The decision to purchase a 12V camping fridge is invariably followed by another question: What size fridge do I need?
While the answer may seem straightforward and/or limited to the size of your vehicle, the option of a single-compartment fridge, or a dual-control unit, does add some complexity to the decision.
On that note, let’s first look at the pros and cons of a single-compartment camping fridge, versus a dual control.
As the name suggests, a single-compartment fridge has only one internal bin, one thermostat, and one temperature control panel. Meaning, you can use the unit as a dedicated fridge, or, as a dedicated freezer – but it can’t fulfil both applications at the same time.
A dual-control camping fridge features two internal bins with a dividing wall between them. The unit also boasts two thermostats and two temperature control options. This setup vastly improves the versatility of your camping fridge, as it allows you to use one side of the unit as a fridge, and the other as a freezer. Alternatively, you can set both internal bins to operate as a combined fridge, or, as a combined freezer.
You may be looking at these two options and thinking, “Why would anyone want a single-compartment fridge when a dual-control unit offers the best of both worlds?
Well, a single-compartment fridge/freezer is usually more affordable than a dual-control unit, and, they’re generally more efficient, too.
The above points are best explained by looking at several popular fridge volumes in the small, medium, and large-size categories.
SMALL CAMPING FRIDGES
Small-sized camping fridges typically weigh between 20 and 25kg, with the most popular sizes being the 40-litre single compartment and the 50-litre dual control. As can be seen from the diagrams below, both fridges are similar in terms of how much space they occupy.
However, because the 50-litre uses thinner insulation around the main compartment, the extra “freed up” space creates volume for an 11-litre freezer section that can be independently temperature controlled.
In contrast, thanks to its thicker insulation, the 40-litre is more efficient. So, what it loses in versatility and volume, it gains in performance and price.
MEDIUM CAMPING FRIDGES
Medium-sized camping fridges typically weigh between 25 and 30kg, with the most popular sizes being the 55-litre single compartment and the 60-litre dual control. In this example, both fridges have the same external dimensions: 750 x 425 x 535 mm.
However, in terms of insulation, the 55-litre is manufactured with 60 mm all-round, while the 60-litre uses 42 mm around the fridge section, and 60 mm around the freezer portion.
While the 60-litre may seem like the obvious option as far as capacity and versatility is concerned, the 55-litre not only cools faster, stays colder for longer, and uses less power, it’s also more affordable.
LARGE CAMPING FRIDGES
Once again, both fridges are identical in terms of external dimensions, but just like the example above, the 80-litre boasts a more affordable price tag, thicker insulation, and better overall performance and efficiency.
On that note, the decision to buy a single-compartment fridge, over a dual-control unit, is often based on price and performance. However, as lithium-battery technology becomes commonplace, and as solar panels become more affordable, the subject of 12V fridge efficiency is less relevant today, than it was 10 years ago.
From that perspective, if outright fridge efficiency isn’t your biggest concern – and the price isn’t either – then a dual-control fridge/freezer is almost certainly the better option for you.
WHAT SIZE FRIDGE SHOULD YOU GET: SMALL, MEDIUM OR LARGE?
As a general rule: It’s better to have too much fridge space and not need it, rather than need the space and not have it. That said, go with the largest fridge you can comfortably fit in your vehicle, without inadvertently smothering the unit’s ventilation ports with other camping items.
A few more points to consider…
How long do you camp?
If you’re a weekend camper – who seldom goes away for more than a few days at a time – you probably don’t need a freezer section, so don’t waste your money on dual control.
How many are you?
Are you a solo traveller, a family of four, or an adventurous couple who camps for long durations? Having to pack enough food for a large family can be tricky, and in most cases, you’re going to need the biggest camping fridge you can afford.
How big is your vehicle?
Naturally, if you have a large vehicle and space-saving isn’t a top priority, it’s generally advised to opt for a large-sized camping fridge.
Do you tow a trailer or caravan?
Having a trailer or caravan in tow significantly increases your available packing space; which is why many trailer owners opt for two single-compartment fridges/freezers. One unit is used as a dedicated freezer in the trailer, while the other is kept in the vehicle as a dedicated fridge.
For more information on National Luna’s full range of fridge sizes, including several specialist options, click here.