4 x 4 Australia - - Gear -

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.

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