The 10 Best Portable Freezers
This wiki has been updated 25 times since it was first published in December of 2016. Whether you are sailing around the globe, cruising the highways in an RV, or just taking a weekend camping trip, one of these portable freezers will keep your food fresh and your ice cream from melting. They are available in a wide range of sizes to suit individual and group needs, and at prices to meet most budgets. Many have useful features that make eating and drinking well on the go easy. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
December 04, 2020:
Because portable freezers are used to keep food cold, and improperly stored food can be a health hazard, we mostly focused on only including time-tested models from well-respected manufacturers. That being said, because these are such quality units, they are often quite expensive. So, rather than assume that everyone can afford a premium model, we did include a couple of more budget-friendly options, specifically the Ausranvik APR-35D and Alpicool C Series. However, we would caution anyone from using one on long, multi-day trips where they won't have the ability to re-supply if needed, such as when sailing on the open ocean. While we don't expect either of them to fail, we are just most comfortable recommending others for such uses.
Most sailors and off-the-grid livers will probably be familiar with Engel, ARB, and Norcold. Visit any sailing or RV forum and you will see these names bantered about, so, as you might expect, we have some great options from each of them. The Engel MR040F is probably the most popular, partially due to its very low amp draw, both during operation and on startup, and partially due to its durable components. Plus, the 40-quart capacity seems to be just the right size that it isn't overly difficult to find a place for on most RVs and boats, yet it still offers enough space for many day's worth of food. The ARB Series II is a relatively new release and it touts some high-tech features that showcase this, specifically Bluetooth that allows you to adjust its settings and check on the interior temperature right from your mobile device. For unprotected use, such as on the back of a pickup truck, the all-weather ARB Elements is the way to go.
Dometic previously split their offerings up under several brand names, but has started to consolidate them. Weaco, a generally well-respected brand in the off-the-grid living community happens to be one of these. So, if you used to have one of their freezers and liked it, or perhaps heard talk of one and wanted to get one, then you'll want to look to the Dometic CF80 and Dometic CF 25, our two top recommendations from the company. Bear in mind that the former is considerably large and heavy, so you'll want to make sure you have space for it and there will be someone to help you move it when needed.
April 11, 2019:
Portable freezers come in handy in a variety of situations, from short road trips to extended-period RV-living. We made sure to round up a diverse list of models that consider all the reasons one might need this product. For those who don't want to feel stuck to the power source, all so they can have cold food and drinks, the Ausranvik APR-25D is a great choice. It stays cold for up to 10 hours after being unplugged, so you can take it out of the vehicle and lug it over to the picnic tables or onto the beach. Its USB port is another feature that provides some flexibility, freeing up the USB port built into your car for additional devices. Those headed off for longer trips who need to pack a comprehensive grocery list will like the Whynter FM-45G and the ARB 10800472, each of which have generous storage capacities. The Whynter FM-45G also has two removable baskets to keep foods separate. On that note, if you are storing a variety of foods that require separate sections, the Costway Mini Electric is a freezer/refrigerator combo, as is the Norcold NRF30, the Engel MD-14F, and the Dometic CF80.
A Brief History Of Freezers
Today, most people would find it unthinkable to live without a refrigerator or freezer in the home.
With refrigerators and freezers being so commonplace nowadays, it can be easy to forget that keeping food fresh for an extended period of time was a problem that absolutely bedeviled our ancestors for millennia.
Humans in frigid climates initially used Mother Nature as a freezer, with many cultures storing meat and other perishables in naturally-occurring ice formations. This was quite useful — until the ice melted or a scavenger came along and made a meal out of your leftovers, that is.
The ability to hoard sustenance played a big role in our ability to transition from a nomadic lifestyle to a centralized civilization. If you didn't have to eat your food immediately to prevent it from spoiling, you could stay in one place for longer, instead of constantly following a herd of your preferred prey.
Despite this, there were precious few advancements made in food storage technology for much of our history. Pickling, brining, and salting were all commonplace, and these techniques allowed merchants and explorers to stock enough food to sustain a long journey. However, spoilage was still a big problem.
The first form of artificial refrigeration was created in 1755, when Scottish chemist William Cullen used a pump and diethyl ether to lower the temperature inside of a tube. While not suitable for cooling anything on a large scale, Cullen's experiments proved that it was possible, and in the 19th century several advances were made in vapor-compression technology.
Meanwhile, ice boxes were used in many homes to keep food cool. These were wooden boxes lined with a material like tin or zinc, and they housed large blocks of ice in a partitioned area. These were extremely useful at the time, and may have even helped lower infant mortality during the summer months. However, the ice required frequent refilling, and icemen would deliver new blocks regularly, just like milkmen.
In 1913, home refrigerators hit the market, but they relied on toxic chemicals that limited their use. The introduction of Freon in the 1920s, however, presented an option with lower toxicity levels, allowing the market to expand greatly in both home and commercial use. Separate freezer compartments were developed in 1940, and for the first time, frozen foods became commonly available.
Today, most people would find it unthinkable to live without a refrigerator or freezer in the home. It seems like, the more advanced we become, the harder it is to understand how our ancestors ever survived in the first place.
I mean, I can understand not having refrigerators, but how did ever they live without fidget spinners?
Benefits Of A Portable Freezer
You may think that portable freezers are only for people who spend most of their lives outdoors, like campers and adventurers. And while it's true that these people will definitely benefit from having a quality freezer, these appliances are valuable for almost anyone.
Having something that everyone can eat besides jerky and s'mores will ensure you have happy campers — and that's the only real measure of a trip's success.
If you live in a rural area, getting a freezer to store your groceries during transport can prevent your ice cream from melting or your fish sticks from thawing. Even if the grocery store is just down the block, though, a freezer can give you more flexibility when planning your day, allowing you to go shopping first thing in the morning and then stay out all day without worrying about your food going bad.
Likewise, if you have something volatile that you need to keep fresh all day, like breast milk or medicine, you can keep it nearby without risking spoilage. This can come in extremely handy for parents, as they can attend to their children's needs without having it interfere with their daily errands.
Ultimately, however, a portable freezer is all about convenience. Yes, it may seem like cheating while you're on a camping trip, and no one will give you any points for roughing it, but it's much easier to feed your family when you can pack a few meals ahead of time. Having something that everyone can eat besides jerky and s'mores will ensure you have happy campers — and that's the only real measure of a trip's success.
Choosing A Portable Freezer
Whether you're trying to make your camping trip a bit more civilized or you just like having more food options on your road trips, investing in a portable freezer is definitely a smart choice.
Campers will likely want a model that can be powered by their car battery, while suburbanites may be happy with a shorter-range unit.
The first consideration when shopping is the capacity. Do you need to feed an entire brood, or are you just fending for yourself? While a larger freezer will give you more options, it will also eat up precious space in your vehicle, as well as suck down more electricity. Try to be economical when packing, but if you have to leave too many items behind, it can defeat the purpose.
Many models require some installation if you're putting them in a car, including some electrical work, so be sure you can handle this or are willing to pay to have it done before you buy. There are solar-powered options available, as well, but those can come with their own host of problems, such as using them in inclement weather.
Also, modern freezers are designed to be extremely energy-efficient, so there's little risk of it draining your battery, but that's something to check on before you buy. You may need to upgrade to a newer battery, or invest in a portable jump-starter, just in case.
There are options that have chargeable batteries, as well, if you're just looking to plug it in at home. This is certainly the easiest option, but not suitable for longer trips where you won't have access to power.
Ultimately, your decision should hinge on how much you'll need to store and how much power you'll need to have. Campers will likely want a model that can be powered by their car battery, while suburbanites may be happy with a shorter-range unit. Either way, these freezers will provide you with more flexibility when planning a trip of any length.