YOU really are spoilt for choice if you’re in the market for a 12V fridge in 2021.
There’s a huge array of options to suit a broad spectrum of budgets, and that’s great news; but for the most part, it’s a struggle to come across an offering with a significant point of difference.
BUYER'S GUIDE: 12-volt fridges
Companion’s rechargeable, lithium-equipped fridges are relatively new-to-market, and they’re particularly unique due to the fact that they’re packing an integrated 42AH battery. There’s a 60L single-zone and a larger 75L dual-zone model available, and I’ve been getting acquainted with the 60L jobbie for the past few months.
When I first got hold of the fridge I hadn’t yet sorted my vehicle’s dual battery system, so I charged up the fridge’s internal battery from mains power, threw it in the back of the ute and let it run under its own steam as I made my way out of the city and up the coast for the weekend.
Companion’s claimed 16-hour battery life seems on the mark, and I reckon that running the fridge off a vehicle’s factory 12V outlet during transit, then charging it with a portable solar panel or blanket during the day would probably see you through a weekend away in favourable conditions, without needing to rely on a second battery. You’d just need to ensure your solar regulator had a setting suitable for a lithium battery.
For longer off-grid trips you’d certainly need a more reliable external power source. I’ve now installed a dual battery system in my ute, but the fridge effectively serves to extend my battery life by 42AH of lithium power, which is no small thing. I still have the option of removing the fridge from the ute and running it off the internal battery if I ever need to camp away from my vehicle, or even just spend a day at the beach.
TEST: Dual battery systems
The fridge’s integrated USB outlets allow you to charge phones, tablets and torches, and run additional campsite equipment like LED light bars, or even another fridge via the unit’s second Anderson socket.
Internal battery aside, as a fridge, it’s a good thing. The control panel is user-friendly, the door opens in both directions and is removable for ease of cleaning and airing out, and the dual bottle openers are a neat feature. It cools down quickly and I’ve found the temperature remains stable in hot conditions despite regular access for fresh cans.
Speaking of which, the internal proportions are perfect for beer drinkers; you can slot a 30-pack of cans in sideways, leaving roughly half the capacity for tucker – or another 30-pack, depending on your priorities.
However, the external dimensions are one of the few drawbacks I’ve encountered so far. Due to the battery, it has a large footprint relative to some other 60L fridges, and that means it eats up a bit of space in your vehicle and limits your options in terms of compatible fridge slides.
The power ports (whilst conveniently located in both the front and the rear of the fridge) are positioned fairly low, which meant I had to clear space to access them. And while it’s not an issue with the fridge itself, I found the pockets on the optional fridge cover are positioned similarly low, so they jam up in the runner of the fridge slide when you retract it.
The fact the 42AH lithium battery pack is removable is awesome; it has its own USB outlets and so it can be used to separately charge and power other devices around camp if the fridge is being powered by an external source.
However, the battery pack can’t be recharged separately from the fridge, which would be handy for those who don’t have a 240V power source handy to where they store the fridge.
All in all, the Companion Lithium 60L Single Zone Rechargeable Fridge/Freezer is a great quality fridge that stands out for the versatility it offers thanks to its innovative internal lithium battery.
AVAILABLE FROM: www.companionoutdoor.com
WE SAY: Integrated 42AH power pack is a total game-changer. It adds weight, bulk and expense over some comparable fridges, but the pros far outweigh the cons.