Australian Geographic Outdoor - - Fave Gear - WORDS AND PHO­TOS DEAN MEL­LOR

ONE OB­VI­OUS AD­VAN­TAGE of four-wheel driv­ing as an out­door pur­suit is that, com­pared to hik­ing, MTBing or even ca­noe­ing, you can carry a lot of gear with you, and one piece of equip­ment that I never leave home with­out is my trusty old Engel fridge/freezer.

I’ve had this 39L Engel for more than 20 years and while there are a lot of newer and fancier por­ta­ble fridge/freez­ers on the mar­ket that are more ef­fi­cient, have elec­tronic ther­mo­stat con­trol, are qui­eter and sport bet­ter de­signed and larger in­te­rior cab­i­nets, the thing I re­ally like about my noisy, rat­tly old Engel is that it has never let me down. Sure, I have had to re­place the 12V socket and fuse holder on the power lead a cou­ple of times, but the pop­u­lar­ity of this fridge over the years means that (con­sum­able) spare parts like this are avail­able at most good camp­ing stores, so un­less you have a prob­lem when you’re re­ally out in the sticks you’ll never be left with warm beer and spoiled food.

Sure, the Engel has its faults: it’s noisy and rat­tly (as men­tioned); the carry han­dles are flimsy; the ther­mo­stat con­trol can be a bit hit and miss; and there’s no drain plug to aid clean­ing at the end of a trip. But this truly is one prod­uct that does what it says on the box: it keeps stuff cold.

The Engel is built tough, with a steel outer case and a sur­pris­ingly ro­bust plas­tic in­te­rior. A low cur­rent draw and an ef­fi­cient de­sign (with a cool­ing plate that runs all the way around the in­te­rior cab­i­net and plenty of in­su­la­tion) means I can run the Engel off a 12V power source for long pe­ri­ods with­out bat­tery recharg­ing.

Al­though not de­signed for out­door use, when fit­ted with an in­su­lated tran­sit bag (ini­tially an Engel one, and later an MSA 4x4 branded one) I’ve run the Engel in the back of an open ute with­out a prob­lem, and it’s con­tin­ued to rat­tle away out­side my tent when it’s buck­et­ing down out­side. In fact, this Engel has done thou­sands of kilo­me­tres around Aus­tralia, many on cor­ru­ga­tions that would make your fill­ings fall out. And thanks to its dual 12V DC/240V AC in­puts, it has per­formed beer-cool­ing du­ties at count­less home bar­be­cues over the years, as well as back-up food-cool­ing du­ties on the cou­ple of oc­ca­sions our pri­mary home fridge has failed. I’ve even lent it to mates for their camp­ing trips, and it al­ways comes back (even­tu­ally) in per­fect work­ing or­der.

The modern in­car­na­tion of my old Engel is the MT45FP 40L model, which is al­most iden­ti­cal in de­sign al­though with a few ex­tra fea­tures such as a user friendly dig­i­tal con­trol with LED dis­play and a built in bat­tery mon­i­tor. While RRP is a quite hefty $1580 for this model, I have seen them ad­ver­tised for as lit­tle as $1280. Con­sid­er­ing the life­span of an Engel fridge (for­ever!), I reckon this is money well spent.

Sure, the Engel has its faults… But this truly is one prod­uct that does what it says on the box: it keeps stuff cold.

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