Camper cooler box instead of a fridge?

Here’s a question I have heard a whole lot recently,

‘Does that cool box actually work as a fridge?’

The short answer is a resounding YES!

And it’s pretty convenient too.

People find it very hard to believe,

that a simple camping coolerbox that I plug into a cigarette lighter outlet,

can actually store enough food for a family of 5 and easily keep it cool for days on end!

Is it SO HARD to believe? apparently yes!

Let me show you how I use my plugin coolbox as a perfectly functioning fridge in my camper setup.

Campervan fridge or cool box, that is the question!

I thought about the problem of putting a fridge in a van for a long time during my first van build.

And the main issue for me,

was how to optimize general storage space vs food storage space.

And in the end I came down on the general storage side instead of a built in fridge.

When I use a coolbox instead a fridge, 
I can store it in the boot, when we don’t need it, and take it out when we prepare a meal.

So I use my cupboards as dry cool storage instead of taking up the area with a built in fridge.

In my experience,

The food that we bring on our road trips is more dry and tinned food rather than refrigerated.

These can be stored in a cupboard.

No problem there!

Of course there are exceptions,

you will have to store your meats, sausages, salamis and dairy products in a fridge.

But this does not warrant as much storage as you might think.

So in the end, after all my deliberations, I think the best fridge for campervan conversions is a good thermo electric coolbox with a -30 degree cooling capacity.

this simply means the fridge can cool up to 30 degrees below the ambient tempeture.

I have found that is more than enough to keep your food stuff cool on any normal summers day.


So, Which Type of campervan Cool Box do I Need?

There are three main types of powered cool box for campervans and van conversions.

They all differ in price and features,

And each type of coolbox  suits a slightly different application

1. Thermoelectric cool box:

This is the most affordable plug in cool box for your camper.
these cool boxes use 12/24v from your van or leisure battery and they can usually use the mains hook up at the campsite.
Thermoelectric coolers are ideal for weekend trips where you will not be storing food for an extended period without restocking.

Let’s face it –  if you have kids, you will be restocking all the time,

so that will not be an issue!

The Outdoor temperature range from 12°C up to 22°C
They do not exhaust fumes and you can keep the coolbox in the van without a problem.

The thermo electric cool box is more suited to a cooler climate, for example the U.K, northern Europe and northern U.S.

Heres a few options I can recommend:

Dometic Mobicool G35:


NET contents: approx. 29 litres
Supply voltage: 12 V DC, 230 V built-in AC adapter
Cooling max. 18 ° C below ambient temperature
Dimensions: (L x W x H) 540 x 350 x 445 mm
Weight: 8,1 kg
Energy Efficiency: A ++
Total capacity: 35 litres
Execution: Thermoelectric

Check out more details on EBAY.

Waeco Mobicool U30:
  • 29 litre capacity
  • Cooling up to 17°C below ambient temperature
  • 12V operation
  • Fits 2 litre bottles standing
  • foam core insulation

Check out the more details on Ebay here.

Koolatron 29 qt. Voyager Cooler:

This heavy-duty travel cooler holds up to 48 12-ounce cans or plenty of sandwich
supplies and is powered by your car’s built-in 12V outlet.
It’s got a hardbody design that can rest safely horizontally or vertically and an easy-seal lid.

Powered by any vehicle’s 12V
cigarette lighter outlet.
solid design supports horizontal or vertical usage.
Holds up to 48 12-ounce cans.
Dimensions: 17.5W x 16D x 15.4H inches.

Keeps contents 40 degrees F cooler than outside (ambient) temperature.

Check out more details on Ebay.

2. TropiCool thermo electric cool box:

High performance thermoelectric coolers.

These are generally a more efficient and more powerful version of the simple thermo electric coolbox.

The main difference is, these boxes are suitable for longer term cooling, for example keeping food for a week in yoiur van should not be a problem with this box.

They can cool up to 30°C below outdoor temperature.

And they can use either 12/24 volts DC or 230 Volts AC.
They use interior ventilation and better insulation to achieve the longer usable time range.


Heres a few options I can recommend:

DOMETIC TCX21 Tropicool Thermoelectric Coolbox:

  • Highly efficient, energy-saving thermoelectric cooler
  • Convenient to use with a soft touch control panel
  • Strong carry handles for easy transportation
  • Versatile operation, can be used when in tilted positions
  • Can operate as both a refrigerator or heater
  • Memory feature maintains pre-sets if the system is turned off
  • Volume: 20 litre

Check out the latest prices here.

3. Absorption Cool boxes:

These are ideal for warmer climates like southern Europe and U.S.

And they are Ideal for those with limited space or extra storage space like a campervan awning.
They are silent while running.

Heres a few options I can recommend:



12/ 230 volts and gas operation with gas cartridge

Sufficient height for 1,5- and 2-liter bottles

Gross capacity 41ltrs

Dimensions (HxWxL) (mm) 441 x 500 x 487

Can cool up to 30°C below outdoor temperature.

A CP 250 cartridge Campingaz cartridge has a net weight of 250 grams, so 250 grams capacity.

Note: This Cooler can not be connected to the gas bottle!

Check out more details and the latest prices here.

4. CF (CoolFreeze Compressors)

These are the most expensive and energy efficient available.

They are for use in extreme temperatures with deep freeze capacity down to -18°C
with excellent cooling performance.

As with the other catagories, the power options are 12/24v DC and 100 – 240v AC.
The coofreeze fridge can operate in an inclined position.

In general they have the best power consumption metrics and are very suitable to couple with a solar power setup.

Heres a few options I can recommend:

Dometic coolfreeze campervan coolbox.


This is really the top of the range for vanlife fridges!

Highly efficient, energy-saving thermoelectric cooler.
Convenient to use with a soft touch control panel.
Strong carry handles for easy transportation.
Versatile operation, can be used when in tilted positions.
Can operate as both a refrigerator or heater.
Memory feature maintains pre-sets if the system is turned off
Volume: 20 litre

Check the latest prices here.

I hope this is informative for you,

I have used a campervan coolbox in my campervan conversion for years.

And when I upgrade again,

I will get another coolbox and not a fridge.

The convenience is just too hard to beat!

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