Keeping your tucker cool, and health hazard-inducing bacteria at bay, is top priority in summer. Matt Wood puts the Engel MT45 Fridge Freezer Combi to the test
The portable fridge market is getting pretty crowded these days. For a long time, if you wanted a proper compressor-equipped fridge freezer, there were only a couple of brands to really consider: Engel or Waeco.
However, in recent times, plenty of cheaper options have swarmed onto the market, and you may find yourself wondering why you would fork out your hard-earned for a big lump of Engel when you can pick up a no-name box at your local camping-fishing-shooting-off-roading and awesome-all-round-bloke-supplies shop.
So I thought I’d put the new Engel MT45 Fridge Freezer Combi to the test to see if forking out for a premium brand was worth the extra coin.
I had a big trip planned that involved taking a little Renault Kangoo van places where a Renault Kangoo should never go – namely, the outback. I took the little Renault from Byron Bay, NSW, to Shark Bay, WA, via as many outback roads as I could. A two-week/8000km road trip.
With late spring temperatures reaching the high 30s in western Queensland, the Northern Territory and parts of Western Australia, I figured that this all should prove a challenging enough test of the metal-clad chilly bin.
The main selling point of any Engel is the delightfully named Sawafuji swing motor, which sounds very much like the name of a jazz band I once saw in Tokyo club. Though that could have been the sake talking.
Engel has built a name on reliability and durability, as well as performance.
The reason that the Sawafuji Swing is a thing comes down to the fact that it has only one moving part. This relatively simple motor keeps the compressor cranking on angles up to 30 degrees – and it apparently handles rough roads and violent corrugations as well, which sounds like this fridge was exactly what I needed.
I was planning to be self-sufficient as much as possible for this trip, so I prepared and then froze some pre-cooked meals. I also want to keep a beer or two cool for the end of the day once I’d pitched my swag.
The MT45 features a movable compartment divider that gives you the choice of running with 16-litre freezer and a 23-litre fridge compartments or a 22-litre freezer and 17-litre fridge compartments. Or you can pull out the divider completely and use it as a 40-litre fridge.
This all makes for some handy versatility.
A thermos-controlled fan unit blows cold air from the freezer compartment into the fridge compartment to keep things at a happy 0-5 degrees. The freezer can be set as low as -15 degrees.
Another feature that Engel is keen to point out is the low current draw. A 40-litre Engel has a maximum current draw of
2.6 amps. As you’d expect, the MT45 is also tri-volt, so it will run on 12-24 and 240 volts.
It also features a battery monitoring system.
Engel products, on the whole, tend to look decidedly old-school with their steel finish. It’s no lightweight, either, tipping the scales at 24 kilos empty. The plethora of competing fridge products out there these days often feature moulded plastic finishes that appear more ergonomic and less hard-edged.
Speaking for myself, I quite like the purposeful no-nonsense finish of the Engel; it feels built. However, a travel bag would have been a good idea for keeping bumps and grazes away from the shiny surfaces of this unit.
The Kangoo wasn’t exactly set up as a long-distance expedition vehicle, so clearly there were no dual battery systems to keep constant power to the MT. As a result, I took along a 12-volt jump pack that also had some power outlets. This kept constant power to the fridge while both the Kangoo and I were sleeping. Other times, when I was camping at a powered site, I intended to just plug the unit directly into the mains supply.
With my food supplies safe inside and the van loaded for the two-week coast-to-coast epic, I hit the road.
To act as a pantry for the rest of my food supplies, I also had a 153-litre Engel cool box on board. When I first laid eyes on it I was thinking that, size wise, it may have been a bit of overkill. However, while it may have been a great place to stash a hitchhiker, it ended up being very handy indeed.
Instead of having multiple plastic tubs floating around in the back of the van, I was able to put everything inside the cool box.
From dry foods like cereal to pots, pans and cutlery, the big box swallowed everything. Ultimately it turned out to be quite a neat storage solution.
On a big trip like this, the advantage of a using the MT45 as a fridge freezer was that I could pull a frozen meal out of the freezer compartment and into the fridge to defrost safely.
After all, it wouldn’t do to end up with a dose of food poisoning out in the bush!
The vast majority of the trip saw ambient temperatures in the high 30s. Of course, the van was air-conditioned, so the Engel wasn’t trying to maintain temperature in that sort of heat. But it
The advantage of a using the MT45 as a fridge freezer was that I could pull a frozen meal out of the freezer compartment and into the fridge to defrost safely
certainly did what it said it was going to do on the box.
I set the freezer temp dial to number four, which gave me a freezer temp of about -8 degrees. The fridge maintained a pre-programmed range of 0-5 degrees.
The built-in LED light was also a nice touch when rummaging around for a feed in the dark.
The freezer handled the Northern Territory humidity quite well and didn’t need a defrost for the entire trip. In fact, the freezer compartment stayed remarkably frost-free.
THE BOTTOM LINE
This sort of combo fridge freezer clearly has some limitations in terms of space but, for those on the road and the work site, it makes for a versatile and portable unit.
After rattling around the outback in the cargo area of a van, the MT45 certainly lived up to the Engel’s formidable reputation for durability. I’d have no qualms using this fridge in a prime mover, strapped into the back of a ute or van on a work site.
This kind of fridge is a once-only buy. Chances are you’ll never need to buy another.
It may look a little old-school but the MT45 is a well-engineered fridge freezer option
1 1. Okay, so I’d eaten most of my food at this point but at least I still had beer
4 4. Basic yet effective controls and temperature readout
2 2. The Engel coped admirably with the lumps
and bumps of outback travel
3 3. The 153 Engel cool box proved to be the perfect storage solution for this trip – not only for dry food but pots and pans and cutlery as well
5 5. Engel has a reputation for reliability and the MT45 didn’t disappoint on this trip