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The 6 Best Van Life Fridges for Storing Food on the Road

The perfect van life fridge optimizes for space, power use and storage

You have a few options when you live on the road when it comes to food and food storage. You can try to eat only or mostly non-perishable food items, you can grocery shop every day and consume everything or…you can get yourself a van life fridge. 

I know space is at a premium, but we’re talking about a fridge for a campervan (or conversion) that is specifically designed to not occupy a lot of space while giving you the option to store food on the road. 

After seeing and using my fair share of small refrigerators (on boats, in RVs and in campervans), I’ve put together the below list of what I believe are the best options on the market for people who want a compact, energy-efficient fridge while traveling. 


The Winner of Van Life Fridge Overall: DOMETIC CFX3 55-Liter Portable Refrigerator and Freezer with ICE MAKER

Dometic makes great powered coolers, and the CFX has consistently been one of the most beloved van life fridges among not only van lifers, but people living on the road (or water) more broadly. 

You can get this campervan fridge in a bunch of different volumes, from 25L to 100L (which is enormous). 

I think the 55L is the best size for most vans because you get a significant amount of food storage space without losing too much precious floor space. Bear in mind that this is what is known as a “single zone fridge,” which means it can either freeze food or cool it (not both at the same time), but I really like that the 55 litre has an integrated ice-maker capable of holding 50 cubes that can be kept indefinitely. 

One of the most important considerations when choosing a van life fridge is the power requirements and the CFX3 only uses 1 Ah (Ampere hour) of electricity/hour because of a nice variable speed compressor. I delve into what that means in terms of battery requirements later on in the article.

You can also download Dometic’s mobile app, which lets you monitor and change your temperature on the go. 

The price tag on this rugged little van life fridge is definitely a bit eye-watering, but Dometic has built itself a reputation for great quality and durability. Most vanlifers that own this fridge see it as a long-term investment, which I definitely agree with. 

Specs

Storage Capacity (L):
55
Fridge and/or Freezer:
Both, but only one at a time
Power source:
AC, DC or DC Solar
Weight:
47 lbs
Dimensions:
17.91 x 18.92 x 28.35
Included:
Nothing additional included

Cons

  • No dual zone storage. It is either exclusively an ice box or exclusive a campervan fridge at any one time, which can limit what you are able to put in it.

Other than that, this is probably one of the best van refrigerators you can buy and certainly one that will make life and cooking on the road much more convenient. There’s a reason it’s got over 80 percent 5-star ratings.


Other Great Options


Best Van Life Fridge for Quality and Power Use: ARB ZERO Portable Fridge/Freezer

ARB is another one of those standout names in mobile living/overlanding, making everything from van awnings to van refrigerators.

The ARB Zero Fridge/Freezer is definitely the best quality-power conservation dynamic to be found on the market, and you can pretty much tell just by looking at it.

It’s also well-designed for life on the road with its low-profile recessed carrying handles, which also have nice integrated steel tie-down points to make sure the fridge stays in place when driving over rough terrain. 

The stainless steel exterior and hard plastic mouldings make this a great piece of camping, van life and outdoor gear. 

The ARB Zero, insofar as power is concerned, conserves power even better than the Dometic CFX above, drawing, on average, 0.8Ah/hour, thanks to its very well-made variable speed compressor. There are 12V connections on each side of the chest. 

You might consider opting for one of the larger models (from the 63Qt onwards) because they have a nice side-opening lid option that makes them more compatible with a wider range of van builds/setups

Specs

Storage Capacity (L):
36L
Fridge and/or Freezer:
Both, but only one at a time
Power source:
AC, DC
Weight:
48.7 lbs
Dimensions:
19.3″D x 27″W x 18″H
Included:
USB 5V outlet for charging

Cons

  • Less storage space than the Dometic CFX at a similar price. This version of the ARB Zero holds around 20L less than the Dometic CFX and costs around the same. 
  • No solar option. While it is more energy-efficient than the comparably-priced Dometic CFX, it doens’t have the same solar capabilities, which could be a factor if you don’t have a great power setup. 

Still, a fantastic, well-made van life fridge with more than 85% five-star ratings from owners.


Best Affordable Campervan Fridge: ICECO VL60 Pro Portable Refrigerator

A big part of van life or life on the road more generally is saving money, so the idea of dropping a grand+ on a campervan fridge can be a distressing one. Luckily, the ICECO VL60 Portable Refrigerator is a very nice, quite large (60L) option for those on a budget. 

I think the major selling point for me with this very nice van life fridge was the multi-directional lid that opens on either side and is fully removable for easy cleaning and loading. Anything that lets me work around my vehicle layout automatically gets extra points. 

A LED temperature display, easy-to-use push-button interface and DC, AC and USB charging ports make this cheaper but still very versatile van refrigerator an easy contender with some of the more expensive options out there. 

ICECO also includes a bunch of replacement parts–drain plug, corner guards, a replacement handle–which adds to the value. 

Specs

Storage Capacity (L):
60L
Fridge and/or Freezer:
Both, but only one at a time
Power source:
AC, DC
Weight:
55.1lbs
Dimensions:
30.2 x 18.3 x 18.2 inches
Included:
Spare parts

Cons

  • The warranty only covers the electric compressor. While it’s nice that ICECO will cover the compressor for five years, the rest of the fridge only gets one year. 


Other than that, a great 60L van life fridge that provides a ton of storage space and does everything the more expensive brands do. No wonder it’s got an 85% 5-star approval from owners.


Best Upright Van Life Fridge: Upstreman 1.7 Cu.ft Mini Fridge with Freezer

The Upstream Adjustable Thermostat Refrigerator is a nice alternative to the chest-style single-zone freezers I’ve covered so far. 

Accommodating an upright fridge can be a bit easier, depending on your vehicle layout, because it can be better to use vertical rather than floor space when possible, and the Upstream, with its reversible door, make this easy. 

Easy-to-adjust 5 variable temperature settings and a compact freezer make this a nice addition to any van build. It’s also quiet–38dB, so you can fall asleep to the sound of the rain or ocean instead of a campervan fridge. 

It’s also energy efficient (an estimated 0.5kWh per day)–most campervans require around 2.16 kilowatts of electricity per day and need to store around 2100 watt-hours of electricity to run basic things like smartphones, microwave ovens, 12V minifridges etc. 

Specs

Storage Capacity (L):
48L
Fridge and/or Freezer:
Both, but only one at a time
Power source:
AC
Weight:
29.4 lbs
Dimensions:
18.9” *17.7” *19.3”
Included:
No included extras

Cons

  • Wire shelves. Glass shelves are just easier to clean, IMO. 
  • Some reviewers contend the freezer leaves something to be desired.

All in all, nearly three-quarters of owners loved this van life fridge enough to give it five stars.


Best Offroading Van Refrigerator: ARB Elements

A lot of people get into van life because they want a lifestyle that allows them to spend more time in nature or pursue the outdoor activities that bring them joy (a la pro rock climber Alex Honnold). 

If that is you, then the best van life fridge for offroading is the ARB Elements. ARB is known for making tough gear for overlanding and other extreme living applications, and the Elements is definitely made to be extra durable. 

It’s a 100 percent weatherproof fridge that is just as comfortable indoors as it is outdoors, and it is very theftproof. 

A skookum stainless steel and anodized aluminum design keep the fridge protected and corrosion-resistant, and the electronic panel is also completely weatherproof–which also doubles as a four-digit security lock. 

In terms of power requirements, the Elements will use around 0.9 Ampere hours/hour (just for refrigeration). 

Specs

Storage Capacity (L):
59.6L
Fridge and/or Freezer:
Both, but only one at a time
Power source:
AC, DC
Weight:
70lbs
Dimensions:
24″D x 37″W x 22″H
Included:
No included extras

Cons

  • The weight. At 70 pounds, this is the heaviest van life fridge on the list. Lighter is always better when living in a van. 
  • The price tag. This beast is expensive, and if you don’t need the weatherproof features or the added security stuff, it’s definitely going to be overkill. But hey, if you can afford it, why not?

Still, with a nearly three-quarters five-star rating, clearly, the people who’ve bought this heavy-duty campervan fridge love the s**t out of it.


Best Dual-Zone Fridge for a Campervan: Whynter FM-65G 65 Quart Dual-Zone Portable Refrigerator

If you don’t feel like going for the more expensive brands on this list (ARB, Dometic), Whynter is another great option that I’ve seen in plenty of van builds, and the FM62 is a nice alternative because it’s also the only dual-zone van refrigerator on this list

Each of the zones is independently controlled, so you can set one as your freezer and the other as your fridge (something you can’t do with any of the other chest-style van life fridges on the list). 

The Whynter certainly doesn’t look at cool as some of the other options on the list (the ARBs look like something out of Borderlands), but it’s got a lot of space, a lot of functionality and some nice smart features like a door warning system and LED temp display that make up for it. 

Specs

Storage Capacity (L):
58.7L
Fridge and/or Freezer:
Both AND can be used simultaneously
Power source:
AC, DC
Weight:
57lbs
Dimensions:
18.25 x 28 x 21
Included:
8-feet AC power cord and 10-feet DC power cord

Cons

  • Not as power-efficient. Its Ah usage is already higher than all of the other van life fridges on the list (1.1), and if you’re using both the fridge and the freezer setting, you can definitely at least double the amount of power you’ll need. 

Other than that, IMO, the less sexy aesthetics are not really a big factor when space is at a premium, and nearly three-quarters of owners love the Whynter enough to rate it five stars.


What Went Into My Selection Process for the Best Van Life Fridge List

In a nutshell: a ton of personal experience. I’ve used so many campervan fridges over the years–in vehicles, in tiny apartments, and outdoors. I’ve also been living in small spaces pretty much since I left home to go to university. 

I’ve gone from a dorm room to shoebox apartments to a van to living life on the road as a digital nomad and wildlife photographer in hotel rooms, tents, hammocks, RVs, mobile homes, bird-watching lodges and the like. 

I also spent many hours pouring through the reviews of different van life fridges out there, reading and watching people talk about what they do and don’t like in a particular van refrigerator. 

All in all, I think I’ve put together a pretty comprehensive guide to this essential piece of vanlife gear and what’s out there. 


Main Evaluation Criteria When Choosing a Campervan Fridge

In every review on the above list, in addition to describing some of each van life fridge’s most attractive features, I also broke each one down by a recurring set of specifications. These are the most important things to pay attention to when choosing a van refrigerator. 

They are: 

  • Storage capacity
  • Power Type and Efficiency
  • Weight
  • Dimensions 
  • Style

Storage Capacity

Storage capacity is measured in volume (i.e., how much a fridge can hold) and is usually indicated in either litres or quarts. The larger the capacity of the fridge, the more space it’s going to take up and, most likely but not necessarily (it’s technology-dependent), the more power it’s going to consume. 

You want enough storage capacity to where you are able to store at least a few days worth of groceries but not so much that your fridge takes up a disproportionate amount of space in your van. 

Power Type and Efficiency

Power type refers to how a fridge draws its power. The options are AC, DC or both. One of the options on the above list (the Dometic CFX) also has a solar power feature that allows you to draw energy from the sun. 

Efficiency refers to how much of your vehicle’s energy a fridge uses, usually measured as Ah (Ampere hours). An Ampere hour is the amount of energy charge a battery needs to allow 1 ampere of current to flow over the course of an hour. 

The 2022 Ford Transit, for example, comes with a 70Ah 12V AGM battery. If you were considering the Dometic CFX on the above list, then, which the company contends uses 1Ah/hour (depending on the temp setting), one hour of usage would account for 1/70th of a 2022 Ford Transit’s entire battery capacity. 

You can apply this logic to whatever battery source you are using to run your setup. 

Weight

I also always factor in weight because, at the end of the day, these van life fridges are designed to be moved around. If you pull up to a camping spot and want to take the fridge out, so you have easy access to campfire beers, then you want to know the weight. 

One of the fridges on the above list (the ABR Elements) weighs 70lbs. That’s definitely not light, so it’s important to factor in whether you think you will be able to easily move a van refrigerator around. 

Dimensions

The dimensions are another key buying criteria for any vanlifer because you only have so much floor (and vertical space) to allocate. I’m permanently hungry, so my fridge and food are extremely important, which means I’m usually willing to allocate a bit more square footage to my fridge than a normal person. 

You should also consider how a particular van life fridge opens (does it give you the option to open it from either side?) and how the handles sit (are they low-profile that stay out of the way?). 

Style

There are two main style considerations: upright vs chest-style and single vs dual-zone. Most of the campervan fridges I covered on the above list are chest-style because they tend to be easier to accommodate (though not always) and they are made by dedicated outdoor and overlanding brands like ABR and Dometic that understand the complications and limitations of life on wheels. 

When it comes to single vs dual-zone, again, most of the van life fridges I’ve curated on my list are single-zone. That means you get one single area in which to put your items, and the temperature you set is applied to everything. 

A dual-zone van refrigerator, on the other hand, gives you two separate compartments for which you can set the temperature independently. One can be your fridge, the other your freezer. 

Keep in mind that these types of fridges/powered coolers will probably be more taxing on your power supply.


5 Fridge Organization Tips for Van Life Fridges

50+ litres of storage space might sound like a lot, but in reality, when you compare it to what you get with a full-size refrigerator in a normal kitchen (a 100-150L fridge for a two-person household), it’s not. 

If you still want to eat your three meals a day and grocery shop somewhat normally, keep the below van life fridge organization tips in mind: 

Tip 1: Sort Your Food Into Categories

If someone were to ask me to describe the key to a successful life on the road (or life in any small space) in one word, my unequivocal answer would be “organization.”

This principle applies to everything, including your van refrigerator. Develop a category system (fruit and veg here, meat there, drinks there, condiments there) and force yourself to stick to it. 

Tip 2: Consolidate Where Possible 

Duplicate items in a campervan fridge will be your downfall. If it’s possible, always consolidate. Try to have it so that there is only ever one bottle of a certain kind of sauce, one bag of shredded cheese etc. 

Tip 3: Always Look for Ways to Use Vertical Space

You should be extra judicious about allocating horizontal space, and a good way to do this is to first look for vertical space opportunities. 

If you stand back and look at your full fridge, you will undoubtedly notice that there is plenty of unused vertical space in there that you simply don’t have access to (yet). 

Consider purchasing something like roof magnets for drinks. These allow you to store anything with a metal cap at the top of the fridge (space that is rarely used). 

Tip 4: The Binder Clip Trick

If you place a binder clip on a wire shelf, you can use it as a stop to stack bottles so that they don’t roll around. 

Tip 5: Get Rid of Unnecessary Packaging ASAP

When you buy a new food item (especially meat), but also things like berries, cheese, etc. it often comes in packaging that has a lot of air inside it. This is wasted space in a van life fridge. 

Instead, unpackage what you can after grocery shopping and, where possible, transfer it into something that economized on space better (a Tupperware, ziplock baggies etc.).


Van Life Fridge Placement Ideas

The general rule of thumb with any appliance or piece of gear in a small living place like a vehicle is that it should take up as little of your actual “living space” as possible. 

To that end, here are a few van life fridge placement ideas that can help you maximize your sitting, lying, viewing, moving and “leisure” space: 

Placement Idea 1: Under the Bed

If you’ve got a bed with storage underneath, a great place to store your van refrigerator is stowed away in one of the large drawers. 

When you need something from the fridge, just pull it out. Make sure that you are able to conveniently open the fridge while it’s still in the drawer, though. 

Placement Idea 2: Under a Window Seat

Depending on your set-up and the type of van you’re using, you might have a window seat with some storage space underneath. If you can spare the storage space for something like a campervan fridge, this is a great spot to keep it out of sight and out of the way. 

Placement Idea 3: Under Your Cooking Area

This is probably the most common spot to store a van life fridge because it’s always nice when you can keep your food in the kitchen area. 

Of course, this is only an option if your van has an actual cooking area.


Food And Cooking Tips While Living on the Road 

Cooking and eating well while living on the road isn’t impossible, but it does involve extra time, planning, power considerations, resource (particularly water) considerations and storage considerations. 

With that in mind, below are some great #vanlife cooking and eating tips while living on the road. 

  • Limit your meat consumption. Cooking and eating meat requires a substantial amount of water–water for cooking and water for cleaning animal oil and fats. 
  • Boil less. Boiling also uses up precious water. Instead, look for recipes (or versions of recipes) that substitute other, less water-intensive cooking methods. 
  • Make simpler meals. Elaborate meals are a joy to eat, and a pain in the butt to clean up–even more so without a convenient dishwashing space and limited water. 
  • Invest in a decent campervan stove and make sure if you’re cooking inside, you’ve got adequate ventilation and a carbon monoxide detector. 

Know that you can eat cheap and healthy while living on the road. Take a look at this very popular Reddit post on the EatCheapAndHealthy subreddit by a professional chef. It breaks down a bunch of amazing food tips that anyone interested in what and how they eat should know.


Why Investing in Good Quality Van Life Fridge Makes Sense

Whether you’re committing to living in a vehicle (van or otherwise) full-time or you have a campervan that is a large part of your vacation and leisure activities, a decent, low-energy fridge/freezer is an essential piece of gear. 

I hope the above guide has provided a thorough breakdown of what’s on the market (in terms of price, style and use) and how to get the most out of your van life fridge. 

Cheers!

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