Is a 12V camping fridge really worth it?

At some point in your camping ‘career’, you may find yourself yearning for a 12V portable fridge. However, at a cost of ten thousand rand or more, there’s a good chance that your future outdoor fridge will cost more than your household unit – which you use every day!


Likewise, at this price, a new camping fridge will cost you five times more than a good-quality cooler box. This raises an important debate: Is a camping fridge really worth it? Well, that’s for you to decide… but before you do, here are some things to consider.


camping fridge in the bush
Is a camping fridge really worth the expense?


What motivates people to buy an expensive camping fridge? In most cases, it’s the following:

  • No more melted ice
  • Adjustable temperature control
  • The ability to camp for longer periods, and
  • Explore remote places


We all know the frustration: you begin your camping trip with a meticulously packed cooler-box, and you even go as far as to buy ice en-route so that it stays cool as long as possible. But, no matter what you do, by day three you have a 2-inch pool of milky water in your cooler, and somehow the foul-smelling liquid has found its way into your “sealed” pack of wors.


Apart from not having to worry about ice anymore, a good 12V camping fridge will also allow you to vary the temperature for different food types. In the case of National Luna’s 60-litre, the fridge compartment can be set to 5ºC for things like milk, cheese, vegetables and cool drinks, while the second compartment can be set for frozen meats (-10ºC) and ice-cream (-18ºC).


Having the ability to keep food frozen allows you to camp for longer periods without having to buy more supplies. What’s more, in remote places like the Central Kalahari and northern Namibia, it’s almost impossible to find ice and other food supplies.


DID YOU KNOW: National Luna was the first off-road fridge manufacturer in the world to design and develop a dual-compartment unit (fridge and freezer) that could run on a single compressor.


Generally speaking, most remote places in Africa are hot. And, ironically, most camping fridges are not designed for such heat. In fact, almost every camping fridge on the market is tested at a 25ºC ambient temperature, and many of these units cannot reach their claimed performance figures when the outside temperature rises to 40ºC or more – which is commonly the case in Africa. When this happens, the fridge may still be relatively cool, but it may fail to keep your frozen food from defrosting.


camping fridge kept in the shade


It’s a crucially important point to remember, and if you’re in the market for a 12V camping fridge, you should take note of the fridge’s performance figures, and at what ambient temperature it claims these statistics.


DID YOU KNOW: National Luna is the only South African camping fridge manufacturer that designs, tests and quotes their performance figures at a tropical specification – 43ºC ambient temperature.


Things break. Especially electronic things that bounce around in the back of a 4×4. It’s a major concern for many campers: the thought of spending thousands of rands on a fridge that could break down when they need it most. Fortunately, a good fridge will boast extra-thick insulation, so at the very worst, your camping fridge will act as a cooler-box until you can get the unit fixed. But how long will that take?


Very little can go wrong with a sturdy cooler-box; but your 12V fridge may, at some point, require spare parts. There are several things that could go wrong: an accidental bump to a control panel, a damaged power inlet plug, or perhaps excessive dust ingress. These things happen, and when they do, you want to be sure that spare parts are locally available − not imported per request.


DID YOU KNOW: National Luna is the only (local) 12V fridge thats designed and developed in Africa, for African conditions.


There’s no denying the high cost of a 12V camping fridge, but nor are there any doubts about their benefits. In the end, whether you choose to make the investment will depend on how often you camp, where you camp, and what you prefer to eat on holiday.


Aside from the initial cost, there are very few disadvantages to owning a 12V camping fridge. However, regardless of their benefits, the most important feature of any camping fridge is longevity… whether or not it’s a long-term investment.


So, guess which 12V fridge manufacturer offers long-term durability, immediate back-up service, availability of local parts, industry-leading innovation, and tropical specification (43ºC) performance? You probably know the answer to this question already, but if you’re still unsure, just ask the industry professionals.



Boasting the largest range of 12V fridge / freezers in the world, National Luna is the only commercial manufacturer of off-road fridges in SA, and the preferred supplier to all major off-road trailer and caravan manufacturers. Call (011) 452 5438 for more info.