Our best portable freezer reviews will help you find the exact one for your needs. Whether you love camping, road tripping, tailgating or partying outdoors, these high quality freezers are a great solution for storing your perishable food items and drinks.
They can store your contents such as meat, seafood, frozen meals, ice cream and drinks without any worry. Portable freezers will keep your food cold if you’re going on a trip. These freezers are considered the best and most highly efficient way to bring fresh and healthy food with you when you travel for the day or for an extended excursion.
Ice packs are messy, highly inefficient and don’t keep things cold for more than a few hours. Even an electric cooler can’t maintain frozen food for very long but portable freezers can.
Eliminate Ice Packs & Bags
Portable freezers eliminate the need for ice packs or drippy bags of ice to keep your items cold. You can conserve all that space for your food and drink products instead. Portable fridge freezers are considered the best way to transport and store temperature-sensitive foods and even medications.
In addition, portable freezers are a lifesaver if you have to travel far for a grocery shopping trip. You’ll never need to experience your frozen products defrosting on the trip home.
Best Small Portable Freezer Comparison Table
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Our Reviews of the Top 10 Portable Freezers
Portable freezers are versatile and have a lot of impressive features. They can run on power from your home, car, generator or even solar panels.
Our list of portable freezers come in a wide range of sizes and capacities and have different features. Some models have a more shock-resistant exterior while others are made from steel and aluminum.
Some portable freezers have separate compartments for refrigeration and freezing. Other models can either refrigerate or freeze but can’t do both at once. The best freezer unit for your family will depend on how you plan to use it. You have a wide range of quality options to choose from on our list when shopping for the best mini portable freezer.
We have focused on choosing a wide range of the best quality portable freezers that are dependable, durable, efficient, easy-to-use and offer great value. There is an option on our list to easily meet any family’s capacity or budget requirements. We hope our list guides you in the right direction toward the refrigerator/freezer chest that best meets your needs.
Our best pick was a close contest, but this 40-quart mobile fridge/freezer from Engel came out ahead of the pack. Its combination of durability, size, user-friendliness, and performance makes it an excellent option for any traveling family.
This compact, high quality model has a top-opening lid and a narrow profile so it’s easy to fit in your vehicle. The exterior case is made from shock-resistant ABS plastic and is perfect for off-roading or marine adventures. It has reinforced corners and integrated handles for easy portability.
The Engel can function as a refrigerator or can be set to freeze or maintain frozen products. The temperature display control dial is located right on the side by the handle and can be quickly adjusted.
The swinging lid can be set to open from the right or the left side. This is a tough refrigerator/freezer and can maintain operations when tilted up to 30°.
The exterior of the Engel measures 25 x 15.5 x 18.5 inches and the interior cooling chamber is 14.5 x 10.5 x 14.4 inches. It weighs 48 pounds empty. The capacity is rated at 40 quarts or about 37.9 liters.
Where this refrigerator/freezer really earns its top status is with the design of its compressor. This fridge/freezer has fewer moving parts and is more energy-efficient than other refrigerator/freezers.
The “swing” compressor means that the Engel doesn’t require extra power to initiate the cooling cycle. It also means that the compressors in an Engel last longer and require fewer repairs over the course of their lifespan.
It operates on AC 110/220V or on a DC 12/24V battery. The fridge/freezer can be wired into both AC and DC power at the same time. It will automatically switch to AC power when available.
Despite its overall high-quality, the Engel does have a couple of disadvantages. While the case and compressor are sturdy and long-lasting, the latches for the lid are notably fragile.
In addition, the latches are not covered under the warranty. The fridge/freezer still works well even when the latches are broken though. However, a product at this price point should not have this problem.
Also, the control dial can be a bit tricky to set because the dial is not marked. You have to look closely to be sure you have selected the correct setting. A simple white mark on the dial would solve this problem.
Overall, the Engel is considered an excellent unit for keeping food products cold and for safely storing temperature-sensitive medications like insulin. It is a rugged fridge/freezer with a wide range of features that can handle bumps in the road and is resistant to corrosion. With a 3-year warranty, your investment is well-protected.
- Exterior is made from shock and corrosion-resistant ABS.
- Swing compressor is energy-efficient and durable.
- Switches automatically to AC power when available.
- 3-year limited warranty.
- Lid latches are not covered under warranty.
- Dial is missing a visible marker.
- Pricier than other models with a similar capacity.
Costway’s dual-chambered portable refrigerator and freezer is best for a family who wants a large-capacity fridge/freezer with great features at a budget price. Designed for durability, this model is compact for the capacity and has a drop-in shelf to keep your food products organized.
Like the Engel, the Costway has a narrow profile and fits easily into a car, truck or RV. The top-swinging lid allows you access to the interior while the digital LCD panel is located right on the handle. The exterior is sturdy and helps cushion the components during transport.
It can be set to refrigerate or freeze items with its powerful compressor. In addition, it has two interior compartments and comes with a drop-in shelf for the bigger one.
This refrigerator/freezer can be operated in several different modes and includes fast-cooling and energy-efficient settings. The Costway also has a range of three battery-projection settings to prevent it from draining your battery.
This model measures 27 x 13.5 x 21 inches and weighs 36 pounds when empty. The smaller section measures 6.25 x 10 x 10.5 inches and the larger interior space is 12.5 x 10 x 17.5. It has a 52 liter capacity or about 54.9 quarts between the two sections.
It can operate on a DC 12/24V battery. Otherwise, you can use the included adapter to hook it directly into your AC power outlet. It is not designed to be hooked into both AC and DC power simultaneously.
The Costway is a budget refrigerator/freezer unit with solid features. While the exterior case is sturdy, the handles and lid-latch are rather fragile.
The LCD control panel also seems to be less-reliable and subject to errors. You may need to periodically unplug this fridge/freezer and allow it to reset. The Costway is not designed to be used indefinitely like a home or mini-fridge/freezer.
Overall, the Costway is considered one of the best units for a family that needs the capacity and prefers a budget option. The dual-partitions make it easy to organize your food, drinks and medications if you’re going on a trip and the drop-in shelf is a handy bonus.
The manufacturer’s limited warranty is only good for 1 year. You should consider adding an extended warranty to best protect your investment.
- Dual-compartment design makes organizing the contents a breeze.
- Multiple settings include fast-cooling and energy-efficient modes.
- Offers 3 levels of battery protection.
- Handles and latches are fragile.
- Can’t freeze and refrigerate simultaneously despite dual chambers.
- 1-year limited warranty.
It may not appear as fancy as some other brands but the EdgeStar is a very reliable 43 quart refrigerator/ freezer with good features. It has an insulated steel gray exterior with riveted handles and a metal draw-latch to lock it closed. The generous interior space is organized by two drop-in wire baskets so you can always find your food products in a hurry.
The metal exterior offers you more insulation-power than other materials. It has a compressor based cooling method that freezes more quickly than its Thermoelectric counterparts.
It can keep your food cool for hours even without power. This model has a digital control panel and is very simple to adjust. The handles fold down when not in use to make it easy to fit into your vehicle.
The EdgeStar can operate while you drive as long as it is supported by straps or a bungee cord. Its top-swinging lid is well-insulated and the hinges and latch are sturdy and unlikely to corrode.
Additionally, it can be set to refrigerate or freeze. It also has a fast-freeze mode to rapidly cool it down.
The EdgeStar exterior dimensions are 20.8 x 24.7 x 17.7 inches while the inner chamber interior space is 14.96 x 11.42 x 18.50 inches. It weighs 48.5 pounds when empty.
Additionally, this refrigerator/freezer features a large and a small drop-in basket to organize your food and drinks. It has a capacity of 43 quarts or about 40 liters. It can hold approximately 60 cans of soda.
The EdgeStar can operate on AC 110/220V power or a DC 12/24V battery. It is not designed to be hooked into both power sources simultaneously though.
This fridge/freezer is best used in a truck or RV for a trip but is not as durable as those made from ABS or other plastics. The metal exterior makes it less-optimal for marine applications as the casing may eventually corrode.
The metal exterior is insulating but can also be dented and scratched easily. Luckily, a few dents won’t affect the function of the fridge/freezer.
The clean digital display panel is based on the lower corner near the power supply socket. Therefore, it can be tricky to access depending on how you have your freezer positioned.
Where the EdgeStar falls short is with its warranty. While it is advertised as a 1-year limited warranty, the fine print makes it clear that the warranty is 90-days for labor and 1-year for the parts. It would be best to protect your freezer with an extended warranty.
Still, it is a good option for less-active pursuits like setting up a base-camp or transporting groceries. It may not be best for boating or off-roading though. However, it can stand up to outdoor use and would be a solid choice for an RV if you like to road or day trip.
- Metal exterior provides superior insulation even without power.
- Large and small drop-in baskets make organizing easy.
- Simple to understand and operate.
- Fridge/Freezer is less durable than other brands and not ideal for off-roading.
- Location of the display panel is potentially inconvenient.
- 1-year limited warranty only covers labor for 90 days.
There were several contenders for our best budget pick. However, the Alpicool 21 quart fridge/freezer was the clear winner.
If you want a small-capacity fridge freezer that can go just about anywhere, then this might be the best one for you. It may be a budget model but this fridge/freezer has some impressive features.
It is made from insulated and shock-resistant plastic. The handles are incorporated into the casing and are very durable.
The top-swinging insulated lid is sturdy and has a gasket to lock-in the cold air. The LCD display is located on the top of the fridge/freezer and has covered buttons to adjust the settings range.
The exterior of this highly efficient mini fridge/freezer measures 22.4 x 12.6 x 12.6 inches and the inner interior chamber space is 13.5 x 9.5 x 7.5 inches. There is an extra 2.5 inches of height provided by the lid. So items under 9.5 inches tall should easily fit inside. It weighs 27.78 pounds when empty.
This fridge/freezer is as tough as they come and can operate even while at a 45° angle. It can be set to refrigerate or freeze and has an energy efficiency-mode. It also comes with 3 battery-protecting settings so you won’t accidentally drain your car battery.
Additionally, it can run off a DC 12/24V battery. Otherwise, you can use the AC adapter to plug it into a conventional 110/240V outlet. It isn’t able to be wired into both AC and DC systems at the same time. Its either AC or DC. It has a capacity of 21 quarts or about 19.8 ltrs.
This model is an excellent portable fridge/freezer but it does have some limitations. While it is compact and about the size of a standard cooler, the insulation and compressor make it heavy. You might need two people to safely move it when it is full.
There is no latch on the lid either, although the gasket seems to do a good job of keeping the lid closed. The handles are well designed for durability but their position could make it a little awkward if two people are moving it.
Overall, this fridge/freezer unit is considered an excellent budget option. It is one of the best choices for off-roading and car trips. Additionally, it is a very popular choice with long-haul truckers.
This could be a great choice for someone upgrading from an ice-packed or cooler. It would be a good choice for transporting medications. Lastly, we were unable to find a written warranty for this product. You’ll need to contact the manufacturer directly to get this information.
- Insulated housing is very durable.
- Can operate off-road and at angles of up to 45°.
- 3 battery-protection settings and an energy-efficient mode.
- Rather heavy for the overall capacity.
- No latch for the lid and uses gasket to keep it in place.
- Unable to locate written warranty information. Contact manufacturer directly.
The Dometic CDF-11 is another good quality, small portable refrigerator and freezer with some impressive features. It is designed to fit comfortably in the cab of your car or truck. It is easy for one person to carry and even has a handy shoulder strap to help you out.
The Dometic has a narrow profile and a top-swinging lid with an integrated latch. It also has two built-in cup holders. Depending on your vehicle, you may be able to place it between the front or rear seats. You could also keep it on the floor behind the front seats.
The Dometic has a partial divider inside to keep your food from shifting around. The digital LCD screen is large and easy-to-read.
You can set it to refrigerate or freeze. The buttons are self-explanatory and this freezer is incredibly simple to use.
The Dometic dimensions are 21.6 x 9.4 x 14.1 inches and weighs 19 pounds when empty. In addition, the bigger section measures 12.56 x 11.34 x 12.56 inches and the smaller section interior space is 5.95 x 11.34 x 4.92 inches.
It has a 10.5 liter capacity or about 10 quarts. 13 cans of soda can fit comfortably inside.
This CDF-11 model comes with a 12/24V DC power adapter. However, it does not come with any adapters or cords for running on AC power. You can buy an AC adapter separately if you want to power it on your home’s electricity.
There are some drawbacks to the Dometic and the primary ones are the size and weight. Its small capacity makes it less useful for multi-day trips or camping. When filled, it will likely be heavier than a similar-sized cooler.
The Dometic has an automatic sensor to prevent your battery from dying but these settings are not adjustable. You don’t have the option to turn them off if you don’t want to use them. This shouldn’t be a problem while your vehicle is running but could be annoying if you are using the freezer overnight.
Aside from these minor issues, the Dometic is considered a great choice for the right family. It is best for day-trips and keeping your drinks and snacks cold.
It would be a great option for transporting medications as well. Lastly, it is a little pricey for the size but the two-year limited warranty means you don’t need to worry about repairs.
- Compact, clean design can fit between seats or on the floor of your vehicle.
- Shoulder strap makes carrying convenient for a single user.
- 2-year limited warranty.
- Small capacity given the weight and price tag.
- Battery protection system is not adjustable.
- AC power cord or adapter not included.
If you are looking for a big portable refrigerator/freezer then consider the Whynter. It is the largest-capacity one on our list. It has a 65 quart capacity or 107 cans.
This heavy duty, quality option has a metal exterior and is very well insulated. You can store a lot of food in this unit. It’s best used for extended camping or road trips.
The Whynter has an LED display with easy-to-use features like button settings. It is really simple to set or adjust the temperature control range. It can be set to refrigerate or freeze the goods inside with its powerful compressor.
The durable handles, hinges and latches are riveted on for extra stability. They’re made of stainless steel. The insulated top-swinging lid has two latches to keep it closed.
The Whynter dimensions measure 21 x 29 x 21 inches and weighs 62 pounds when empty. It comes with an AC 110V and a DC 12/24V power cord and can be wired to both simultaneously. When AC power is available, the freezer will automatically switch over for you.
This is a heavy duty fridge/freezer with solid features but don’t expect it to be lightweight. It is a great option for a semi-permanent installation in a van, RV or boat. The elevated feet help circulate air underneath it as well.
The Whynter also has a built-in internal drain for easy defrosting. The freezer chamber is completely open and it comes with features such as a short and a tall drop-in basket. You won’t have any problems organizing your food in this freezer.
The Whynter is a great option. It is one of the most versatile on our list but it does have a couple of challenges. While technically portable, this refrigerator and freezer will be very heavy when filled to capacity. So it won’t be light.
Even with two people to support it, this fridge/freezer makes for an awkward load. If you are moving camp frequently this might not be ideal.
Also, the control panel is located on the side, right above the power sockets. Depending on how your refrigerator/ freezer is positioned, this could be difficult to easily access. However, these are minor issues and for the majority of users they shouldn’t be a problem.
The Whynter is one of the best units for an active family. The flexible capacity makes it perfect for setting up a base camp or taking long road trips.
It would make a great option to install in an RV or boat. Lastly, this refrigerator and freezer unit is backed by a 1-year limited warranty and the compressor is covered for 3 years.
- Large 65-quart capacity.
- Two drop-in baskets to organize your groceries.
- 1-year limited warranty for freezer. Compressor is covered for 3 years under warranty.
- Quite heavy and may be difficult to move when filled.
- Control panel location might be awkward for some users.
- Metal exterior is not as scratch and dent-resistant as plastic/ABS.
The ARB is a premium, high quality model with notable features. It is designed for extended trips and off-roading adventures. You won’t find a refrigerator/freezer packed with more features than the ARB.
The narrow exterior of this model is made from a sturdy molded plastic over a steel frame and is well insulated. The corners are reinforced and rounded for extra safety.
This is a good refrigerator/freezer to strap into the rear of an SUV or truck. You can even get a sliding-mount to make it easier to access.
The insulated lid swings up for convenient access. The hinge is integrated into the lid and casing for added durability.
In addition, the handles are incorporated into the casing as well and are very strong. You can use the handles to strap-down your refrigerator/freezer while you travel or secure it to your sliding-mount.
This model’s dimensions measure 27.75 x 14.96 x 20 inches and weighs 53 pounds when empty. The main compartment space measures 13.27 x 11.22 x 15.79 inches and the smaller partition is 5.95 x 11.22 x 8.11 inches.
The ARB comes with an AC 110V and a DC 12/24V power cord. You can hook this fridge/freezer into both power sources simultaneously. The refrigerator/freezer will automatically switch to AC power when it is available.
The ARB is controlled by a digital LCD screen located right by the lid-latch. The buttons are easy to understand and adjust. You can download an app from ARB that will let you control your freezer-settings from your phone or tablet so you can maximize its performance.
It also comes with a drop-in basket to best organize your groceries for a day or weekend camping excursion. It has a 50 quart or about 47.3 liter capacity and can hold up to 72 cans of soda.
The ARB is a premium model. There are even some great accessories, like the aforementioned slide-mount.
Some generic accessories are available but ARB makes it so that off-brand equipment doesn’t fit very well. You will have better success sticking to ARB-designed accessories.
In sum, the ARB is an excellent choice with great features for active families that need a sturdy refrigerator and freezer with a powerful compressor and a lot of capacity. The extra features, like the integrated cord-organization system and the light inside the freezer section, make it well worth the premium price.
It comes with a 1-year limited warranty and can be repaired at the company’s US headquarters in Redmond, Washington.
- Steel-reinforced frame makes this a durable fridge/freezer.
- Operates at up to a 30° angle.
- Downloadable app for easy temperature control adjustment from any smartphone.
- ARB-designed accessories are the only ones that fit well.
- May be a bit pricey for some.
- Only has a 1-year limited warranty
This 12-volt portable cooler/refrigerator/freezer is designed for travel. It is best used for overnight-trips and weekend adventures. It has a narrow profile and fits easily in your car or truck. The exterior is made with a sturdy plastic casing over a metal frame.
Features such as reinforced corners and steel hinges give it added stability. The handles are made from metal and plastic. They fold down against the fridge/freezer to conserve space. You can even remove them as well.
The top-swinging lid has an integrated latch. The internal LCD interior light turns on when you open it. Conveniently, the interior basket makes it easy to organize your food and drinks.
The Dometic 12 volt can refrigerate or freeze items inside. It is well-insulated and can keep your food cool for hours without using any power. It’s especially convenient for a short day trip.
The Dometic dimensions are 13.4 x 24.4 x 16.7 inches and weighs 29 pounds empty. Its main inner interior compartment space is 10.71 x 9.49 x 13.58 inches and has a drop-in basket. The smaller partition measures 5.2 x 9.49 x 7.48 inches. This refrigerator/freezer has a capacity of 28 quarts or about 26 liters.
The Dometic 12 volt comes with an AC 110/240V and a DC 12/24V power cord and can be hooked into both power systems simultaneously. It will default to AC power when it is available. This refrigerator and freezer has a 3-stage battery protection system and automatically turns off when your vehicle is not on.
It also has a USB port and can charge your smartphone or other devices. It’s incredibly easy to understand and operate.
The digital LCD control panel is conveniently located right by the latch. The settings are clear and very easy to adjust.
Like the smaller Dometic 10 quart version, the Dometic 28 quart is quite heavy when fully loaded. You may need two people to move it.
While this 12 volt portable cooler/refrigerator/freezer is sturdy, it seems to draw more power than the manufacturer claims. The battery protection system works well but you should always keep a backup system charged for this portable electric cooler.
The Dometic may be a little too small for extended trips. However, it would be an excellent choice for day-trips and overnight camping adventures where you want to keep items cold.
The Dometic 12 volt portable electric would make a great extra fridge/freezer for an RV. It would also work well on a solar panel system. Lastly, it comes with a 2-year limited warranty.
- Sturdy reinforced design is quite durable.
- Has an internal freezer-division LCD light.
- USB-port for charging smartphones and other devices.
- 2-year limited warranty.
- Premium price tag considering the capacity.
- Seems to use more power than manufacturer claims.
- This model is not Wi-Fi enabled like their bigger fridge/freezers.
If you want a heavy duty, portable fridge/freezer that can refrigerate and freeze at the same time, then you should consider the Whynter Dual-Zone 62 quart. This premium quality option with notable features has separate sections so your groceries stay cool while your ice cream remains frozen. For extended trips and backwoods adventures, you just can’t beat the Whynter dual-zone.
It shares some features with its bigger cousin, the Whynter 65 quart. The insulated metal exterior provides superior cooling and freezing ability.
It can stay cool for hours without power which is both helpful and convenient if you take a brief day trip somewhere. The digital control screen is located by the power supply and is very easy to adjust.
Each compartment is insulated and the temperatures are adjustable via separate controls. Both sides can double as a refrigerator or a freezer. Additionally, you can use one as a fridge and the other as a freezer.
The Whynter dual-zone measures 28 x 18.5 x 21 inches and weighs 62 pounds when empty. The wide compartment space measures 13 x 12.5 x 15.5 inches and features a compressor step with an extra 7 x 8 inches of space.
Each partition has its own insulated lid with stainless steel hinges and a draw-latch. The Whynter dual-zone is a tough refrigerator/freezer and can operate at an angle of up to 30°.
Its small partition is 8 x 12.5 x 15.5 inches. Both chambers have a drop-in basket for easy organization.
The Whynter comes with both an AC 110V and a DC 12/24V power cord and can be hooked into both systems simultaneously. It defaults to AC power whenever it is available.
The Whynter dual-zone is an excellent option for an every day family on the go but it does have some limitations. For instance, the metal exterior is not very resistant to scratches and dents. Also, the interior lights are not very powerful and seem fragile.
Overall though, the Whynter is the best refrigerator/freezer to consider for folks who spend a lot of time off-the-grid. If you frequently travel for extended or even day trips in an RV or boat and have a solar panel system, then you may really appreciate the power and menu features of this fridge/freezer.
This is one of the few units that can refrigerate and freeze at the same time. It has a 1-year limited warranty and the compressor is covered for 3 years.
- Separate compartments can refrigerate and freeze items at the same time.
- Insulated metal exterior provides superior cooling even when not powered.
- Can be hooked into AC/DC power simultaneously.
- Compressor is covered under warranty for 3 years.
- Size and weight may make this difficult to fit into a smaller vehicle.
- Interior lights are not very powerful
- Only 1-year limited warranty for the freezer
If you’re looking to keep your food cold on a tight budget, then the Alpicool may be the one for you to choose. This small-capacity option is a true compressor-based refrigerator/freezer and it’s only the size of an ice cooler.
The Alpicool is one of the least-expensive options on the market but it has great features. Its lightweight but durable exterior can take a beating and still look like new. The insulated lid has a gasket-closure to lock-in the cool air. The digital control panel is conveniently located on the top of the refrigerator/freezer and can be easily adjusted.
The Alpicool is tough and can operate in a vehicle at up to a 45° angle. It is well protected from vibrations and has no problems heading off-road in a 4×4. It features energy-efficient settings and offers a 3-stage battery protection system.
This model’s dimensions measure 22.4 x 12.6 x 10.2 inches and weighs 21.2 pounds when empty. The interior compartment space measures 13.8 x 9.7 x 7.3 inches.
It has a capacity of 16 quarts or 15 liters and can hold about 20 cans of soda. The Alpicool comes with a DC 12/24V power cord and an AC adapter. It can’t be hooked into both systems simultaneously.
The Alpicool suffers from the same limitations as its more sizeable cousin though. The lid is held in place by the gasket instead of a latch or locking mechanism. When filled with food, this refrigerator/freezer is heavier than a typical cooler and may be a challenge for a single user to move.
It is difficult to find a written warranty that specifies what is covered and for how long. You will need to contact the manufacturer directly to get any details.
Luckily, this is a budget option and is inexpensive enough to be worth the risk. This model was a close contender for our best budget pick.
It only missed it because the Alpicool 21 was a slightly better value for the capacity. If you want a compact refrigerator/freezer with enough capacity for an overnight or day trip, then the Alpicool may be the best option for your family.
- Durable exterior is perfect for off-road trips.
- Capacity is suitable for day trips or overnight adventures.
- Can operate at up to a 45° angle.
- Lid does not have a latch and is held in place by a gasket.
- No internal basket to help organize your snacks.
- Written warranty information is difficult to find. Contact company directly for information.
Portable Freezer Buying Guide
If you are looking to purchase the best portable fridge freezer for camping, road trips or other outdoor adventures then you are in good company. As more families hit the road on extended adventures, the demand for better food-storage space has grown. With a portable refrigerator and freezer you can easily bring perishable items and medications along on your road trips.
What is a Portable Freezer?
While commonly referred to as portable freezers, they can actually function as both a refrigerator and freezer. Just like the full-sized versions in your home, a true portable freezer works via a vapor-compression refrigeration system (VCRS).
There are four parts to a VCRS and they are: a compressor, a condenser, a thermal expansion or throttle valve and an evaporator.
Without boring you with too much technical information, a VCRS works like this:
- Vaporized refrigerant is moved through the compressor where the pressure is increased.
- The compressed refrigerant flows through the condenser, where it is turned from a gas into a liquid. Heat is released during this process which makes the condenser hot to the touch.
- The liquid refrigerant then moves through the throttle valve and into the evaporator. The refrigerant removes the heat from the evaporator which in turn removes it from the area to be cooled (the inside of your portable freezer).
- The vaporized refrigerant is cycled back to the compressor to restart the cooling process.
To see this process in action, it’s best to check out this animated video. It demonstrates how a VCRS works to remove heat from the inside of your refrigerator.
A portable freezer/refrigerator has a thermostat that can be set to maintain a particular temperature. The compressor will automatically kick on when the temperature inside rises above the one set on the thermostat.
As you can see, a portable refrigerator/freezer is an intricate, highly efficient device. This is why they are more expensive than electric coolers.
In addition to the VCRS, a portable refrigerator/freezer will have an exhaust system and vents to expel heat from the condenser. The display panel allows you to adjust the settings on your freezer and to control the thermostat. A portable refrigerator and freezer is more complicated to operate than your average home refrigerator and should be closely monitored while in use.
Portable Freezer vs. Cooler
A cooler with ice packs may work for short excursions like a short day trip but they can’t keep food fresh for more than a few hours. These coolers can’t maintain frozen foods. If you want to store your food and medications at a safe temperature on longer trips, you’ll need a portable freezer/refrigerator.
These refrigerator/freezers are versatile, high quality, efficient devices but they are not for everyone. While a portable refrigerator/ freezer can be an asset for any family, they are also more expensive than an electric or ice-packed cooler.
So how do you know if a portable one is best for your family? Continuing reading to find out.
A portable mini freezer is a refrigerator/freezer best designed for travel. They are compact versions of your home device that can run off the battery in your car, RV or boat.
These refrigerator/freezers give you peace of mind knowing that your food is safely stored no matter how far you go.
Unlike a cooler, you won’t need to bring along an ice pack or buy bags of ice. They can operate off a variety of power sources (see Power Source below for more information) so they’re are highly efficient.
The main advantages of using a portable freezer over a cooler are:
- Stores food and medications at precise temperatures indefinitely.
- Capable of refrigerating and/or freezing foods.
- Eliminates the need for ice packs or bulk-ice for cooling.
- Able to maintain controlled temperatures even when it is hot outside.
- Can be modified to run off of almost any electrical power source.
How “Portable” is a Portable Freezer?
A small portable freezer can be maneuvered by one person. Some even come with a carrying-strap to make it easier. A portable model is compact but heavier than a similar-sized cooler.When filled with food, however, the more sizeable portable refrigerator/freezers will require at least two people to safely move.
The design of a portable refrigerator/freezer creates a few limitations to their use. The two biggest things that can diminish the performance of your portable fridge/freezer are hot temperatures and dust.
To keep them portable, they are not heavily insulated like their in-home cousins. Your portable refrigerator/ freezer will heat up faster when it is hot outside and will have to work harder to maintain your set temperature.
To avoid straining the compressor, it’s best not to operate your portable refrigerator/freezer in the direct sunlight. Instead, you should place it in a shady and protected spot to keep it cool.
The exhaust system creates an additional limitation. A portable refrigerator/ freezer will need to have space around it while it is on for the air to circulate. Otherwise, it could overheat and potentially cause a fire.
If you are using one in your vehicle you will need to be sure it has enough clearance. You can’t pack things too tightly around a portable freezer while it is in operation. You should never run a portable refrigerator/ freezer in a hot, enclosed location such as the trunk of a car.
Dust is an ever-present challenge. It comes in an endless supply in the great outdoors. Dust can accumulate on your refrigerator/freezer’s components and can reduce its ability to function.
It can be challenging to prevent when you are using the freezer outdoors each day. So it’s best to always wipe down and clean the freezer well before and after use.
Make sure the coils and power supply are kept dust-free and clean. You may want to invest in a cover for your fridge/freezer if you frequently use it outside for camping or other activities.
How To Choose a Portable Freezer
Once you have decided to take the plunge and buy a portable refrigerator/freezer, you still have a few things to consider when looking at the different models before you make a final decision. These fridge/freezers are available with a wide range of features. They can vary in price from around $200 for an average budget refrigerator/freezer to over $1000 for a large premium one.
The best things to consider are the capacity and the power supply when reviewing our list of portable freezers.
The capacity and design of a portable refrigerator/freezer will determine how much food it can hold. Portable refrigerator/freezers get more expensive as the capacity increases. So you want to choose one that’s the best size for your family.
Capacity can be reported in several ways. This can be very confusing since different companies use different measurements. Most commonly, the capacity of a freezer is measured in quarts or liters. A small portable refrigerator/freezer may have the capacity of 16 quarts (or 15 ltrs.), for instance.
Some companies also rate the capacity based on how many cans of soda the unit will hold. So a 16-quart refrigerator/freezer can hold about 20 cans of soda.
A larger size portable refrigerator/freezer with a capacity of 65 quarts can hold over 100 cans of soda. When comparing fridge/freezers, it’s a good idea to translate all the capacities into quarts to make the side-by-side view a bit easier.
Larger, heavy duty freezers on our list often have two inner chambers. This allows you to set one section for refrigeration and the other for freezing.
These freezers can organize your food on pull-out or drop-in shelves. On the other hand, smaller, average size models will have a single chamber that can either refrigerate or freeze foods.
The one thing that portable refrigerator/freezers have in common is that they all require electrical power to operate. You want to be sure that the one you choose on our list will work with the power sources you have available.
Most portable freezers come with power cords to run off your home electricity. The AC (alternating current) power cord can be plugged into any common electrical outlet.
Many also come with a DC (direct current) adapter, and this is where things can get interesting. Using a DC adapter allows you to run your portable refrigerator/freezer using a 12 or 24-volt vehicle battery. You can often plug it directly into the adapter in your car.
If you are using your refrigerator/freezer in an RV, you can hook the DC adapter into that battery system for power. Many portable freezers can be modified to run off of a propane-powered electrical system as well. However, you may need to purchase additional equipment to make it work.
Portable freezers are also a really good option for operating off a solar-powered battery. If your RV has a solar panel system already set-up, then this might be the best option. Alternatively, there are small portable solar panel kits on the market that are suitable for running a portable model.
You might also consider using a gas-powered generator or a portable power station to run your portable refrigerator/freezer at a base camp. Then you can keep your food fresh even while you’re camping or living off-the-grid.
Tips For Using a Portable Freezer
To get the most out of your portable freezer, follow and review these best practice below:
- Always store your freezer in the upright position and keep it protected from excessive heat and moisture.
- Keep the coils and power supply free from dust and debris. Follow the maintenance schedule listed in your instruction manual.
- For the best freezer performance, pre-cool your freezer for 30-60 minutes before adding your food to it. If you can, refrigerate and/or freeze food in your home fridge and then transfer the cool or frozen items to your freezer for transport.
- Periodically use an external thermometer to measure the internal temperature of your freezer. Compare it to the one set on your thermostat. You may need to adjust your settings to achieve the desired temperature when it is hot outside.
- When using your freezer outdoors, place it in a shady location that is sheltered from the dust/wind. It’s best to avoid placing it in damp locations, close to a road or where it could be rained on.
- When using your freezer in a vehicle, be sure it is strapped down so that it won’t shift around while you are driving. Check that your freezer has the necessary clearance and that the exhaust system is free from obstructions.
- Never use a portable freezer in an excessively hot environment or without adequate circulation.
- Use a backup battery, generator or power bank to charge your freezer overnight to prevent it from draining your car battery.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the difference between a portable freezer and an electric cooler?
A: The difference between a portable freezer and an electric cooler is that a true portable freezer uses a vapor-compression refrigeration system (VCRS) to remove heat from the fridge/freezer compartment. These freezers are basically miniature versions of your home refrigerator. They can be set to maintain a specific temperature.
The thermostat will turn on the compressor when the temperature rises above that setting. When operated under ideal conditions, a portable freezer can refrigerate and/or freeze perishables and drinks.
Unlike a VCRS-based appliance, a thermoelectric cooler has no moving parts. Instead, an electrical current is run through metal plates inside the cooler.
This causes one plate to get warmer while the other gets cooler. This process is known as the thermoelectric or Peltier effect. The interior of your cooler drops in temperature as the heat is transferred from the cool plate to the warm one.
A cooler is able to maintain an environment that is about 20°F cooler than the surrounding air temperature. These coolers are not able to hold the interior to a specific temperature and they can’t freeze or maintain frozen items.
Q: How does a portable freezer get power while traveling or while camping?
A: It depends on your freezer. If your portable refrigerator/freezer comes with a DC power cable then it should be able to run off of a 12 or 24-volt battery while your traveling or camping. These batteries are commonly found in cars, RVs and boats. Other DC-power options include: gas generators, power banks and using a solar panel system.
Some portable refrigerators/freezers also come with an AC power cord. Therefore, you can run it off your home’s electricity. If your freezer is a DC only appliance, you can get a DC-to-AC adapter that will allow you to use a conventional outlet.
Q: Does a portable freezer work when it is hot outside?
A: Yes, a portable freezer will work when it’s hot outside. But depending on the conditions it might not work as well. It’s best to check the specifications. Many portable refrigerators/freezers are reliable up to around 90-100°F.
When the outside temperature goes above that, the thermostat may not be able to maintain the set temperature. From a practical standpoint, when it gets hot outside you might not be able to freeze something new. However, your refrigerator/freezer should still be able to keep the previously-frozen items frozen.
Q: Could you drain your car battery by using it to power my portable freezer?
A: Yes, you could drain your car battery by using it to run your portable refrigerator/freezer. This can happen if you use your car battery to power your freezer while the car is not running.
There really isn’t any risk of draining the battery while the car is moving, however. Some refrigerators/freezers have a battery-protection system that will shut the compressor down if it is in danger of draining the battery too much.
In that case, you could potentially lose some of your perishable items. If you plan to use your refrigerator/freezer at a campsite, it’s best to have another system available to charge it overnight.
Q: How quickly does a portable freezer cool down once it is plugged in?
A: It depends. Most portable refrigerators/freezers can reach refrigeration temperatures (32-40°F) in about a half an hour. It may take longer for it to reach freezing. However, most will be able to maintain frozen items after 30-60 minutes of pre-cooling.
If you spend your leisure time on the road or frequently go on extended adventures like camping trips then you need a portable refrigerator/freezer. You can transport your food and medications cleanly and safely no matter where you travel. These highly efficient devices can run off the battery in your vehicle or hook right into an outlet.
Our best choice, the Engel, is perfect for use in a car and can handle off-roading with ease. It is a tough device and has the most energy-efficient and durable compressor on the market.
If you want something more affordable from our list, then consider our best budget choice, the Alpicool 21 quart. It is the best value freezer for the capacity and does an impressive job at cooling and freezing items.
No matter what capacity you need or how you plan to use it, our comprehensive list of portable refrigerator/freezers has got you covered.
We hope that after reading our detailed reviews and comprehensive buying guide, you’ll have all the information you need to select the best model for your needs.