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Camper Trailer / Portable Camping Refrigeration

What types of mobile refrigeration is used in camper trailers or 4WD vehicles?
What is the best chest type portable refrigerator – Waeco, Engel, ARB, Trailblaza or National Luna?
What is eutectic refrigeration?

Gas 240 volt and 12 volt refrigeration


camper trailer refrigerationCamper Trailer Refrigerators/Portable Camping Fridges

One of the benefits of having a camper trailer is it’s ability to be packed down to a smaller size for towing.  In some ways this feature will also influence the size or height of the refrigerator that can installed and therefore, the litre volume capacity of the refrigerator/freezer.

caravan fridgeThe Jayco camper trailers come with a single door Dometic 3 way fridge/freezer.  Three way fridges have alternative power sources (LPG gas/12V/ mains power).  There is the Dometic 90 litre absorption fridge/freezer with a refrigerator volume of 80 litres and freezer volume of 10 litres.  The dimensions are 766 mm high x 550 mm wide x 565 mm deep and weight 29 kg (empty).  The refrigerator requires vents and a flue kit and it comes with an easy to see gas flame indicator and the ability to reverse the door to a left or right hinge.

‘Absorption’ type refrigerators use a heat source (eg: 12V/230V/LPG gas) for energy to drive the cooling system.  The refrigerator relies on the cooling effect of the liquid (ammonia) as it evaporates into a gas.


Three way absorption refrigerators with a climate class ‘T’ or tropicalised rating (See article "Caravan, Motorhome and 5th Wheeler Refrigeration") are designed to work in ambient temperatures up to 43 degrees C but often there is a dissatisfaction with their overall performance so we now see the introduction of eutectic refrigerators.  

Eutectic refrigeration is a compressor driven refrigeration system coupled with a cold storage device such as a eutectic tank which contains a liquid which is chilled and frozen during a refrigeration cycle.  Where a conventional refrigeration system requires power all day a eutectic system does not.

Eutectic refrigerationEutectic systems incorporate a tank filled with a liquid that continually freezes and defrosts (cyclic) so when the liquid freezes in the tank its cooling energy is stored.  As the tank defrosts it draws heat from items stored in the cool box cooling them and when the tank is almost defrosted the compressor starts again and repeats the cycle and this is termed a ‘eutectic phase’.  So these eutectic system refrigeration have a much lower overall power consumption and a lot less stop/start operation of the refrigeration unit.  If the refrigerator is set on ‘2’ and left to cycle on/off all day it would use about 19 - 24 Ah per day but if set as a freezer on one of the sub-zero settings of ‘5’, ‘6’ or ‘7’ the average daily consumption would be about 40 Ah at 12V.

An eutectic fridge can be programmed to come on during daylight hours only so on a solar array this would be when the solar panels are generating power so later there is enough liquid freeze to keep the fridge cool overnight and less need to draw on the power stored in the batteries to run the refrigerator at night.

Kimberley Karavans use a remote mounted (Danfoss) compressor 133 litre fridge/freezer with their Karavan model and eutectic refrigerators in their Kamper models.

Kimberley Karavan

Kimberly Karavans state the eutectic refrigeration is suitable for high or extreme high ambient temperatures.  The eutectic fluid surrounds the outside of the four walls of the interior cabinet acting as an ‘ice bank’ and with the refrigerator, having initially been pre-chilled, only needs to operate on its maximum setting for about 5-6 hours per day.  

Ultimate CamperThe off-road custom built Ultimate Campers at Moruya NSW have an option for a 3 way refrigerator/freezer or a 125 litre eutectic fridge/freezer system in their XTrk model.

Camper Trailer Refrigerators & Chest Fridge/Freezer
The common mobile refrigerator for camper trailers is the portable chest fridges.  The most common is the 12V/230V chest refrigerator although there are also gas/electric chest fridge/freezers.

Camper trailer manufacturers now make provision for a fridge and a fridge box on the camper trailer draw bar. 

For example, Cub Trailer’s top of the range off-road camper trailer ‘Drover’ model comes with a fridge box.  There is an option for solar panels on the hard top camper.

Kimberley Kamper has a similar feature.

Camper Trailer refrigeration

Kimberley Kamper

The range of chest fridge/freezers is large and varied.  Some popular brands are:-

ARB fridge ARB 4 x 4 Accessories released the 47 litre ARB fridge/freezer with a Danfoss compressor (made in Germany) coupled with a smart electronic control system to maximise cooling efficiency down to -18 degrees C.  The ARB fridge/freezer features a separate compartment for fruit and dairy, reversible basket, internal LED light with magnetic switch that automatically turns the light off when the lid is closed plus a drain plug in the base of the fridge for easy cleaning.  The fridge/freezer is able to be operated on 12/24DC and 100/230 AC and it has an integrated battery protection system that allows users to select the minimum operating voltage for the fridge to prevent excessive discharge of the vehicle battery.  ARB states the power consumption is - 0.87 amps/hour* *Power consumption tested at 3°C cabinet temperature, 26°C-31°C ambient temperature range, test duration of 66 hours and supply voltage of 12V DC. Accessories such as a tie down system, fridge slide and an insulated fridge bag are available.


Bushman produce a powder coated steel cabinet 12V fridge/freezer with a digital thermostat and low battery cut out to safeguard your battery.  The fridge/freezer capacity varies with low lid 35 litres, high lid 42 litres and 52 litres with the optional extension collar.  It is run by an ACC GD30FDC Brushless compressor (made in Spain) which is rubber mounted to it’s own base plate.  Dual lids and baskets are standard accessories and it features a low battery protection system .  Bushman state the power consumption – ‘With refrigerator set at -4c @ 24c ambient the Bushman uses a mere 16 Amp hours per day’.
Bushman fridge
Engel chest fridge

Engel chest fridge/freezers have been around for years and come in various sizes and range in capacity from 14 litre to 80 litre.  They are 12V/24V/230V compatible.  have the combi fridge/freezer which has separate fridge and freezer compartments with digital temperature readout.  There are those Engel chest fridge/freezers with a steel coating, a tough plastic coating and others with a polypropylene cabinet. The DC power consumption for the 40 litre chest fridge/freezer is stated to be – ‘Variable from 0.5 to 7 AMPS Maximum’. Engel also have a large range of accessories such as transit bags, fridge slides, hinge locks and basket separators.

Engel have the Sawafuji Swing Motor chest model refrigerator/freezers.  Engel state – ‘The Sawafuji Swing Motor is located within the compressor casing where the piston is the only moving part. The piston is connected to an electro dynamic device which is powered by the use of magnetic fields.  With this technology there is no need for bearings, cranks or con-rods, so less moving parts means less chance of failure. With only one moving part there is a very low friction loss which means this is a highly efficient compressor’.

EvaKool is an Australian company that produce a 35 litre, 62 litre and 82 litre 12V/24V dual temperature fridge/freezer powered by a Wancool ACV20DC  compressor and fully insulated base, walls and lid.  It features an automatic change over from AC to DC, a low battery voltage cut out and operates as a fridge/freezer in the same cabinet or as a whole fridge or whole freezer.  EvaKool also have a range of custom fridges for camper trailers and caravans. EvaKool state the 35 litre fridge, operating at an ambient temperature of 32 deg C will use between 1.0 - 2.5 A/Hr depending on the setting. 


National Luna fridge/freezers are metal inside and out with all models having built in 12V and 230V with automatic AC/DC switching and a low battery cut out.  The National Luna range start at 40 litre unit up to 125 litre unit and are powered by Danfoss compressors.

For example, their 80 litre fridge/freezer comes in aluminium or stainless steel and the aluminium version weighs in at 29 kg.  The aluminium model comes with 1 basket and the stainless steel model with 4 baskets. National Luna state the power consumption to be – 12V 2.5 Amps average running current and 1.74 – 2.4  amp/hour average power draw. Minimum temperature -18 deg C at 43 deg C ambient.

National Luna fridge freezer
Trailblaza fridge freezer

Trailblaza (made by Norcoast Refrigeration Company P/L) fridge/freezers have a two-in-one range with two compartments which you can run both as a fridge or both as a freezer or one as a freezer and the other as a refrigerator or the bottom half of each compartment as a freezer and top half as a fridge.  One compartment can also be turned off altogether.  Trailblaza have a brush finish, platinum and checkerplate exterior option.  They feature a built in 230V AC power pack and a switch to operate a variable speed compressor.

For use with solar, the Trailblaza units with 125 mm insulation fitted are recommended as they state it uses 24% less energy than the 75 mm insulated cabinet. 

Feedback on 4WD forums report highly on the Trailblaza fridge/freezers as well as the after purchase service.

Waeco chest refrigeration
Waeco fridge display

Waeco produce the CoolFreeze compressor fridge/freezer range powered by a Danfoss BDF compressor and constructed of tough polypropylene plastic.  Waeco also have the CFX portable chest refrigerators with two or three compartments – freezer, fridge and dairy.  Waeco state their compressor refrigeration is ‘just right’ for use with solar systems and provide excellent refrigeration even in extreme heat.  Waeco state the power consumption for the CFX-50 50 litre fridge freezer – ‘Ave. Power Consumption: 0.77 amps/hr (@ 12V, 5°C interior, 32°C ambient temperature)’.

Gas/electric/12V chest fridges

Caution: as these fridge/freezers use LPG gas they must not be used in confined spaces such as tents or vehicles, especially where anyone is sleeping, as they can generate high concentrations of carbon monoxide and use up the oxygen.  There have been several fatalities from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning in Australia.

Waeco fridgeWaeco manufacture the CA-35 litre chest fridge which has alternate power sources of 12V/230V AC/LPG gas.  The LPG gas option is great for use in remote locations.  Then there is the Waeco combi box which is a fridge/freezer combination which combines a 30 litre fridge and a 16 litre freezer.

Dometic also supply two 3 way (12V/Gas/230V AC) chest fridge/freezers ie: a F400 EGP 39 litre and the RC1180 EGP 50 litre.

For further information see article "Caravan, Motorhome and 5th Wheeler Refrigeration"



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