Advice: When Does a Fridge Become “Worth It?”

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leeloo

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For sure a fridge is better at least because it is hassle free and ready to go on a moment notice. You can just go to a supermarket, get some stuff and go. Has more useful space at the same volume, so you can gain some space in the rig or go longer.
The question is it worth it ? so you need some sort of dual battery system on top of the fridge cost, that can be between a couple of hundred up to 5-600 easy. Do you go out that often ?
I think in the long run it is worth it, not sure how much ice is costing, but probably it pays off in time..
I did camping in the old days only with dry and canned food, and we would chill a bottle of wine in a stream. Was it possible - sure. Easier with the fridge though.
 

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This is the main reason I’m considering it. The coolers work fine provided I plan ahead, pre-chill, pack intelligently, and limit time with the lid open. I like the idea that a fridge would eliminate some or all of that extra fuss and make it easier to just toss stuff in the Subie and go.

It seems like I have the basics electric-wise that I’ll need to run a small unit. Maybe it’s time to start saving.
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Oh, once you get a 12v fridge, you will find yourself still planning ahead, pre-chilling at home before you head out, packing intelligently, and limiting time with the lid open, believe me. I'm still careful with all those things.

It goes from conserving ice to conserving power and keeping the chill where it's supposed to be. Still, though, having a good 12v fridge has been a game changer for me in ease, convenience, and consistent temps. I tend to stay out months at a time, so having a fridge and not depending on ice is wonderful.
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The cooler I have is a "Woods boreal 65L cooler". It's a $120 cooler, that I got on sale for $50. Couldn't pass it up at that price. It claims to keep ice frozen for 5 days, which in my usages I've had 4L milk jugs of ice still 75%frozen after said 5 days, and still kept me going for 7 days till I got home. It's a very well insulated cooler, has wheels and a nice handle for pulling it around as well. Previously I've used just a cheap basic smaller cooler, and the ice definitely doesn't last quite as long in that one. So having something well insulated is key.
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Sounds like a good one to have. Having a great rugged cooler you can depend on can make or break an adventure. I think it's all about finding what works for one's needs and style of camping the best, then perfecting the use of it.

I met a Scottish couple up in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia once who were car camping for a three day long holiday over Queen's Day. Their style was to have cans of soup and stew for their single burner, fresh fruit, bread, a roll of hard salami, a small wheel of hard cheese and a 2L carton of milk. The only thing that needed refrigeration was the milk. The husband had made a corrugated cardboard container several layers thick, exactly the size of the 2L carton, with just as thick of a lid and bottom, all sealed with household masking tape. It was their milk keeper.

He grinned from ear to ear as he showed it off.

"The key now, me boy" he said, eyes twinkling, "is to start with milk you've chilled quite thoroughly, almost to freezing I'd say..." as he slid his carton of milk back into the perfect fit.

That's what worked best for them.

For those familiar with and who like RTIC products, they've just come out with a new 52qt Ultra-Light super-insulated cooler they claim will keep ice ten days. I have no experience with the cooler myself, though found their 1gal stainless jugs to be good and the company to be growing quick in rep for both hard and soft coolers and for their totes and bags.

RTIC-ultra-light-52qt-cooler.jpg
52 Qt Ultra-Light Cooler


#noaffiliation - I just think they have some interesting products
 

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If I would list of my top 5 overlanding gear, my fridge would be in the top 5. I'll never go back to a cooler. The final straw was camping at Needles Outpost outside Canyonlands. I ran out of ice and the Outpost store charges me three times the amount as usual. Capitalism I get it but that was the end of ice. I was already on my way out. I hated when there's a layer of melted ice water bathing my food.
 
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"worth it" is a VERY subjective term and probably quite different for everyone. living in the hot swamps of south louisiana, we use coolers all the time...just going out in the boat for a while and you'll want to tote some cold drinks along. cruising thru the hot swamps in a boat and that ice cold beer is easily worth the cost of the cooler, ice and space it takes up...and then some.

on some trips where we take just the truck with camper shell, i'll take an ice chest because i can carry on it on the hitch mount carrier and being exposed to the elements is not a big deal for it. i can also easily take it to the picnic table or where ever and not have to worry about damaging it or needing to find power for it. when we are on the road a lot, an ice chest is good because i'm stopping for gas a lot and its nothing to buy a bag of ice. as far as the cost of ice being factored in, i really don't get that. a bag of ice is about $3 and lasts a couple days or more...one soda pop at a convenience store will nearly cost that much, so i don't see the cost of ice being much of a factor....if so, how are you getting the money for gas? the ice chest is more practical and convenient for me during these type trips, so i take it based solely on practical usage.

then on trips where we take the camp trailer and stay more in one area, the 12v fridge is a great idea and we have the dometic on a slide out that works great for keeping drinks and food cold. even with the 12v fridge, i will usually still take an ice cooler to keep in the truck for drinks. i have 200w solar on the camp trailer, so i can run the fridge off grid indefinitely...but i use it for its convenience way more than i would as an economical reason.

either cooler is a convenience...i could camp a long time without having to take anything that needed to be kept cool. i like having perishable items and i am willing to pay for that convenience. i think both are good and both cost one way or the other.

on a long road trip, i'll stop 3 times a day for fuel. i might buy ice for $3 on one of those stops but the wife is GUARANTEED to spend double that on each stop on snacks. compare the cost of either type of cooler to the cost of a wife and even the most expensive cooler suddenly becomes a bargain....:grinning:
 
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Think of it as a luxury item, not an essential component. Buy one when you can afford to spend on the one you want, but consider the entire system needed to power the fridge, not just the unit itself. I didn't pull the trigger on one until I knew exactly what I wanted and set aside some cash over time specifically for that. When not on a trip it's plugged up in my garage, we took beer and soda out of the kitchen fridge and moved it to this and probably reduced our consumption of both noticeably just cause now we have to go to the garage to get it lol.

It would take a hell of a lot of camping to make it "worth" changing over from coolers & ice, and you exchange the anxiety of ice for the anxiety of power/reliability.

...but it sure is nice to pull out that really cold beer or frozen treat.
 

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on a long road trip, i'll stop 3 times a day for fuel. i might buy ice for $3 on one of those stops but the wife is GUARANTEED to spend double that on each stop on snacks. compare the cost of either type of cooler to the cost of a wife and even the most expensive cooler suddenly becomes a bargain....:grinning:
This hit home lol I felt this!
 
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Dusther210

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Think of it as a luxury item, not an essential component. Buy one when you can afford to spend on the one you want, but consider the entire system needed to power the fridge, not just the unit itself. I didn't pull the trigger on one until I knew exactly what I wanted and set aside some cash over time specifically for that. When not on a trip it's plugged up in my garage, we took beer and soda out of the kitchen fridge and moved it to this and probably reduced our consumption of both noticeably just cause now we have to go to the garage to get it lol.

It would take a hell of a lot of camping to make it "worth" changing over from coolers & ice, and you exchange the anxiety of ice for the anxiety of power/reliability.

...but it sure is nice to pull out that really cold beer or frozen treat.
I think this sums it up nicely
 

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It would take a hell of a lot of camping to make it "worth" changing over from coolers & ice, and you exchange the anxiety of ice for the anxiety of power/reliability.

...but it sure is nice to pull out that really cold beer or frozen treat.
A well set up auxiliary battery system using quality components shouldn't cause you any issues at all and it has a lot more uses than just powering a fridge.

I use mine to run my lights at night, charge batteries (phone, camera, chainsaw etc), power a second fridge wen required (yes I have two - use one as a freezer on long trips) etc.

I have had my dual battery system installed in my vehicle now for over seven years and its still going strong and should last a few more years yet and the only reason I may have to upgrade it is if I go for a lithium battery as my current system isn't suitable to lithium - but that won't be for a few years yet.

Karl