While premium, top-dollar coolers like YETI work great for camping, boating, and general outdoors, the vast majority of experienced RV’ers have found that iceless coolers are the way to go in terms of having the best camper cooler or RV cooler for long-distance road trips; not only are they more convenient, they also eliminate the need for ice altogether, and allow for melt-free portable cooling for the entirety of your time out on the highway.
In this article, we’ve hand-picked the very best camper coolers based on the experience and recommendations of hardcore RV’ers, who know full-well the kinds of advantages they can offer during a long term summertime camping/road trip.
Best Camper Cooler: Our TOP Picks
Dometic CFX Series Portable Electric RV Cooler – “Editor’s Choice: Best Product”
Let’s put it this way; the Dometic Electric Coolers brand is to RV’ing and trailer/pop-up camping what the YETI brand is to outdoors coolers – these are top, top quality iceless coolers that can run off solar panels, your RV’s generator/power supply, or on its own battery power.
Of course, one of the main concerns of RV’ing and trailer camping is energy consumption; folks are always looking for ways to decrease power consumption and increase energy efficiency. That being said, we’ve heard time and time again that one of the favorite things campers have about these Dometic coolers is their phenomenally low energy consumption; once they’re cooled down to desired temperature, they draw about 0.4 to 0.6 amps per hour, which anyone will tell you is a remarkably low draw for a fully operable freezer – a lot of folks run/charge them completely off solar panels, thereby freeing up the RV’s power supply completely. A very worthy investment for any serious RV’er or trailer camper.
As far as battery life goes, you can typically expect the coolers to average about .75 amps/hour (including initial food/drink cool down that draws much more amperage), so the 55 amp-hour battery would easily last 3-4 days with no recharging.
The CFX series comes in six different sizes (26, 35, 38, 46, 61, and 94.5 liters), and each size/model comes with cooler/freezer dividers, a removable wire storage basket, and is built with 100% stainless steel hardware — these really are extremely well-built, top-of-the-line coolers.
Why We Love It: Dometic CFX Series
- Comes with digital controls and an LED display which lets you set the desired temperature, monitor energy consumption, and save pre-set temperatures even when the unit is turned off
- Temperature range of -8 F to 50 F
- USB ports for portable cell phone/electronics charging
- Quick Chill turbo function for ultra-fast food/drink cool down
And lastly, the CFX Series have some awesome accessories that can really help to increase convenience and performance, like an insulated protective cover, a roll-out sliding mount, or a wireless digital display ectric series is an excellent option, and is one of our reader’s favorites.
Koolatron P27 29-quart Voyager Cooler: The Best-Kept Secret in Portable Electric Camper Coolers?
It only comes in one size (29-quart), and for reference, it can hold up to 48 12-oz cans (and of course, there’s no ice needed).
The primary draw of thermoelectric coolers is that they eliminate the need for having to make expensive food/drink stops on long, multi-day road/camping trips; you’ll truly pay for one of these things in a single trip, as long as you pack wisely and plan all of your meals for the day.
The P27 Voyager cooler runs off of your car’s 12V power outlet, and the solid state thermoelectric module (which is a NASA technology, by the way) can reach temperatures of about 40-degrees lower than the ambient air temp, while drawing less power than the vehicle’s tail lights.
Also, one of user’s favorite features is that, in addition to its cooling power, the P27 can also be used as a heater; it can warm food/drinks up to 130 degrees F.
Dometic CDF Series Portable Freezer/Refrigerator RV Cooler – “Editor’s Choice: Best Value”
These are just a hair cheaper than the more feature-laden CFX Series, but still provide the same top-quality, low-energy cooling/freezing capabilities that can be expected from Dometic.
The CDF models comes in eight different sizes (10.5, 18, 23, 31, 37, 49, 80, and 106-liters), and just like the CFX coolers, they have a temperature range of -8 F to 50 F. This is what really makes these Dometic coolers far superior to something like the Koolatron; instead of only being able to cool down to 40-degrees below ambient temperature, they’re capable of achieving a full range of freezing temperatures, even under extreme heat.
The CDF series, while very energy efficient, seem to draw slightly more amperage than the CFX models; one user reported an average draw of 3 amps per hour during a 30-hour period. However, he was opening/closing the cooler a lot, and also was cooling an entire stock of food and drinks from warm/room temperature, down to about 36 degrees. A more realistic energy consumption would be about 0.8 to 1.5 amps per hour, at an ambient temperature of 90 degrees.
Why We Love It: Dometic CDF Series
- Separate refrigeration/freezing compartments
- Incredibly quiet when running – you can’t even tell they’re on
- Three-stage battery has about a 30-hour run time, depending on use/conditions
- Can be used with solar panels
- Can also be used with Dometic accessories like the digital monitor, slide out track, and insulated cover
Igloo 40375 Iceless 40-Quart RV Cooler
This is a 40-quart cooler that can run off of either a 12V car plug, or a standard 110V wall outlet. Unlike the Koolatron which operates on a thermoelectric cooling module, these Igloos run on a convection cooling fan which circulates air through the inside of the cooler; performance-wise, though there’s not much difference between the two — both have a ‘max cold’ temperature of about 40-degrees lower than the ambient air temp.
Of course, one of the main draws of this particular cooler is that’s a good deal larger than the 27-quart Koolatron, but still much less expensive than one of the Dometic’s – the perfect intermediate for someone looking for a full, family-size iceless cooler while not wanting to break the bank.
Another impressive thing about the new 40375 convection coolers is that they operate on a high-performance brushless motor, which can barely even be heard while running. Also, Igloo was smart enough to put heavy-duty handles on them, so they can be easily transferred, for example, from the car after a long drive to a hotel room for the night. And they are constructed with full-body insulation, so you can expect them to keep cool overnight, even when they’re not plugged into a power supply.
Best Cheap RV Cooler: Wagan 12V Cooler/Warmer
This is a small cooler at only 24-liters, and it is only available in the one size. For reference, it can hold up to 24 cans, or up to four 2-liter bottles standing up vertically.
This cooler won’t get down quite as cold as the Igloo convection or Koolatron thermoelectric; instead of 40-degrees lower than the ambient temperature, it’ll only do about 32 to 36-degrees below. However, it does work great as a warmer, with the ability to heat food or drinks up to 140 F.
This is a great, inexpensive option for couples, small families, or the solo road-tripper – like our other picks, it really is an upgrade over a traditional RV ice box, and is such a convenience not having to deal with constantly replacing bags of ice and dealing with soggy food and warm drinks.
In addition to the 24-liter, Wagan also manufactures a line of smaller, personal thermoelectric coolers that are great for picnics, chilling bottles of wine on the go, or stashing your day’s lunch/snacks for a long-distance road trip.
RV Coolers: The Bottom Line
Like we said, the main advantage of a camper cooler or RV cooler for long hours on the road is that you can completely do away with cumbersome bags of ice; talk to any experienced RV’er, and they’ll go on and on about the advantages of carrying a well-functioning, 100% portable fridge/freezer with them everywhere they go.
Whether you’ve got the money to drop on a top-of-the-line Dometic, or are more interested in one of our budget picks, bringing a car-powered iceless cooler along on your long-distance road/RV trip this summer will be a decision you’ll certainly be glad you made — we did it years ago, and have never looked back since.
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Last update on 2020-02-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API