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.