Last Updated on March 29, 2022 by Res Marty
Camping or a road trip requires a lot of preparation. You need to figure out where you will sleep, what you will wear, and most importantly, what you will eat and drink. If your foods of choice include meat, ice cream, or frozen meals, there is the question of how they will stay cool. In comes the portable refrigerator.
A portable cooler with ice packs is also an option. However, they only work for short trips as they cannot keep food fresh for long. However, if your trip is long, you are carrying medicines that need a low temperature or a steady supply of cold water, a portable refrigerator is just what you need.
Compact and lightweight, they eliminate the problem of looking for ice packs to cool your food and allow you to have the best camping or road trip experience. But with so many options on the market, buying a portable mini fridge is not easy.
This article will take a look at the 9 best portable refrigerators available in 2022 and how they stand out among the competition. Our reviews will help you find the best fridge for your needs.
If you love the outdoors (which you probably do, given that you are investing in a mini-fridge), you might also want to check out our articles on 8 Best Hiking Pants of 2022 and 11 Best Hiking Apps of 2022.
Essential Things to Consider When Buying a Portable Refrigerator
Before purchasing a portable fridge, you need to be clear on who will be using it and for how long. That will determine the size of the mini-fridge you should go for. These refrigerators range from 25 liters to more than 80 liters, 40 liters being the most common size. The size perfect for you depends on whether you travel alone or with friends or with family. Also, consider the duration of the trips.
We recommend the smallest size if you need your mini-fridge to keep just a few cans cold for day trips. But a weekend getaway for two requires at least a 35-liter fridge.
40 liters is perfect for 2 or 3 people going on a weekend trip. At the same time, you will only need an 80-liter storage capacity if you are traveling with your family for the whole week.
Think about how much food, drinks, and medicines you travel with to determine the storage space you need. Usually, more space means the more expensive the mini-fridge and the higher the current it draws.
The space inside your vehicle is another important consideration. There is no point in purchasing a portable fridge if it doesn’t fit in your car or RV.
The next thing you need to think about is what you will be using your mini-fridge for. If you need this to be an electric cooler that keeps your food cold for a short excursion, you don’t need freezing functionality. However, a trip longer than a couple of days warrants a fridge freezer.
Fridge freezers, or dual compartment fridges, offer the convenience of a refrigerator and a freezer in one, either separated by walls or a feature that lets you store frozen food on the bottom and the fresh one on top.
Portable fridges need electricity. A 240V mains supply works if available, but when you’re on a road trip. When that is not an option, mini-fridges use the 12V DC power in your vehicle’s battery to keep your drinks cold.
A portable refrigerator can be of three types: compressor refrigerator, absorption refrigerator, and thermoelectric cooler.
Like those found in your homes, composite refrigerators need an AC DC supply from mains or a vehicle battery. As a result, they efficiently cool your stuff with minimal power consumption despite a high ambient temperature. On the other hand, an absorption refrigerator works on both AC DC and liquid petroleum gas. They are inefficient at 12V, rapidly draining the battery, but it can last for several weeks on one LPG cylinder.
The kind of road trips you go on is a huge deciding factor because absorption refrigerators need regular charging, although more energy efficient. If you drive for hours, we recommend this kind, but if your car stays off for long durations or you are in a remote location with no electricity, compressor refrigerators and a cylinder of LPG are the smarter choices.
Thermoelectric coolers offer a more compact and less noisy alternative, with higher control on the set temperature, but they don’t cool things as well. They also have a warming function and are perfect for one-off uses.
Compatibility With Vehicle
The vehicle you own has a significant impact on the kind of portable fridge best for you. Besides ensuring that the cooler fits inside, you also need to check the position of its vents, evaporator, fans, and other cooling surfaces. These openings need good airflow for the mini-fridge to function so there should be enough space inside your car to not block any of these.
We also recommend checking the connector because many portable fridges come with a cigarette lighter plug, which cannot support a fridge on your vehicle’s battery.
The size of your vehicle also affects the design of the portable fridge you purchase, choosing between chest fridges and upright fridges. Like a chest cooler, chest fridges also open from the top, while the latter front open, and even though chest ones are more energy-efficient, the storage space in your vehicle ultimately calls the shots.
With so many advancements in portable fridges, we advise you to thoroughly research extra features and see which ones you would like to have.
One exciting feature is battery protection. Some portable refrigerators automatically shut down at a predetermined voltage when the battery is about to run out, preventing it from going flat. If that protection is something you are interested in, you want this cut-off voltage to be high. Moreover, the current draw of some fridges is low, which conserves battery.
An in-built thermostat is another benefit to look out for in a portable fridge. It allows you to set separate temperatures for the food and drinks, and in some fridges, an integrated thermometer displays the set temperature outside, so you don’t need to open the lid.
Many portable fridges have a drain plug at the bottom, which quickly removes all water from melted ice and makes cleaning convenient, while others offer better insulation by thicker walls and better outer casing materials such as fiberglass. Metal is the most durable material, but it conducts heat very quickly.
Finally, a minimum of one year warranty is a must. You need to decide which of these features gives your money’s worth and which you can live without in a portable fridge.
The video below is for those of you who prefer to watch a video summary of our favorite portable refrigerators. However, I recommend keeping reading after, as the article in text form is more detailed and provides more detailed information.
Best Portable Refrigerators: Our Favorite Top Picks For 2022
Best Overall Portable Refrigerator
- Weight: 62 pounds
- Capacity: 75 liters (113 can mini-fridge)
- Pros: application support, high quality, high capacity, long battery life, freezing, and refrigeration
- Cons: expensive, heavy
If you know anything about portable mini-fridges, you have probably heard the name ‘Dometic’. This brand is a giant in this industry, and that is for good reason because this family-friendly, high-quality, and enormous machine is the best portable refrigerator in 2022.
Even though it is heavy, its large size makes up for it because it can store food for a large family for several days. If you are traveling with many people, you probably have an RV with enough space to house this, and given its lithium-ion battery pack, its charging needs won’t bother you frequently.
This is a fridge freezer combo with separate temperatures that have the unique features to do both of these functions simultaneously, making everything so convenient. Given the price you are paying, we can confirm that this is made to last, and its propylene case with aluminum handles is a testament to that.
What impressed us the most about this portable refrigerator is how modern it is. We can pair it up with the Dometic application that sends alerts when the lid is left open and lets us configure battery protection settings, turn off the compressor for individual compartments, and adjust the fridge temperature according to the surrounding temperature.
A Close Second Place
- Weight: 48 pounds
- Capacity: 38 liters
- Pros: Reliable, durable, shock-resistant, works at an incline, removable handles for lifting, high warranty
- Cons: Latch quality, On the expensive side
Nothing annoys a road tripper than technology failing on them midway, but that is not something you never have to worry about with this mini-fridge. Known for its reliability, its compressor is only made up of one moving part, with no bearings or cranks, making it highly unlikely for it to malfunction. Additionally, its outer case (ABS plastic) is shock resistant, protecting it against any physical damage either.
The entire product is of premium quality, designed to make life easy. It works on DC power of 12V or 24V and a 110-120 AC supply, and it offers many other unique features. For example, removable handles to aid lifting, no change in performance at an angle of 30 degrees, and a temperature display control dial on the side.
Although the latches and lid-opening levers are of poor quality and the price is a bit high (lesser than Dometic), the 3-year warranty offered with this mini fridge shows the brand’s confidence in their product.
Best Budget Portable Refrigerator
- Weight: 36 pounds
- Capacity: 52 liters
- Pros: budget-friendly, dual compartments, large storage capacity, durability, customer service
- Cons: poor lids and handles, quality of AC adapter, cannot freeze and refrigerate simultaneously
If you want a bang for the buck, this is the most cost-effective option out there for size and functionality. We were surprised by how much we got in so little: a fridge freezer with separate compartments for freezing and refrigeration, huge storage, three different battery protection settings, and so much more. Even though it cannot freeze and refrigerate at the same time, we cannot complain, given the price.
For hikers who love challenging trails, this mini fridge will not only store food and freeze it for long, but it will also handle the rough path because its sturdy exterior is built for durability. It can cushion all the bumps during the ride, although the quality of handles and lit seemed fragile at first sight. It is also convenient to fit into any vehicle because of its narrow profile.
Exciting features such as internal lighting, an LED display, and a removable wire basket make this portal fridge a great competitor in the modern market. Costway’s customer service is a cherry on the top if you encounter any problems, as many did with the quality of the AC adapter that they gladly replaced.
Best Budget Portable Refrigerator – Runner Up
- Weight: 19 pounds
- Capacity: 15 liters
- Pros: budget-friendly, lightweight, no noise, effective cooling
- Cons: Poor quality of cord, thin insulation, large carbon footprint
Suppose you need a quick and inexpensive fix for your trip’s food and beverage needs. In that case, this portable fridge is another option worth looking into. The best thing about this portable fridge is its low weight, thanks to its plastic build, making it extremely easy to carry anywhere. In addition, it makes uphill climbs convenient without worrying about cool drinks.
Despite a low weight, this mini fridge doesn’t compromise on quality at all. With the ability to serve as a fridge freezer, it’s cooling (as low as -4F) is highly efficient, with minimal power consumption, making it one of the best budget portable mini fridges on the market for your next road trip. In addition, it does not require any ice, and other features such as three battery protection settings enhance its strength.
What does not work here is the quality of the plastic cord sheathing, which does not look durable. While the cooling mechanism is praiseworthy, its thin insulation raises doubts about its long-term efficiency. Regardless of that, the high carbon footprint, the low price, and the weight make this portable fridge a standout refrigerator in the industry.
Other Best Portable Refrigerators
- Weight: 53 pounds
- Capacity: 47 liters
- Pros: durable, secure, digital lock, weather resistance, fast cooling
- Cons: heavy, handle positions, feels cold to touch
For adventurers looking to purchase something that is meant to last, you just can’t beat the ARB portable fridge. Its premium quality stainless steel case is resistant to impact and weather, while its hinge and lid complement each other in a way that increases strength. Regardless of how challenging your path is, this fridge can safely operate at even 30 degrees of incline without malfunctioning.
It is also one of the most secure portable fridges because its magnetic lock is controlled by a touchpad, and you can tie it to the floor with a built-in mounting kit, and its rubber feet provide more grip. Besides all this, exceptional cooling in both the fridge and freezer mode is a given since we have included it in this list.
Its weight, however, does not work in its favor. Not only is it heavy, but the awkward positioning of its handles makes it tough to lift. Additionally, its insulation isn’t the finest, but that has no effect on its cooling. Instead, you can feel the coolness by touching this portable fridge from the outside.
- Weight: 62 pounds
- Capacity: 59 liters
- Pros: dual compartment zone, long battery life, and performance works on 30 degrees incline, excellent insulation, and rapid cooling
- Cons: quality of interior lights, easy denting
Suppose you want a portable fridge with a dual compartment zone. In that case, that is both refrigeration and freezing simultaneously, but Dometic CFX3 is not in your budget, this is a wonderful alternative. This is its standout feature, but other resources include the ability to go up to 30 degrees inclined, an LED digital display, interior lighting, and removable wire baskets. The quality of the interior lighting, however, is not the best.
The metal exterior provides top-notch insulation, which quickly cools your stuff up and keeps that food cool for a long while. However, scratches and dents can easily damage that metal casing, though that won’t affect the portable fridge’s performance.
This mini fridge stands out among other dual zone fridges because of its performance and battery capacity, which allows it to last for very long after unplugging the charger. This makes it a perfect portable car refrigerator for long trips with your buddies or family, as its ample capacity stores food for everyone.
- Weight: 29 pounds
- Capacity: 26 liters
- Pros: brand value, lightweight, drain plug, wifi connectivity, freezer
- Cons: small size, does not last as long with AC supply
Besides the number one product on this list, this portable refrigerator is another notable contribution by Dometic. This also offers both freezing and regeneration capabilities, which will ensure that none of your food gets soggy and drinks stay chilled for you with its efficient cooling mechanisms.
It works well with both AC DC, but lasts around 6 hours longer with DC power. The battery power is impressive enough to last on longer trips, but its size, although sufficient for shorter excursions, is just not enough.
However, It is among the lightest products on this list, making it easy to carry. We want to carry it because of its intriguing features. The LED interior light gives it an elegant look. At the same time, the drain plug at the bottom of the fridge makes cleaning highly convenient. The wifi connectivity, additionally, was a pleasant surprise.
- Weight: 28 pounds
- Capacity: 20 liters
- Pros: budget-friendly, energy efficiency mode, works at inclines as high as 45 degrees, sturdy
- Cons: small size, general use only
This portable fridge is not much bigger than a portable cooler and is thus a common upgrade from them to try this kind of technology. With limited space, cost-effective pricing, shock-resistant plastic, and a sturdy lid with a lockable gasket, it is ideal for general use, such as during fishing. However, it should not be relied upon for longer trips.
At its price, an LCD on the top is a wonder, but what stands out are its two unique features: the ability to work at an incline as high as 45 degrees and an energy efficiency mode. This mini fridge can use both AC power and DC power, although not simultaneously, this eco made saves significant battery power. Its three battery-saving settings further help the vehicle battery.
- Weight: 48.5 pounds
- Capacity: 40 liters
- Pros: sturdy, durable, rapid cooling, noiseless
- Cons: easily scratchable, position of the LCD panel
If you drive a truck, camper van, or an RV, this bulky portable fridge can be a valuable addition. With its sturdy build made of insulated steel and high-quality hinges and latches, it is a long-lasting product that does its job well. It produces no noise, and even though the metal exterior is prone to scratches and dents, it offers remarkable insulation. As a result, it can rapidly cool food and keep it cold for hours, even without power.
Other useful features of this portable fridge include three battery protection settings, foldable handles that make fitting seamless, wire baskets to compartmentalize food inside, and a digital control panel. However, the digital control panel is on the lower edge, which makes access inconvenient sometimes.
A portable fridge is a must for hassle-free adventures because you want your cold food and beverages to stay cold, despite the ambient temperature. It is a valuable investment, but you need to be smart about it.
To make it easier for you to choose I have prepared the graphic below with the main advantages of each product listed.
Figure out first what you will be using the mini-fridge for, how many people will use it, the length of use, and frequency. This information determines what features you are looking for in a fridge. Once you know that, it should not be hard to choose the best fridge for you from this list of 9 Best Portable Fridges of 2022.