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Overview Of The Best Portable Refrigerators For Vanlife

Refrigerators are an important part of a van build, but also take up take a large amount of space and power. RV and boat specific refrigerators are going to be the best choice for vanlife because they are well constructed and insulated to withstand the bumps and high heat of a mobile lifestyle.

We’ve built a list of the best portable refrigerators for a vanlife to help you decide what’s best for your camper. Each refrigerator on this list is a 12V DC energy efficient fridge that will work seamlessly with a solar panel setup.

There is no right way to live the vanlife, but if you want to purchase a fridge, we’ve done a lot of the legwork for you here.

Overview Of Portable Refrigerator Models:

DesignationMost TechMost EfficientToughestBang for the Buck---Most Inexpensive
Interior Light
Digital Display
Removable Top
WiFiRemote Monitor

Dometic: Most Technologically Advanced

Portable RefrigeratorThe Dometic line of refrigerators is heads above the rest when it comes to technology. They have a huge line of refrigerators to choose from whether you are looking just to keep food cold, for a fridge/freezer combo, or even something that will keep your food warm.

Dometic refrigerators come with advanced digital displays that can be adjusted through a phone app as well as on the refrigerator control panel itself. Along with temperature controls, colored lights indicate whether the compressor is currently running or switched off. A battery protection setting can also be adjusted to keep the battery from full discharge.

Dometic refrigerators are built to last and some of the larger models come with dual-zone compartments meaning you can set each compartment at a different temperature freezing and refrigerating food at the same time.

Read the full Dometic review


  • WiFi enabled digital display
  • Interior lighting
  • Built-in USB ports
  • Dual-zone temperature compartments


  • Expensive
  • More parts to break

Engel: The Most Efficient Refrigerator

Portable refrigerator / freezerEngel portable refrigerators have been around for years, and they’ve only gotten better with time. These refrigerators use a unique one-part swing compressor which is one of the most efficient compressors on the market. The Engel brand refrigerators will draw the least amount of power and give you the longest run-time of anything on the list.

The design of the Engel is very simplistic and no-frills. With a steel encasing covering almost the entire outside they are durable and sturdy. The inside compartment of the Engel is separated from the external walls allowing you to swap parts without getting an entirely new refrigerator. They also have a very long warranty of 3 years.

Read the full Engel review


  • Simplistic design
  • Most efficient compressor
  • Low voltage cutout
  • Interior lighting


  • Less interior space relative to exterior dimensions
  • Heavy

ARB: The Toughest Portable Refrigerator

Portable refrigerator for campervanARB is one of the most durable refrigerators on the market. Built with the overlanding community in mind this refrigerator is made to operate at 30 degrees of tilt and in all weather conditions.

What sets this model apart from the others is the build quality. Steel handles are attached close to the unit to reduce flexing over time. The refrigerator can be tied to the floor using the handles, or added on top of one of ARB’s custom sliders.

The digital controls are kept under an overhang so they will not be bumped around and the lid pops off for easy access in small spaces.

Read the full ARB review


  • Water drain
  • Sturdy design
  • Removable lid
  • Remote monitor


  • Expensive

Norcold: Best Bang For The Buck

Norcold camper van refrigeratorThe Norcold line of refrigerators offers a quality refrigerator without breaking the bank. It comes with a reversible removable lid, and all of the basic controls including multiple temperature settings, and a battery cutoff switch.

One of the quieter models on the market, the Norcold has a short and squatty appearance making it the perfect size for a road trip.

Read the full Norcold review


  • Reversible, removable lid
  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Quiet
  • Short and squatty shape


  • Power cord sticks out
  • AC power requires purchasing a separate adaptor
  • Difficult to find parts


Edgestar portable fridge/freezers are modest designs without unnecessary features. This is the refrigerator that just gets the job done without an insane price tag attached. An Edgestar refrigerator has a small digital display temperature control and no battery regulator switch.

Edgestar has solid reviews on and a unique quick-freeze function that will allow the refrigerator to drop to the lowest temperature setting possible (-8º) in a short amount of time.

Edgestar Portable camper Refrigerator


  • Reasonable price
  • Quick-freeze temperature control
  • Efficient design


  • Short warranty
  • No battery cutoff switch

Whynter Dual Zone

Whytner portable refrigerators are a solid choice for vanlife. This dual zone model has separate compartments that can be independantly controlled freeze food, refrigerate food, or both.

A digital display allows you to adjust the compressor to Eco mode and has a voltage cut-out switch to prevent battery depletion.

Whynter Dual Zone Refrigerator


  • Independently controlled temperature compartments
  • Cools to -8º F
  • Internal lighting


  • Poor longevity


The Isotherm portable refrigerator was built for marine use and is therefore rugged and able to operate effectively at steep angles. This refrigerator uses the same DaFoss compressor as the ARB and Dometic refrigerators.

The compressor can be set to run at Max mode to give the fastest cooling or Eco mode to consume less power. It comes with three battery protection levels and an injection molded casing.

Isotherm portable fridge


  • Good compressor
  • Rugged build
  • Operates up to a 30º angle


  • Expensive
  • Comes with UK AC plug

Apicool: Most Inexpensive

Apicool is by far the most inexpensive refrigerator on this list. Overall reviews are that it works very well for the price. The cooling is not completely uniform so one side of the fridge will get colder than the other.

This refrigerator also does not have quite as good insulation as some of the other so it won’t be as efficient and the compressor will have to stay on for longer periods of time.

Apicool RV refrigerator


  • Inexpensive
  • Does the job


  • Cooling is not uniform
  • Poor insulation

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