AFTER 124 hours – 100 hours with the power on to test power consumption and temperature recordings every 10 minutes; and 24 hours with the power off to test each fridges’ insulation qualities – the results are in. We had no fridge failures, no food was spoiled, and all the contents were kept cold.
However, over 26 years (probably more, given this type of fridge has been around longer than my personal example) there doesn’t seem to have been huge improvements in the workings of the fridges. Sure, there are gimmicky addons – electronic thermostat readings to make setting the fridge temps easier, and fancy hinge and locking systems. Some also have improved insulation compared to my thinner-walled unit. But, at the end of the day, they still chew (roughly) the same amount of battery power.
All the fridges except my 1990 Engel feature a variable speed compressor, which helps to alleviate power consumption. However, that all depends on the ambient temps, fridge contents and general loads on the fridge as to how much better they will be. Perhaps I’m asking too much, but given a quarter of a century has passed I figured some clever engineer could have come up with a vastly improved compressor and electronics system for superior temperature regulation and battery conservation.
So, which fridge is best? At the end of the day you can’t go wrong with any of the fridges we have on test. However, the winner of this comparison is the newly released Opposite Lock 40-litre fridge.
The Opposite Lock stainless-steel unit was the outright winner at maintaining internal temperatures while daytime temps peaked. It also maintained the lowest cabinet temps for the longest period, but only by a couple of degrees for a couple of hours. Sure, you still end up with warm contents, but that little test proved how damn good the thermal insulation is – even better than the highly acclaimed Evakool fibreglass box. And we didn’t even have access to the normally included travel cover.
The Opposite Lock Snomaster compressor pulled cabinet temps down faster than all the others, so it’s safe to assume it initially uses more power. However, it then plateaus as cycles are controlled both by the electronics and the quality insulation.
The only major downside of the Opposite Lock fridge is the limited range; at the time of testing there were only 40- and 72-litre sizes. The small stacking baskets also create an issue, as tall bottles can’t stand upright. However, they do make it easier to access the contents below by allowing you to easily lift out the top basket.
The $1249 asking price is about average compared to all the others on test – except the National Luna at $1845 – and with that you get a remote temp/ battery monitor and a travel cover.
The best advice is to study the graphs, drool over the comparative specs, photos and prices, and understand the pros and cons we’ve noted. Then buy the fridge that suits you best and get out 4x4ing and camping.
Regardless of which fridge you purchase, you will have to fine-tune the temperature settings to ensure the longevity of your food and drinks. As for how long each fridge will last on your battery, that’s your job to keep the battery suitably powered. Sure, some fridges may last a little longer by using less power, but once you’ve been out for a few days, all batteries will need topping up.
What about my old Engel? It didn’t hold the same thermal efficiency within the cabinet compared to some, but it kept up with all others on test. Let’s just hope the Opposite Lock fridge can be still churning out the quality coldness in a quarter of a century – then perhaps, it can lay claim to legendary status.