How To Choose The Best Fridge For Vanlife

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Ice chests are a cheap and easy way to keep food cold, but at some point we all get tired of soggy wet food and constant trips into town for ice. The best fridge keeps food cold longer and keeps your rig out on the road where it belongs.
Best Fridge For Vanlife - Intro
The Dometic CFX 3: Our Best Choice Overall

This is The Wise Adventurer’s rundown of the best campervan fridges currently on the market. These fridges are great because they greatly increase your quality of life on the road, add a ton of options to your cooking and meal planning, and can actually save you money in the long run.

After testing and analyzing numerous vanlife fridges available, we found that the Dometic CFX3 55 was the best fridge overall. Dometic’s reputation for quality, efficiency, and reliability have made the brand a favorite for avid vanlifers all over the world, and the CFX3 series is their most impressive fridge yet.

We know that the Dometic CFX3 won’t be everyone’s first choice though, and that’s ok. Different builds require different fridge styles (upright, sliding, etc.), and not everyone has the budget to splurge on a Dometic either.

That’s why we’ve selected a handful of thoughtful options for every kind of camper on any kind of budget. If you’re new to this whole vanlife thing, or just vanlife fridges in general, make sure to check out our handy buyer’s guide down at the bottom to learn what makes a fridge suitable for life on the road and what features to look out for.

Right, let’s hit the road!

ProductSummary
Dometic CFX3 55: Best Fridge For Vanlife OverallA well-built and modern chest-style fridge/freezer with a proven track record for reliability. Tons of sizes, versatile power options, and the convenience of wireless controls. See Review
ARB Zero Portable Fridge/Freezer: Best Overall QualityA remarkably tough freezer with versatile power and install options. Variable speed compressor saves energy, and wireless controls add convenience. See Review
ICECO VL60 Pro: Best Vanlife Fridge On A BudgetOutstanding quality and versatility at a great price point. Compressor carries an outstanding 5 year warranty. See Review
Dometic CRX50: Best Upright Fridge For VanlifeSports a compact footprint and surprising amount of capacity. Proven reliability and great overall quality. See Review
ARB Elements Weatherproof Fridge: Best For Vanlife Off-RoadAn absolute tank of a fridge that’s 100% weatherproof and tough as nails. Added security features enable exterior/bed mounting options. See Review
Whynter FM62 Dual Zone Portable RefrigeratorAn affordable dual-zone option. Spacious, with a lot of storage options. See Review
Alpicool LGCF55The least expensive option we recommend. Upgraded model with LG compressor is well worth the extra expense. See Review

Best Fridge For Vanlife

Dometic CFX3 55

Best Fridge For Vanlife - Dometic CFX3 55

Specs:
Style: Chest
Capacity: 58 Qt (55 L) (also available in 25, 35, 45, 75, and 100-liter sizes)
Dimensions: 28” x 19” x 18” (71cm x 48cm x 46cm
Warranty duration: 5 years
Refrigeration system: Electric compressor
Price: $$$

Dometic’s CFX3 line of powered coolers is easily one of the most popular and widely used food storage options for vanlifers and overlanders alike. The CFX3 comes in a ton of size options ranging from a super-compact 25 liters to a monstrous 100-liter war chest.

Our personal favorite in the lineup is the 55-liter model, which is pretty much the goldilocks size for maximizing storage without losing too much space inside your rig. It’s a single-zone fridge, which means you’ll have to choose between freezing or simple cooling, but the 55-liter size is unique in that it includes an integrated ice maker compartment that keeps 50 cubes ready to go when you need them.

All CFX3 chest coolers are designed to work with standard DC, AC, or DC solar power, and the 55-liter version uses just 1 Ah of electricity per hour thanks to Dometic’s efficient “Active Gasket” technology and a variable speed compressor. They also all share wireless connectivity via Bluetooth or Wifi, which allows users to monitor and adjust their temperature settings on the fly with a mobile app.

Dometic fridges are known for their quality and durability, and as you might expect, those things come at a price. While there are definitely more expensive brands and models out there in this size, Dometic’s CFX3 line is definitely an investment, even in the smallest sizes. Speaking of sizes, the only other complaint we have with these fridges is that the only dual-zone options available are the large 75 and 95-liter models, which are both too large to work well within the confines of your average camper van.

Pros:Cons:
– Tons of sizes and options available in the CFX3 line
– Bluetooth/wireless enabled
– Runs on 12v DC, AC, or solar DC power
– Somewhat expensive
– Dual-zone only available on largest options



ARB Zero Fridge Freezer: Best Overall Quality

Best Fridge For Vanlife - ARB Zero

Specs:
Style: Chest
Capacity: 63 Qt (60 L) (also available in 38, 47, 73, and 101-quart sizes)
Dimensions: 29” x 22” x 19” (74cm x 56cm x 48cm)
Warranty duration: 3 years
Refrigeration system: Electric compressor
Price: $$$

If you’re a fan of ARB’s outstanding line of off-road and overlanding products, you’ll be pleased to hear that they build their refrigerators to the same exacting specifications. The ARB Zero Fridge Freezer is pound for pound the highest quality fridge for vanlife on the market, and it absolutely looks the part from every angle.

We love the material quality of the ARB Zero, which sports a tough stainless steel outer casing and durable ABS plastic corner moldings that run the full height of each corner for added protection. You’ll also find low-profile recessed carry handles on the exterior, which feature integrated steel tie-down points to keep your fridge secure when the road gets bumpy.

In terms of power, the ARB Zero is both versatile and efficient thanks to dual 12V connections at either end of the fridge and a variable speed compressor that minimizes draw to an impressive 0.8 Ah per hour on average. The larger models (63 Qt and up) also feature reversible side-opening lids, which makes them that much easier to work into whatever build you’ve got planned for your van. We’re also big fans of ARB’s wireless/Bluetooth control system, which uses one of the cleanest and most user-friendly apps we’ve seen to monitor and control your cooling/freezing.

Of course, as an ARB product, our first complaint is the outright cost of the Zero fridge, as even the smallest 38 Qt model is a serious investment. The fact that every ARB Zero is covered by a three-year warranty takes some of the sting out of the initial cost, but we’re still talking about a vanlife fridge that costs more than some at-home appliances. Aside from that our only other gripe is that if you want to convenience of the reversible lid system, you’ll have to buy the 63 Qt size or larger, as the smaller 38 and 47-quart models both use fixed lids that open from the front only.

Pros:Cons:
– Outstanding quality
– Versatile mounting options
– Refined interface plus wireless control via smartphone
– Expensive
– Dual-zone only available on larger sizes
– Size determines door access style



ICECO VL60 Pro Portable Refrigerator: Best Vanlife Fridge On A Budget

Best Fridge For Vanlife - ICECO VL60

Specs:
Style: Chest
Capacity: 63.4 Qt (60 L) (also available in 45, 75, and 90-liter sizes)
Dimensions: 30” x 18” x 18” (76cm x 46cm x 46cm)
Warranty duration: 5 years (electric compressor only) /1 year (rest of the cooler)
Refrigeration system: Electric compressor
Price: $$

If you’re looking for a high-quality single zone option, the ICECO VL60 Pro might be the best fridge for vanlife on a budget currently available.

We’re particularly fond of ICECO’s multi-directional lid design, which opens to either side or can be removed entirely as needed for quick and easy loading or cleaning. This attention to versatility is continued in the ICECO’s dual DC port design, which places identical DC plug-ins on opposite sides of the fridge to make installation and mounting that much easier. On the front side you’ll find a well-made LED temperature display with a push-button control board as well as plug-ins for AC power and dual USB ports for charging other accessories.

What’s really impressive about this fridge is that although it’s a budget-friendly product, the electric compressor comes with a full five-year warranty, which is one of the best in the business at any price. Unfortunately that warranty doesn’t carry over to the rest of the cooler, which is limited to a single year.

To be fair, ICECO includes plenty of replacement parts for the Pro series should you happen to break something including a replacement handle, multiple replacement corner guards, an extra drain plug (those have a habit of going missing), and some extra hardware as well. The warranty is our only serious gripe here, but it’s also worth noting that this is a “manual defrost” fridge, which means you’ll need to routinely clean out any ice buildup yourself if you run it for extended periods.

Pros:Cons:
– Multi-directional lid opening for versatile install options
– Built-in AC power option for pre-cooling from a home socket
– Budget-friendly
– Outstanding compressor warranty
– Non-compressor components only warrantied for 1 year
– Manual defrost takes a little extra work



Dometic CRX50 Fridge/Freezer: Best Upright Fridge For Vanlife

Best Fridge For Vanlife - Dometic CRX 50T

Specs:
Style: Upright
Capacity: 50.8 Qt (48 L) (50 and 60-liter sizes also available)
Dimensions: 22” x 19” x 18” (56cm x 48cm x 46cm)
Warranty duration: 2 years
Refrigeration system: Electric compression
Price: $$

Incredibly compact, impressively spacious, and properly efficient, the Dometic CRX50 12V fridge is one of the most popular upright freezers on the market for vanlife builds, and it’s easy to see why.

The Dometic CRX50 is surprisingly efficient in terms of energy draw, especially for an upright unit, and typically draws as low as 1.1Ah per hour at a standard 25-degrees Celcius (77-degrees Fahrenheit) ambient temperature.

That’s particularly impressive considering that the CRX50 functions as either a fridge, a freezer, or as a dual-zone unit, thanks to its removable 4.4-liter “icebox” that keeps foods frozen up top while the rest of your perishable items down below stay as cool as you’d like.

If you’re looking for a permanently installed solution for your vanlife build, the CRX50 is the perfect candidate and fits relatively easily into just about any under-counter space due to its compact profile and space-saving beveled rear edge. Of course if you’re looking for a portable solution you can easily disconnect from the vehicle and carry, this is pretty much a deal-breaker. We’ll also mention that although this Dometic fridge needs to be permanently mounted, it doesn’t actually ship with any real mounting hardware, so you’ll need to source that yourself.

Pros:Cons:
– Removable freezer adds versatility
– Reversible swing door
– Affordable
– Hard mounted/non-portable
– Doesn’t include mounting hardware



ARB Elements: Best Fridge For Vanlife Off-Road

Best Fridge For Vanlife - ARB Elements

Specs:
Style: Chest
Capacity: 63 Qt (59.6 L)
Dimensions: 17” x 19” x 32” (43cm x 48cm x 81cm)
Warranty duration: 3 years
Refrigeration system: Electric compressor
Price: $$$

ARB makes some of the toughest, most reliable overlanding components on the planet, and the ARB Elements fridge is built to survive anything short of a nuclear warhead.

That’s because ARB designed the Elements fridge to be used inside or outside of the vehicle, which means it’s 100% weatherproof and about as close to theft-proof as they come. The entire exterior of the ARB Elements is built from rugged stainless steel and anodized aluminum (both of which are known for their strength and corrosion resistance), and the electronic control panel is 100% weatherproof as well. That control panel acts as both your temperature/running mode selector, while also doubling as a security keypad that uses a four-digit code to lock unwanted guests out of your goodies. Additional security comes courtesy of the Elements’ tamperproof bolts, which ARB designed to keep the Elements fridge safe even when permanently mounted outside of the vehicle.

In terms of efficiency, ARB claims the Elements fridge draws 0.9Ah per hour on average. That’s outstanding, but keep in mind that’s only for refrigeration, and actual freezing duty will increase that draw considerably.

Drawbacks for the ARB Elements fridge are mainly its price, as this model is particularly expensive and likely overkill if you have no need for its weatherproof prowess. There’s also only a single size available for this model (63 Qt), which also means there’s no dual-zone option available.

Pros:Cons:
– Weatherproof and incredibly rugged
– Added security features to protect your investment
– Works as a fridge or freezer
– Only one size option
– Expensive
– No dual-zone model available



Whynter FM62 Dual Zone Portable Refrigerator

Best Fridge For Vanlife - Whynter FM62

Specs:
Style: Chest
Capacity: 62 Qt (58.7 L) (90 Qt also available)
Dimensions: 28” x 21” x19” (71cm x 53cm x 48cm)
Warranty duration: 1 year
Refrigeration system: Electric compressor
Price: $$

Whynter is another fan favorite for vanlifers on a budget, and if you’re looking for a spacious dual-zone option for your current build, you should check out the Whynter FM62.

While the outside of the Whynter FM series may look relatively stark and utilitarian, there’s actually a lot to love inside this fridge. For instance, there are two separate interior spaces, and each has its own lid, helping to maximize efficiency when you’re reaching into the cooler frequently. The larger space measures 13 inches across, making it ideal as your refrigerator side, while the second is more narrow at 8 inches across, which is about perfect for storing ice plus whatever frozen foods you need.

Each zone is independently controlled, so you can use whatever combination of freezing/cooling space you need for your groceries of choice. Other perks of the Whynter include dual power ports for AC and DC (you can also use them both at the same time and the fridge will automatically switch to DC should the AC power fail), a bright LED temperature display, and even an open door warning system that notifies you when you forget to latch your fridge shut.

All things considered, the Whynter is a tough and efficient fridge ( it averages about 1.1Ah per hour draw), but as a more budget-friendly product, it has its shortcomings. For starters, the fit and finish of the Wynter are extremely basic, and the handles and latches look like something you’d find on a vintage Coleman cooler. You might be into that look, but they definitely don’t have the quality of the competition. It’s also worth noting that using the freezer function of the Wynter can double its draw on your electric system, so you’ll want to take that into consideration for your build. Lastly, we’ll point out that the factory warranty is just 12 months. There are no known reliability issues with these fridges, but we’d prefer at least a full two-year term.

Pros:Cons:
– Affordable dual-zone option
– Flexible power options
– Versatile organization and storage layout
– Freezer function increases draw considerably
– Fairly basic latch/handle hardware compared to other brands
– Short warranty period



Alpicool LGCF55 Portable Refrigerator

Best Fridge For Vanlife - Alpicool LGCF55

Specs:
Style: Chest
Capacity: 58 Qt (55 L) (45-liter size also available)
Dimensions: 27” x 21” x 14” (69cm x 53cm x 36cm)
Warranty duration: N/A
Refrigeration system: Electric compressor
Price: $

Look, we get it: Sometimes even the “best on a budget” doesn’t quite fit into your budget. Outdoor gear is expensive, and vanlife gear is no exception. Enter the Alpicool LCF55: A wildly affordable portable fridge that actually packs a surprising amount of perks.

As far as the basics go, the Alpicool LGCF55 is essentially a single zone fridge/freezer, although it can function as a dual-zone to an extent. That’s because the Alpicool is built with a smaller “refrigeration area” beside the main compartment, which uses the ambient cooling produced from the “freezer” area to keep perishables cold, but a few degrees warmer than items in the main section.

Surprisingly enough, the Alpicool also comes with a wireless Bluetooth function, allowing you to monitor and control the fridge from your smartphone. That’s a feature that even some high-dollar brands leave out of their vanlife fridges, so it certainly adds value in this context.

The main drawbacks of a fridge this cheap are (as you might expect) durability and reliability. In terms of durability, the entire fridge is essentially made from plastic, and won’t stand up to the kind of abuse more premium options are designed for. In terms of reliability, the Alpicool basically has zero warranty, which means once your fridge goes past the standard 30 day return window, you’re likely on your own. For that reason, we recommend spending a few extra bucks and getting the version that uses an LG compressor rather than the no-name alternative. Even with the LG upgrade, the Alpicool is still significantly less expensive than anything else on our list, so we also recommend buying an additional protection plan as well if you can afford it. 

Pros:Cons:
– The least expensive option available
– Wireless compatibility
– LG branded compressor
– Durability is sub par
– Not a true dual zone fridge
– Added protection plan is pretty much mandatory



Buyer’s Guide For The Best Vanlife Fridge

Why putting a heavy-duty fridge in your van is a great idea: Truth be told, adding a dedicated fridge to your van is one of the most impactful upgrades you can make to your rig. Whether you go large or small, single or dual zone, the ability to keep perishable foods from spoiling will greatly increase your quality of life boondocking on the road, and will also save you tons of money on ice, repeated trips into town, and wasted food in short order.

Best Fridge For Vanlife - Buying Guide
Photo by Dometic

Style

Generally speaking, the best fridge options for vanlife come in one of two styles: Chests and uprights.

Chest-style fridges are the kind that open and operate just like a standard cooler or ice chest, meaning you’ll be reaching in from the top to access your food and drinks. Chest style coolers are a favorite because they’re portable, versatile, and can be mounted just about anywhere including under cabinets (with the addition of rollers).

Best Fridge For Vanlife - Dometic CFX3 55

Uprights are more like your classic at home refrigerator, albeit on a much smaller scale. Upright fridges are a popular option for permanent installations because they can be mounted flush under a cabinet or counter and conveniently accessed from a front swing door.

Best Fridge For Vanlife - Dometic CRX 50T
Upright style example: Dometic CRX 50

Power/Efficiency

Ultimately the power and efficiency needs of your vanlife fridge are determined by the electrical system you’re running in your van. Your ability to generate and store electricity throughout the day decides how much or how little power draw you can get away with, so you’ll want to know your capacity before buying a vanlife fridge.

Photo by ARB

Generally speaking, any fridge that draws an average of 1.2 Ah per hour or less will work properly with just about any system, including a standard 200-watt solar setup.

Refrigeration System

There are two common options for a vanlife refrigeration system: Electric compressors and gas heat exchangers.

Best Fridge For Vanlife - Electric Compressor
Electric compressor of the ARB Zero

For the sake of simplicity, we generally only recommend electric compressors for use in campervans. That’s because gas systems require the additional buying and purchasing of propane, and also don’t work properly on uneven ground.

Size

The size of your campervan fridge depends on your needs and the space available in your van. Typically the best fridges for vanlife range between 30 and 60 quarts for folks spending extended periods on the road/off the grid, but that number can change depending on your needs.

Photo by ARB

For example, if you’ve got multiple mouths to feed and you’re planning on spending longer than 2-3 days on the road, many folks prefer the space and convenience of a fridge 50 quarts or larger.

You’ll also want to factor in whether or not you need a separate refrigeration/freezing compartment in your fridge (aka a “dual-zone” model), as dual-zone fridges are typically 60 quarts or more.

Reliability And Durability

Campervan fridges are a big investment, and reliability and durability are the two main factors that decide whether or not you get your money’s worth out of your fridge.

The longer a fridge lasts, the more value it gives back. It typically takes between 1 to 2 years for your fridge to pay for itself in terms of money saved on ice and wasted food, although that number can go up or down depending on how often you use your van.

For that reason we recommend looking for a fridge made from quality materials top to bottom (more metal, less plastic), as well as looking for a fridge with a high-quality compressor and (ideally) a nice long warranty lasting two years or more.

Conclusion

Taking all the above features into consideration, we found the Dometic CFX3 55 to be the best fridge for vanlife currently on the market. The CFX3 series’ combination of high-quality materials, versatility, and all the latest tech like wireless compatibility make it a stand-out product, and while it’s certainly on the expensive side, there are much more expensive options out there of similar reputation and quality.

Best Fridge For Vanlife - Conclusion
The ARB Zero: Our Highest Quality Pick

If you’re looking for the most rough-and-tumble, overbuilt fridge out there, check out either of our picks from the folks at ARB. Their Zero line of fridges are some of the toughest and most advanced options on the market, while their Elements fridge is virtually indestructible, 100% weatherproof, and particularly tough to steal.

These options are all a serious investment though, so if you’re looking to save a few hundred bucks, we’re big fans of the ICECO VL60 Pro. The ICECO is a tough fridge in its own right, and comes backed by an outstanding 5-year warranty on its compressor, which adds a ton of value to an already value-added product.

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