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Fridge vs. cooler?
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garryv84
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2012 9:29 am    Post subject: Fridge vs. cooler? Reply with quote

Engel deep blue cooler vs. engel mt45 frig?

I will be car camping maybe in some remote places. I will be at one place maybe for 1 to 2 days at a time, then time to move on.
The deep blue cooler says it will last 8 to 10 days on one load of ice. I will have extra gas with me, so I think I will get gas at least once a week.

The problem I have with the frig is that it starts the snowball effect.
Much bigger house batteries, solar panel, charging monitor

I already have an optima blue top battery, 55ah under drivers seat as a house battery and LED lights. If I did not have a frig, I could go for days without starting the engine and charging the battery.

Has anyone had both? Or had the super cold cooler and wish they got the frig? I do not need to have a freezer.

How difficult is it to get ice in Canada and Mexico?

Thanks for the suggestions!
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luna91
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2012 9:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Canada----- no problem finding ice... They have it every gas station as well as every supermarket, corner store etc.....
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2012 10:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

We have found that blocks of ice (not cubes - too much surface area) will last for a week in 100 degree temps in our Coleman X-treme cooler. Blocks are available in most Safeway, Albertsons, Fred Meyers etc stores.

Highly recommended.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2012 10:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

luna91 wrote:
Canada----- no problem finding ice... They have it every gas station as well as every supermarket, corner store etc.....


I've heard it even occurs naturally.

Been a lot of years since I camped w/o the Dometic but I would think a good cooler is simple and effective w/o the snowball effect of electrical support you describe.

As noted -- blocks are often better. The other suggestion I have heard which made great sense was to have 2 coolers -- one for the stuff that has to be kept cold yet is seldom opened (milk, mayo, etc) and the other for stuff that is just better cold but the cooler is often opened (e.g. soft drinks, beer).
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r39o
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2012 11:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

X2 on the Xtreme cooler. Goes for days BUT, it is also limited due to the extra thick insulation. Nothing is for free.

RE: Solar. If you are seasoned internet shopper you should be able to get into a decent system for a few hundred dollars. Do some math. I "think" your electric cooler draws some 3 A. So 55Ah will get you about 18 hours. Now my sub $100 60W luggage tray panel peaks out at 5 A. You can recharge and run off that a good part of the day. (Now my snow ball effect setup is 200W portable but that does not count in this calculation.) A 10 A MPPT controller can be gotten for under $100 too. Add wires and what not for the $200. You can also go to a larger flooded cell Group 27 from Walmart for $70 and park it under the rear seat right side.

Just my $0.02 and hope I did not go too far OT.

Nothing says you can not use a cooler and a frig unless you can not make it fit.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2012 11:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

We only use the cooler method, since we don't have a fridge, and the cooler approach works well. There is a box behind the passenger's seat, made of thick plywood, covered with carpet. It is a seat (while stationary), and inside is a Styrofoam cooler. I keep a bunch of cold packs in the freezer at home, and those go into the cooler for a trip, so I don't have to mess with melted water. So with insulation from the carpet, plywood, and foam this keeps things cold and dry for about 4 days on a trip. Like Ahwahnee wrote, it is seldom opened ... just for the meals. We use this cooler for all the food items, no drinks in this box. Another regular old plastic cooler holds the drinks. For a longer trip after about 4 days I'd remove the cold packs and then use block ice.

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2012 12:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think there's something to say about simplicity, and I agree with trying to avoid the snowball effect.

My Westy is being slowly improved with the goal to make an epic, one year trip from California to Argentina. And the plan is to even take the Dometic out, to liberate storage space. During a couple of trips to Baja I found that I'm perfectly ok with a Coleman cooler (it's not even an Extreme), that I replenish with ice each time I replenish the beer. To the OP's question--ice is very easy to find in Mexico.

We plan to have a house battery, but mostly to run the lights, radio and to keep cameras, laptop and ipads charged. Given that you still need to stop for gas/beer/wifi, getting ice as well is not an issue. Maybe once or twice in six weeks in Baja I wished I had a bit colder beer, but it really wasn't a big deal. One day, seeing that the ice was going to last less than my stay at the beach where I was, I covered the cooler with a wet towel that I just kept getting wet with seawater every now and then. Cheap, effective evaporative refrigeration Smile

I like to have no solar panels, regulators or chargers to worry about.

Now if you plan to live in your Westy by the river and stay there for weeks or months, sure, a solar panel and Engel frig would be great. But if you plan to move on from camp every 2/3/4 days, I say it's in the area of diminishing returns. Not worth the hassle and price for me.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2012 12:58 pm    Post subject: Re: Frig vs. cooler? Reply with quote

I've been using a green metal/plastic green Coleman ice chest for decades without any issues. Ice has been plentiful and cheap everywhere except I have no experience in Mexico.

Crushed ice in the Coleman usually lasts for about 2-3 days. I also carry a small Igoo ice chest with block ice in it - will last for nearly 4-5 days and in a pinch can be transferred to the Coleman when needed if out in the boonies for a while.

I also have one of those medium, lighter style plug-in coolers (Rubbermaid) operated only while driving and use that under certain circumstances.

My westy syncro is a weekender so has no fridge but many I know with full westies only use their fridge as an icebox anyway. As noted, there can be a lot of effort dealing with the electronics, batteries and propane with a fridge.

Trivia: I prefer an ice chest with a drain -- use the melted ice for cleaning and wash-ups.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2012 12:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Juan that's sorta how i feel. Is it possible to remove the Dometic (I don't know if mine is attached to propane or not as its an ASI not a Westy). I think I could use the extra space as my 'salon' is not as big as a Westy due to double deep Dometic and furnace. There is a fridge vent on the outside tho.

I'm just at the thinking about it stage, but removing the Dometic (for a 3 to 5 mth moving trip/excursion) would free up floor space and I'd use the 2 cooler system that I always use. One for food and one for drinks. I'd just like to have a wee bit of free floor space when travelling.

Can the Dometic in an ASI be removed, kept and reinstalled in the future? I do need some input on this based on all your experiences.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2012 1:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

DAIZEE wrote:
Can the Dometic in an ASI be removed, kept and reinstalled in the future? I do need some input on this based on all your experiences.


Sure it can but many folks just use the fridge as an ice box (like an ice chest) or storage (food, stuff).
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2012 1:30 pm    Post subject: Re: Frig vs. cooler? Reply with quote

WestyBob wrote:
a weekender so has no fridge

That depends. Some did have a frig. It plugged in to the van and was anchored behind the passenger seat. Many vanished over the years.

My idea is to use a compact frig and put a jump seat on top of it in my Multivan. The size I want is 18 inches tall, and is a self contained cube. Still working the numbers on this. This approach is likely outside the topic range here, but you CAN have a frig in a Weekender if you want to.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2012 3:02 pm    Post subject: engel Reply with quote

Blue Bay Bus WE work for a river rafting co. Use Engel from NRS in all our boats , grand canyon trips, ice has to last 2 weeks and does. So this is what I use in my bus most of the time. But I still keep the stock one to, I like both! But yes use sold block, and not the block made from cubes , lasts a long time. _ Very Happy
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2012 3:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have the weekender fridge, but I almost never use it, although we have for several months in the house lately - Laughing When I crosseed the country in spring, it was great because we were driving all day (so supplying power), I unplugged it at night and it was cool enough to coast through the night. I just can't see running it on DC while stopped for very long and we rarely ever have a site with electric.

We always use a Coleman extreme, the money it saves in ice will pay for it! Block ice is great, We also make 1/2 gallon and gallon ice in containers. no mess in the cooler.
I find with the Westy or Weekender fridges, you loose space vs. a cooler.

However, if I was kicking around hot climate and somehow away from ice for more than 5 days - I might opt for a fridge over a cooler.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2012 4:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In our Carat we have the Engel mt 45 fridge with the extra insulated outer jacket... it rocks!
We tend to have it on while driving; during the day when parked (if it seems necessary) and often shut it off at night. When parked it usually lives outside the slider and under the awning for efficiency, unless in bear country.
We have definitely gone 3 days camped in one spot without any adverse drain on the second battery... no upgrade-solar-panel-snowball necessary.
It is certainly expensive, and for sure a luxury, but its really convenient & makes camping and cooking when out for a week or more a lot more fun. There is no need to remember ice; or to go to town for ice, & food keeps really well!
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2012 6:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have engel mt45 with 80 watt solar with 55 Ah second battery. Works awesome. Engel doesn't draw that much power and my 55 ah was plenty to power up the fridge. Engel has 1-5 setting and at 1.5 setting it keeps everything cool. At level 2.0 it starts freezing. So at 1.5 setting it usually only kicks in 15 minutes in a hour. 55 ah battery is plenty power if you can install at least 80 watt solar.

I tried the cooler method and it just didn't work for me. The food gets soggy, constantly worried about ice not lasting and the hassle of buying ice.

I ponied up the money and paid about $1,100 for the fridge,solar, and battery set up.
I got a really good deal from van-cafe for my Engel mt45 for about $650 about two years ago. I think the price has gone up. I also paid $350 for 80 watt Sharp solar and controller from CL. The 55 ah battery was $90. The whole set up was not cheap but I think I re-couped almost all the
money by not buying Ice and saving food from going bad. I also play a lot tennis and go surfing and by having cold drinks, I have saved a lot of money not going to store to buy cold drinks. This set up has paid for it self for me.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2012 7:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

done the cooler and the fridge...sorry, too many trips where I had to drain water, shift things inside the cooler, and worry about melting ice....not going back to that. It depends on your needs really, with two kids in tow I just don't want to deal with a cooler and ice.

I have an Isotherm (similar to Truckfridge) in the space where the stock fridge was, plus an Engel MT45 that I got here on the classifieds for around $600. Plus 110 Ah battery and 135w solar panel. Self-sufficent.

I only bring the Engel during long trips when the Isotherm is just not enough, cook some food at home, freeze it and store it in the Engel...

I have to agree though, if I were camping by myself or just with the wife I would probably be OK with just a cooler and a block of ice. If traveling thru Baja, buy two blocks of ice, I lost one to a military checkpoint in the middle of nowhere halfway between Hwy 1 and the coast, the young army guys where really thirsty and their post was in the middle of this desert-like place, I was "easily persuaded" to give them a case of Ballenas and a block of ice. Laughing
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2012 8:06 pm    Post subject: Re: Frig vs. cooler? Reply with quote

r39o wrote:
That depends. Some did have a frig. It plugged in to the van and was anchored behind the passenger seat. Many vanished over the years.


In past threads of similar topic terminology begins to get crossed.

The full westys have a "fridge" - a unit that both cools but also has a freeze component.

None of the weekenders came with a fridge ... in particular within the years '85-'87 they all came with a Dometic "cooler" bolted into the floor behind the passenger seat ... I still have mine and they were ac/dc. They cooled only, did not freeze. They all ran off a lighter outlet on the inside base of the passenger seat.

Then there are "ice chests" that rely on ice only.

Now, as some have already pointed out, there are portable "fridges" (that will freeze) that can be hooked up. Not to be confused with electric "coolers" or non-electric "ice chests".

Ice chests obviously have no need for costly wiring, batteries, propane, etc. Ice can be easily had whenever one stops for gas... this "painful ordeal of a hassle" is no big deal.

All coolers I'm familiar with plug into lighter outlets ... operate while driving but best to shut off when stopped. Some of course wire in their coolers too into a battery for continous operation.

All I know who have fridges, if they use them at all, operate almost continuously off propane, solar and/or battery, especially if something needs to be kept frozen. Families with kids sometimes feel the need to bring along the entire home kitchen and love these.

To reiterate, coolers and ice chests alone will not freeze anything but with packed ice they can keep things frozen for a while as in several days.

I also run a small six-pack "cooler" between the front seats on trips for drinks that plugs into the front dash lighter outlet. Cools (some can heat too) only. Easy to move when I want to walk back between the seats.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2012 9:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am still skeptical of all the refrigeration needs. Some foods really don't require those low temperatures -- sure milk may go bad after a few days, but instead bring powdered milk. Not exactly the favorite taste? Too bad, I don't go out there to grill a steak, drink beer, and watch TV. Many of the commercial foods we bring already have huge doses of preservatives -- just about everything bottled or packaged. Bring vegetables that don't require extreme cooling. And pick a beer or ale that tastes great at just slightly below room temperature (typical all over the world). Think rice and beans and some veggies, spices, and perhaps canned seafood for supplemental proteins.

When we go out, camping, exploring, I like to leave the commercial world behind. We've been trained to buy appliances, perhaps emulating our parents, or watching "GE" commercials -- more stuff that will soon break --- keep it simple -- let it go. I can't imagine spending $1,000 and more for cooling when a lightweight approach might result in spoiled (and thus discarded) food which could add up to only a few $10s over a few years. At this moment canned stuff may seem less appetizing as we sit here in our warm homes at our PCs, but I have to testify it all tastes really good at the end of the day at the campsite.

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2012 9:47 pm    Post subject: Re: Frig vs. cooler? Reply with quote

WestyBob wrote:
Families with kids sometimes feel the need to bring along the entire home kitchen and love these.


not sure what the rationale is behind this statement above ...an Engel MT45 takes up about the same floor space as an ice chest. When I pre-cook food at home and freeze before a trip, all I'm thinking is I will not be bringing too many produce and kitchen utensils and instead of spending time mincing, chopping and cooking meals for four, all I need is a frying pan and 5 minutes on the stove, I rather spend quality time with family enjoying the outdoors than cooking two times a day, looking for ice or draining coolers, well, sometimes I feel the urge to cook a nice paella over a fire. Laughing

Really, there is no good and bad choice here. Some people don;t want to deal with a 12v system and the cost up front, other just want to make the best of their time and not deal with a cooler that depnds on ice and needs to be emptied of melted ice once in a while. Number of people camping with you and length of stay/trip will also influence you towards one of the two options.

Some people prefer to spend their money on fancy shocks, some people will spend that money on a fridge or on a syncro that will barely see dirt roads ...I will not be the one to question how people spend their money
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2012 10:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have an ARB 50 quart and love it. We even use it in the house when we have extra people over and need more room for beer. It fits between the two rear facing seats in me syncro and has an LED light inside, which is so nice when it's dark. Just like walking into the kitchen with the lights off and opening the fridge.

I'm running a 90AH battery with a Surepower separator. We usually hop from camp site to camp site every couple days. So, it always has a chance to re-charge. The thing with a lot of these types of fridges is they are not always on and they say "it's able to maintain sub-freezing temperatures in 90° F heat, while only drawing 0.87 amps per hour from a 12 volt power source… that’s less than a single headlamp draws!" ...and so far I believe it.

That's my two cents.
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