comparison, Dometic has quite a few different styles of compressor fridge with a variety of smaller sizes. These include 45L, 60L or 78L models. The CRX fridges are known for their versatility – they can be configured to work as a fridge-freezer, just a fridge, and just a freezer. Alternatively, if you want to use a cool-box style fridge, the CFX range is also popular.

If you’re interested in the CFX3 range, have a read of our CFX3 fridge review.

The pros and cons of absorption vs compressor fridges

To help you choose between a compressor and an absorption fridge, you can compare the pros and cons.

Compressor fridge

Pros

Cons

This big list of pros already highlights how compressor fridges are more effective and efficient than absorption fridges. Even when we consider the cons in this list, it turns out they aren’t too significant.

Firstly, although compressor fridges do make a bit of a whirring noise when they periodically kick in, most people get used to this noise and don’t find it disturbs them, even during the night. 

Secondly, compressor fridges do use up power from your battery bank, but if you also have a solar panel, you’ll find that these two systems work hand in hand. For instance, when it’s hot outside, your fridge needs to work harder to stay cool. But incidentally, there will be plenty of solar power to keep it running. Similarly, when you’re short of solar power because the sun’s not shining, your fridge won’t need to work as hard because it’s cooler outside. 

If you don’t have room for solar panels on your campervan’s roof, you might not have power to spare in the summer. In this case, an absorption fridge might suit you better. Let’s look at the pros and cons of an absorption fridge.

Absorption fridge

Pros

Cons

Absorption fridges have a number of drawbacks, but the main disadvantage is that of their cooling power. They don’t perform well when the outside temperatures rise because their method of cooling is not as powerful as a compressor. If it starts to heat up in your van, you might find that an absorption fridge isn’t keeping your fridge cold and will struggle to keep anything frozen.

In addition to this, an absorption fridge will also struggle if your van isn’t level. It will cope with a few degrees off, but if you’re parked on a slope for the day, you might return to room-temperature food and a defrosted freezer. 

Finally, absorption fridges require a bit more effort when it comes to installation. Because they generate quite a lot of excess heat, some manufacturers will insist that one or two vents are installed on the outside wall of your camper, to help cool the fridge’s mechanism. In comparison to a compressor fridge which simply needs to be wired in, the installation of an absorption fridge is definitely more involved.

Based on all these drawbacks, it’s pretty clear that for anyone who wants to spend time away from campsites, the compressor fridge is the obvious choice.

So which one is best? 

For the extra cooling power, electrical efficiency and easier installation, the compressor fridge is the obvious choice for almost everybody. 

Saying that, you may be one of the few who would prefer to rely on LPG to power your absorption fridge.

We would only recommend an absorption fridge if: 

  • You want to keep your electrical system really basic, with a small battery capacity and no solar panels.
  • You already have an LPG system in your van for an oven, hob or heater.

Alternatively, if you don’t want a complex electrical system but would prefer a compressor fridge, you could use a portable power station which has been specifically designed to power a Dometic CFX compressor fridge. With this set-up, you could power the Dometic CFX3 45 for 24-48 hours, depending on the temperature outside.

Are you worried about how much power your fridge will draw? Not sure your leisure battery is big enough? Try our free electrical system design service – Nomadic Energy. All you have to do is answer a few questions and we’ll send you a bespoke proposal for free! And if you end up buying your components through us, you’ll get a free wiring diagram too.

Our free electrical system design service makes off-grid energy simple.

Worst campervan fridges 

Before we cover the best campervan fridges available today, we want to warn you about some of the worst! Reviewing these sub-standard options will give you an insight into the advantages you’ll gain from a good quality campervan fridge.

Here are the fridges and coolboxes we wouldn’t recommend for your campervan conversion.

Halfords coolbox review

The Halfords coolbox is limited by its cooling power – it can only cool the fridge space by 16oC below ambient temperature. So if you want to use your camper throughout the summer months, this coolbox won’t keep your food at a safe temperature. 

For safe food storage and maximum shelf life, a fridge temp of 8oC or colder is usually recommended. Based on the 16oC temperature difference, your food would be too warm if the temperature outside is anything over 25oC!

During hot weather, your van can heat up even quicker than the outside temperature. For instance, in temps of 25oC, the van could rise to 30oC. In this case, your food inside the Halfords coolbox would be at a toasty 14oC! 

If you want a basic, budget option, this coolbox is easily transportable and should work fine in cool weather. However, it doesn’t really compare with a good-quality campervan fridge which will keep your food at 3-10oC, even when the outside temperatures rise.

Smad 12V/230V fridge review

This is the first product to pop up on Amazon when you search for ‘campervan fridge’. The price is enticingly low and the fridge looks pretty similar to the more expensive 12V compressor fridges. So what’s the catch?

Unfortunately, the name of this fridge is misleading. Although it is lablled as a “2 way fridge”, don’t be fooled! It is actually an absorption fridge

The Smad fridge is simply an absorption fridge without the ability to run on LPG! So it suffers from all the downsides of other absorption fridges, without the benefit of using LPG. As we already know, absorption fridges use heat to trigger the cooling process, which means they work best when powered by gas, not electricity.

Consequently, the Smad fridge will work fine when you’re hooked up to mains power, but when you’re off-grid, it will draw a lot of power from your leisure battery. For this reason, we wouldn’t recommend the Smad fridge for your campervan.

Reggio mini fridge review

There are two Reggio mini fridges which appear on Amazon – the SK35A and the RF38L, both of which claim to be for campervans, but we’re not convinced. 

Firstly, the RF38L is a thermoelectric fridge. Thermoelectric fridges don’t use a circuit of flowing refrigerant fluid, instead they use an electrical phenomenon (called the Peltier effect) to lower the temperature of the space they’re trying to cool. The thermoelectric method works well for very small spaces, but will draw too much power for use as a camper fridge. 

In fact, the RF38L isn’t even designed to work on 12V alone. The manufacturers suggest that 12V power is only a short-term, ‘travelling’ power source and that mains power should be the primary source. In other words, this fridge isn’t going to work for anyone who needs to use it off-grid for more than a few hours.

The other Reggio fridge on Amazon, called the SK35A, is similar to the Smad fridge we reviewed above. It is simply an absorption fridge which can’t use LPG and must use 12V or 230V to power the heating element. When it’s wired up to your leisure battery, this fridge will use 75Ah every day. This is really inefficient in comparison to a compressor fridge of a similar size. For example, a compressor fridge such as the Dometic CRX 50 would use around 29Ah every day.

At first glance, these fridges might seem like they’re saving you money, but in reality, you’ll be spending £200-300 on something which won’t do the job. Furthermore, you’ll need to spend considerably more than this on your electrical system to ensure it can cope with the increased power usage!

Alpicool T50 review 

Alipcool fridges aren’t too far off the mark, but they definitely use a lot more power than fridges from Dometic, Vitrifrigo or Thetford.

The T50 is one of Alpicool’s top-loading compressor fridges, with 50L of space and a rated power draw of 80W when the compressor’s running. Alpicool estimates that the compressor will be running around 50% of the time. Therefore, with a 12V leisure battery, the Alpicool T50 will use around 80Ah of battery capacity every day. 

We can compare this to a similar fridge from Dometic. For example, the CFX3 55 has a similar capacity, but will only draw around 43Ah of battery capacity every day.

Alpicool T50

80Ah every day

Dometic CFX3 55 - Compressor Cool Box - 55L Portable Fridge Freezer

Dometic CFX3 55

43Ah every day

This means that the Alpicool T50 will use up your battery power twice as quickly as the Dometic CFX3 55. To accommodate the extra draw, you’ll need to spend more on a bigger leisure battery, or you’ll run out of 12V power very quickly. 

Alpicool fridges also have another pitfall: most models will take 24hrs to get down to temperature. During this time, the compressor will draw loads of power from your leisure battery (160Ah in the case of the T50). And you’ll have to remember to turn on your fridge the day before you leave.

To sum up, the Alpicool fridges can be easily powered when you’re plugged into mains, and might do the job for the odd weekend off-grid camping trip. However, they’re not a good substitute for a really efficient campervan fridge.

Can I use a 230V fridge in my campervan?

Small domestic fridges are often much cheaper than 12V camper fridges, but can they be installed in a campervan? Technically, they can, but there’s a few reasons why we’d strongly recommend against this.

In terms of power consumption, domestic fridges are actually becoming more and more efficient. In fact, many small fridges will have a similar power consumption to that of a campervan fridge. However, domestic fridges need 230V AC power to run, so if you want to keep the fridge running when you’re off-grid, you’ll need a large battery bank and an inverter

An inverter will draw the 12V DC power from your leisure batteries and convert it into 230V AC power. This conversion process isn’t perfectly efficient, so you’ll end up having to draw extra power from your battery bank to compensate. Even good-quality inverters will continually draw a small amount of power, even when the fridge compressor isn’t running. 

Regardless of the extra strain on your battery bank, domestic fridges just aren’t designed for use in a campervan. They won’t be optimised in terms of weight and space and the internal components won’t be able to handle years of rattling around in the back of a vehicle. 

You could try using a domestic fridge in your campervan, but we wouldn’t recommend it. We think you’ll find the energy consumption is too high and parts will begin to fail much quicker than they should.

dometic campervan fridges

Best campervan fridge 

Now that you know the pitfalls of a sub-standard fridge, let us tell you about the best campervan fridges available today. 

There are a handful of brands out there which are well-known and reliable, but our favourite campervan fridges come from Dometic. Dometic fridges have been designed with care, taking into account weight, space, and above all, energy efficiency. That’s why we’ve chosen to stock them in our webshop

To give you a few more options other than Dometic, we’ve included our second and third favourite brands in this list too: Vitrifrigo and Thetford.

First up: the best 12V fridges. Then we’ll review our favourite 12V fridge-freezers.

Best 12V campervan fridge

The best 12V compressor fridges available today are the Dometic CFX and the Dometic CRX, but we also rate the Vitrifrigo and Thetford compressor fridges. 

Dometic CFX range

The Dometic CFX is a small, compact fridge which can be integrated into your campervan build but is also portable and easy to carry. It looks a bit like a coolbox, with carry handles and a robust design, but it’s more efficient and can reach much lower temperatures.

The CFX is a compressor fridge, so it can run on 12V or 230V power and can be used as a fridge or a freezer. It comes in a range of sizes – from 25L up to 100L.

One person’s food for a long weekend

One person’s food for one week

Two peoples food for a long weekend

Two peoples food for one week

Four peoples food for a long weekend

Four peoples food for one week

These fridges use around 40-80Ah per day (depending on the size), so you’ll need to factor this into the design of your electrical system. You’ll need a decent battery bank and a solar panel would also be really beneficial.

Because the CFX opens from the top, it’s a bit more space-efficient than a swing-door fridge. There aren’t any shelves, so you can stack food up and use every inch of space inside. This style of fridge also loses less cold air when it’s opened, which saves energy. 

Finally, the CFX fridge can be integrated into your campervan to save space. To keep it stashed away when you don’t need it, you could build it into a pull-out drawer or under a seat with a lifting lid. 

If you want to know more, we’ve carried out a full product review of the CFX3 range – the newest version of the CFX fridges.

Dometic CRX range

The Dometic CRX is a really efficient fridge which has been designed to fit neatly into a campervan kitchen. These 12V compressor fridges are a great option if you want your campervan to feel super slick and functional, just like your kitchen at home.

Dometic CRX fridges can use either 12V or 240V power and can be set-up as either a fridge, a fridge-freezer, or just a freezer. A divider panel can be easily installed or removed to give you a bigger fridge, or to create an extra little freezer space.

These Dometic fridges use very little power in comparison to the cheaper brands we mentioned above. For example, the CRX 50 will use around 29Ah per day at an ambient temperature of 25oC. With a decent battery bank and solar power, this level of energy consumption is easily sustainable, even when you’re off-grid.

The CRX comes in four different sizes:

  • CRX 50 – 45L of cool storage
  • CRX 65 – 60L of cool storage
  • CRX 80 – 78L of cool storage
  • CRX 110 – 108L of cool storage

If you want a campervan with a really functional kitchen and a fridge that you can rely on when you’re off-grid, the Dometic CRX is the best option for you.

Vitrifrigo compressor fridge review 

The Vitrifrigo campervan fridges seem to do a similar job to the Dometic CRX range and for a similar price. They have produced a range of compressor fridge-freezers which can be powered from 12V DC or 230V AC. They come in various sizes, from just 38L, all the way up to 240L.

Vitrifrigo compressor fridges can be ordered with or without a frame surround to finish off the installation

Unlike the CRX fridges, the Vitrifrigo freezer compartment isn’t removable, so you won’t have the choice to remove it when you want more fridge space. 

One advantage of the Vitrifrigo fridges is the option to buy a model with an external cooling unit which can be installed up to 1.5m away from the fridge. This gives you a little extra room inside the fridge itself and might suit you if you have a bit of spare space in a cupboard nearby. 

In the same vein, Vitrifrigo makes a range of Slimline fridges which are taller and narrower. This might suit you if you want to use more vertical space in your campervan kitchen.

Vitrifrigo C42L with external cooling unit

Vitrifrigo SLIM150 – 140L fridge

Regardless of these advantages, the big unanswered question is: how much power do they use? Vitrifrigo hasn’t published any specs to tell us how many Amp hours their fridges draw. As a result, you won’t know how much power they use until you buy one and wire it up. 

When it comes to the design of your electrical system, the energy consumption of your fridge can have a big effect on the rest of your components. It’s always best to know the specs of your appliances before you start the installation. That’s why we’d always choose a Dometic fridge over a Vitrifrigo.

Thetford compressor fridge

Thetford used to be well-known for their absorption fridges, but they now have a range of compressor fridges which have good energy consumption specs. These fridges can run on 12V or 230V and all include an extra little freezer compartment. Their capacity ranges from 90L, up to 160L.

If you want a compact campervan fridge, you won’t find a Thetford model smaller than 90L. Most of the Thetford compressor fridges are tall and slim with big capacities. These won’t work well in a smaller campervan and they won’t fit underneath a standard worktop.

Saying that, their smallest model could be installed in a position you might not have thought of before. The T2090 is a 90L fridge which has been designed to sit at worktop height in a large campervan. Because it’s narrower at the top, it can be pushed back against the wall, even if your campervan walls curve in at the top. A fridge at work-top height would definitely be really convenient, but you might not want to forgo any of your worktop space.

We would recommend the Thetford fridges if you have a specific space in your campervan which the Dometic fridges can’t accommodate.

Best 12V fridge freezer 

If you can’t go without a decent freezer alongside your fridge space, here’s our pick of the best 12V fridge freezers for campervans.

Dometic CFX3 75DZ review 

All the Dometic CRX fridges can be used as a fridge OR a freezer, but if you want both at the same time, you’ll need a Dual Zone model. The CFX3 75DZ has 75L of cool space and the CFX3 95DZ has 90L. Have a read of our Dometic CFX3 review to find out more.

These 12V fridge freezers use a compressor to keep food chilled and frozen without drawing too much power. They have big handles on the sides for easy carrying and their durable design makes them perfect for outdoor use.

Dometic CRX campervan fridge freezer

We’ve said it already, but the CRX fridges are a really versatile choice. With a small divider, a compact freezer space is created at the top of the fridge.

Even in hot climates, the CRX fridge-freezers keep food properly frozen, without ramping up the power and draining batteries. 

For each model, you’ll get a different amount of fridge and freezer space. Here’s how the models compare:

CRX 50 CRX 65 CRX 80 CRX 110

Total space

45L

57L

78L

108L

Freezer space

4.4L

7.0L

7.5L
10L

If you want a really functional fridge freezer which makes your camper feel just like your kitchen at home, a CRX fridge is a great choice for you.

Campervan fridge FAQS

What’s the difference between absorption and compressor fridge?

Absorption fridges use heat to initiate the cooling process, whereas compressor fridges use a compressor.They can be powered from LPG gas, whereas a compressor fridge needs 12V or 230V electricity to run. Compressor fridges are more efficient than absorption fridges when powered by 12V electricity. 

What’s the difference between a 2 way and a 3 way fridge?

3 way fridges use heat to initiate the cooling process, so can be powered by 12V DC, 230V AC, or from LPG gas. In comparison, 2 way fridges use a compressor to start the cooling cycle, so can be powered by 12V DC or 230V AC electricity.

Which is the best 12V RV refrigerator for off-grid?

The best 12V campervan fridge for off-grid use is the Dometic CRX, because it has a low power consumption. The best 12V top-loading fridge is the Dometic CFX

Can you put a normal fridge in a campervan?

Yes, you can put a domestic fridge in a campervan. However, a 230V fridge will draw lots of power from your battery bank when you’re off-grid, and parts may fail early due to vibration. A 12V fridge designed for campervan use will be lighter, smaller, and more efficient. 

Will a 12V fridge drain a campervan battery? 

A 12V fridge will drain your campervan battery unless you choose a model with a low energy consumption. For example, the Dometic CRX fridges have a particularly low energy usage. With a large leisure battery and a solar panel, a Dometic CRX fridge should be able to last off-grid indefinitely.

How many solar panels do I need to run a fridge?

Calculating how many solar panels you need is quite a complex process. Check out this article we’ve written to help you through the calculations. Or you can skip the maths and try our free electrical system design service. All you have to do is answer a few questions and we’ll design your campervan’s electrical system for free! We’ll send you a bespoke design and if you buy your components through us, we’ll send you a free wiring diagram too.

Our free electrical system design service makes off-grid energy simple.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

0 Responses

    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop

      Want to modify this kit?

      Fill out the form below and one of our engineers will be in touch soon.

      team

      Got a question? Fill out the form below and someone from the team will be in touch soon.

      We donate 1% of our revenue to The Honnold Foundation as a part of our 1% for the Planet commitment, to advance access to solar energy all over the world. You can find out more about the amazing work The Honnold Foundation does here.

       

      How does it work?

      You place an order

      If you place an order for £250, we will donate £2.50 at no extra cost to you.

      We donate 1%

      Each quarter we donate 1% of our revenue to The Honnold Foundation.

      The world benefits

      Our donation is used to provide those that need it most access to solar energy.

      We offer a range of 0% interest credit options from PayPal Credit and Klarna, so you can spread the cost of your purchase over 30 days, 4 months or 1 year, at no extra cost to you.

      PayPal Credit up to £2,000

      Klarna Credit up to £1,000

      How does it work?

      Add to Basket

      Add the items you wish to purchase to your basket.

      Choose how to pay

      Pay with PayPal Credit or Klarna whichever works best for you.

      Apply for credit

      Get an instant decision and, if approved, complete your purchase.

      Subject to status. Min monthly payment applies. Terms apply. UK residents only. For full details please proceed to checkout and select your preferred credit option.

      Where do you live?

      UK

      USA