Episode 108

Best 12 volt Refrigerator for Mini Camper Vans


June 18th, 2021

10 mins 11 secs

Your Hosts

About this Episode

Okay today, we're going to talk about the best 12 volt refrigerator for a minivan camper, aka 12v fridge freezers for mini camper vans.

I’m Well suited to answer this question at the moment, because I'm driving is a Toyota Sienna minivan camper.

The best 12 volt refrigerator options for a minivan camper are as follows:
👍 BougeRV 53 Quart 12 Volt Refrigerator 
👍 Dometic CFX3 35 12 Volt Refrigerator
👍 ICECO JP42 Pro Rotomolded 12 Volt Refrigerator 

And I love it, it's great. for a while, I was very much considering moving on to a full size, full height, sprinter van, and I will be doing that actually very soon, but, for now, my minivan is awesome and I can't recommend enough people building out minivans for camping because they're just wonderful. It's just great to be able to drive anywhere and park anywhere, but I digress.

We'll get back to the 12 volt refrigerator issue and I'll just talk a bit about what I think the best refrigerators are for minivans and give you some guidelines for your personal mini camper refrigeration needs.

Now, if you're more than one person, you need a larger fridge freezer. It's really that simple, unless you can manage to do all of your cooking or the vast majority of your cooking without having to refrigerate or freeze anything. And that's fine. I mean, if you can do that, awesome. If, if you can get by with just some milk and even then maybe you're into alternative milks and your milk doesn't have to be refrigerated.

That's great, but most of us want fresh food and most of us want some cool drinks and a cold beer now and then. So choose your refrigerator, your 12 volt fridge freezer based on, how many people you have in your van and the kind of cooking you like to do and the foods and drinks you want to keep cold.

As you know, as I've talked about a lot, I love to cook, especially at the campsite, and I want fresh food.

I want fresh want fresh vegetables and cheese and milk and cream and things like that, so that I can cook really great food at the campsite. Even if I'm cooking over the fire, not in the van, not on a portable stove. I still want all of the wonderful, fresh foods. So I sacrifice space because I want a larger minivan 12v fridge freezer.

As far as brands go. If you're in a minivan, you probably have less power supply. And so you might consider something like the iceo icooler, which I've done an episode on already. And I will go ahead and include that in show notes, you'll see a link to our 12 Volt Refrigerator and to the iceco icooler. The reason that I think that's a great way to go is because, A- it's a larger 12 volt fridge freezer and B- it has maxed out insulation.

You can run it less or it runs less to keep your food cold. Caveats to that, with regard to brand and design, you know, Dometic does a great job of building 12 volt fridge freezers in a multitude of sizes with a lot of different features that also required very low power usage.

“A poor man can only afford afford the very best”. That's the old expression and Dometic 12 volt refrigerator freezers cost a bit more, but they're built really well. And they last a long time and they do a great job. So you might consider a Dometic, especially if you're going something kind of mid-size to smaller because it's going to be super efficient and it's just going to do a great job for you.

And you're not going to have to think about it or worry about, is it going to work over time? It's an old brand that's been around for a long time and, Dometic again just makes a great product. So if you can afford it, I would suggest going with a Dometic. Especially if you want to save space. So there's that now I'll move on to another brand, which I haven't talked about before.

And in fact, they just came up on my radar. Now this is a weird thing. I don't know why. When you search on Amazon for 12 volt fridge freezer, this company does not come up very often. And I'm not sure why. I don't know if it's because they're just not playing Amazon's games well enough with regard to Amazon engine optimization, or maybe they don't pay Amazon enough in terms of ads or something like that.

I'm not sure what it is, but you have to search for them specifically, unless you just go down to the show notes and click the link that I've provided or go to our 12 volt refrigerator article at vansage.com where you'll see a lot of information about this product.

The company is called BougeRV and they make really nice stuff, really highly rated with thousands of sales, and people love them.

And the price is excellent. Put that on your list for best 12 volt refrigerator for a minivan camper, because they may be able to provide a solution for you without breaking the bank. They're probably half the cost of a Dometic fridge freezer.

Now they haven't been around as long. And what that means is there are a couple of things that you'll want to consider when a company is newer, are there parts for it? And how is their warranty and, you know, if it breaks, will you be able to get it fixed or will you have a $500 boat anchor, right? Something that just needs to be recycled. Uh, give that some thought. I actually don't know the answer to those questions yet because bougeRV is again, a new 12 volt refrigerator on my radar.

So I'll keep you informed in the future, but consider them because people really like them. So it could be a solution for you.

A couple other things to consider with regard to the best 12 volt refrigerator for a minivan camper or mini camper van is how you're going to access it and where you're going to store it.

I've seen some designs where the 12 volt fridge freezer will actually tilt out a bit when you need to access it. Now, some 12 volt refrigerators won't run if they're not horizontal. And that is an advantage of some of the more carefully designed 12 volt refrigerators is that they can be stored at an angle a bit.

And now I wouldn't store frankly, a refrigerator all the time at an angle, but it's nice to be able to tilt it out sometimes and use it for a while and then put it back and you don't want the functionality to be hampered just because of that. And you know, the thing is with a mini camper van, you need might need that kind of flexibility, because space is just so limited.

For me, sometimes I'll just put my 12 volt refrigerator in the passenger seat if I'm traveling alone and I'll throw the seat belt around it and boom problem solved. It's out of the way it can stay right there for most of my journey when I need to do some serious cooking, I've got my chuck box open and my counter, my table out and my fire pit roaring and all that stuff.

I'll go grab that fridge and carry it over to the cooking area and it's fine. It doesn't have to be permanently installed. And of course, that's one of the many advantages of these portable 12 volt refrigerators is that, uh, they're portable and you can move them around as you need.
So, and that's another reason actually to consider kind of a midsize or small size 12 volt refrigerator for your Mini camper van is that they're easier to move around.

If you're fortunate enough to be able to install it and leave it in one spot, and maybe it's under a bed or some other surface, and you just flip up a table or fold the bed up partway, and now you've got access to your 12v fridge/freezer in your minivan while you cook.

It's nice to not have to ever move it, but many of us will have to move it. So think about that. Really think about the size.

You know, another factor is sometimes handles protrude. You'll want to look at comments and reviews on Amazon and other sites and consider things like that. How does the power supply the 12 volt power supply function? Does it leave a great big thing sticking out of the side of the 12 volt refrigerator when it's plugged in, uh, things like that, that you'll have to take into account in your design or your build the storage of the unit and the fact that it really will have to be plugged in the vast majority of the time.

So those are things to consider when deciding on a 12 volt refrigerator for your van. Now, if you have specific questions about your fridge freezer, go ahead and shoot me an email at [email protected]. I'm happy to answer as best I can or point you to a resource. And who knows, maybe your question will get answered right here on the podcast.

Again, show notes, you'll see links to all of this stuff, including our 12 volt refrigerator article. And thanks for listening.