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The Best Way To Power A Camping Fridge

The Best Way To Power A Camping Fridge

Updated July 2024

camping fridge powered by solar power

Any intrepid adventurer would agree preparation is key to a successful camping expedition. One element that can't be left to chance - the storage and preservation of your food and drink supplies. Camping fridges that are effective, portable, and easy to keep running have become a must-have on modern outings, bringing some creature comforts into the wild. 

But what's the point of having a camping fridge if it's powerless when you need it most?

What you need is not just any power source—you need a reliable, efficient power solution to ensure your camping fridge battery stays charged for the duration of your trip. 

So, let's delve into the best way to power a camping fridge, ensuring it keeps your food and adventurous spirit alive.

Understanding Power Consumption of Camping Fridges

To understand your camping fridge's power demands, you must grasp how power consumption is quantified. The measuring unit of camping fridge battery power consumption is typically expressed in watts or amp-hours(AH). Quite like a jug fills with water around the clock, a camping fridge consumes energy over time, so larger fridges will require a more robust battery supply.

This can be expressed in two ways:

Usage Draw

Usage draw refers to the energy the fridge consumes when running, measured per hour. When idle, the camping fridge still draws power- albeit less than when it's in full operation (it's akin to keeping your car engine running).

Average Draw

Average draw weights in the usage draw alongside the periods when your fridge isn't running at maximum capacity, such as overnight when cooler external temperatures ease your fridge’s workload.

The data is crucial as your camping fridge isn’t continuously operating at peak draw. By understanding this, you can plan the fridge battery size more accurately.

How this Relates to Portable Fridge Power Supply

While selecting a portable fridge power supply, remember to evaluate both usage and average power draw in your calculations, as this will help determine the best way to power a camping fridge. Also, bear in mind that the available camping fridge battery options might not suffice for larger fridges with a heavyweight power draw. For example, as you review the Brass Monkey fridge range available at Jaycar, you will see models ranging from 8L right up to 115L.

solar power for camping fridge

Best Ways to Power Your Portable Camping Fridge

Given how our fridge/freezer appliances look at home and the constant energy supply they require, you might think powering up your camping fridge will be a complex task.

In reality, adventurers have more than a few options at hand to keep their supplies fresh. Whether it be through a traditional camping fridge battery or via alternative means like solar power, we're here to help you navigate the best way to power a camping fridge. 

Solar Energy

Embracing solar energy for your portable fridge power supply contributes to a more sustainable future and offers a reliable, cost-efficient solution, particularly during sun-drenched adventures when other power methods aren’t available.

While it may sound luxurious, there are affordable solar panels and solar blankets on offer that can power a range of appliances, including camping fridges.

When it comes to types of solar panels, portable solar panels are a standout choice for camping enthusiasts. Designed for outdoor adventuring, these panels are not only lightweight and compact, meaning you can position them wherever needed, but they also have the capacity to charge your appliances efficiently. There are also fixed solar panels that you can install directly to your vehicle, or even flexible solar blankets that can be hung for maximum sun exposure.

Many panels are designed to be stored flat, ensuring they don’t take up excessive space in your car, caravan, or 4WD. For numerous campers, solar energy is an excellent supplementary power source, working alongside mains and battery power for added reliability. It’s particularly useful for keeping batteries charged when the vehicle isn’t running, making it an ideal solution for extended camping trips.

The beauty of solar as a portable fridge power supply is scaling. For instance, a 900W solar charging power panel will deliver more energy quicker than a 500-watt solar panel. So, the larger the solar input, the faster your power station or camping fridge battery gets charged. Determine what you need by checking the wattage rating of your fridge—this information is usually found in the user’s manual or on the manufacturer’s website.

Solar Panels for Camping Fridge

Camping Fridge Battery Power

Battery power is often considered the best way to power a camping fridge. Whether they are charged via your vehicle, portable power packs and dual battery systems, or battery/solar portable fridges, battery options provide flexibility and convenience, enabling a reliable power source for your portable fridge, even in the remotest of locations. 

Camping fridge battery capacity will be measured in watt-hours (Wh) to determine how long a battery can power your fridge before needing a recharge. As such, before setting off, you will need to match the battery size with your fridge's power requirements to avoid running out of power. For instance, a larger fridge or longer camping trips may require batteries with higher capacity.

Portable power packs are a popular choice for their convenience and ease of use. They are usually lightweight, too, making them ideal for campers who need to frequently move their setup.

For extended trips or larger fridges, a dual battery system might be more suitable. The setup involves two batteries: one for starting the vehicle and another dedicated to powering the fridge, ensuring that your vehicle's primary battery isn't drained.

From here, review your battery's recharge cycle, referring to the number of complete charge and discharge cycles it can handle before its capacity starts to diminish. Choosing a camping fridge battery with a high number of recharge cycles can be more cost-effective in the long run.

Generator Power

A portable generator is a common choice when you need to power more than just a fridge while you're away. They can deliver a consistent and dependable power supply and are available in a variety of sizes to match different power requirements, especially in remote areas without access to electricity.

Generators essentially take in fuel such as petrol, LNG or diesel to produce electrical energy, which can be used to run your portable fridge power supply. 

They do have drawbacks, though, such as requiring a separate fuel source in addition to the generator itself, tending to be noisy, and being strictly prohibited in many sensitive areas, like national parks.

Not all generators are created equal, either, and various factors need to be taken into consideration when choosing one for your camping needs: 

  • Noise Levels: While most modern generators produce minimal noise, it's always best to consider one with a low noise level to ensure you and those around you can enjoy the serenity of the outdoors without being disturbed by the constant hum of a generator.

  • Fuel Efficiency: How much power will the generator produce per unit of fuel? As a camping enthusiast, it's ideal to go for those that produce more power with less fuel. In doing so, you get to save on fuel costs and reduce the overall weight of your camping gear.

  • Power Output: The generator should have enough power to run your camping fridge. Based on your fridge's power consumption, choose a generator that can provide at least that much power, plus some extra to account for other potential uses.

For those who camp occasionally or for short durations and are leaning towards a generator, you will need to pick one that adequately meets your campsite's energy demands.

camping generator

Powered Campsite

If you're a camping enthusiast who can't dispense with chilled drinks or need to keep food fresh on your outdoor adventures, opting for a powered campsite to run your camping fridge can be quite convenient. While you might be a bit constrained on where you can travel, it will still deliver a consistent power supply (when stationary). 

An available power supply at your campsite means you don't have to rely solely on a single camping fridge battery. A powered campsite, therefore, offers the freedom to operate larger camping fridges. Given that campsites provide more extensive electrical access, accommodating bigger fridges that demand more power becomes far easier and more affordable. This way, you can provide for a larger group or a longer camping trip, keeping in stock a good amount of perishable food and drink without worrying about spoilage. 

You will, however, need some key portable fridge accessories, such as a durable and correctly rated outdoor extension cord to connect your camping fridge to the campsite's power supply. Extension cords designed for outdoor use are typically more rugged, can withstand the elements, and are safer to use. 

While powered campsites offer the convenience of an available power supply, always adhere to safety guidelines. For example, properly secure your extension cords to prevent tripping hazards, and protect electrical connections from water and dust to avoid potential shock hazards or short circuits. By following these simple safety protocols, you can make the most of a powered campsite for your camping fridge needs.

Comparing Ways to Power Your Camping Fridge

With so many ways to power your camping fridge, you may be stuck on choosing the right one for your needs. Discover the pros and cons of each below.

Power Source




  • Dependable power supply
  • Usable for appliances beyond the refrigerator and freezer
  • Comes in various capacities to meet your energy requirements
  • Ideal for brief camping trips
  • Banned from some national park campsites
  • Hard to carry around
  • Requires fuel source
  • Noisy

Solar Energy

  • Complimentary power source
  • Affordable
  • Sustainable
  • Great for long camping trips
  • Easy to store & transport
  • Powers an array of applications
  • Other power source required
  • Takes time to charge

Powered campsites

  • Convenient
  • Reliable
  • No need to carry extra things
  • Limited choices

Battery Power

  • Compatible with many vehicles
  • Quiet
  • Easy to use
  • Small
  • Requires planning and charging before trip
  • Limited capacity if not topped off
  • If not monitored correctly car battery could become depleted.

Efficient Powering Options for Short Camping Trips

The majority of vehicles today, particularly 4WDs, are equipped with several 12v outlets, which can be an excellent way of powering your portable fridge, particularly on short camping trips. Many modern portable camping fridges and freezers are designed with AC/DC capabilities and 12-volt adapters, making them conveniently compatible with your car or 4WD battery. For older models that do not have these features, the existing cigarette lighter socket should work perfectly fine.

Connecting your fridge to a 12v socket allows your vehicle’s battery to cool the fridge while driving. Just remember that once the engine is off, the fridge continues to draw power, potentially leading to a flat vehicle battery if you aren’t careful. A battery isolator switch can help prevent this issue. A popular choice among campers is to carry an auxiliary or deep cycle battery. These batteries are dedicated to providing 12v power for camping needs, thereby avoiding the risk of draining your main vehicle or boat battery.

To mitigate the issues of managing your vehicle's battery life while camping, portable power solutions may be the answer, including:

  • Portable solar panels: They are a great choice for longer trips or campsites with limited services. They work by converting sunlight into electricity to power your fridge. As long as you have ample sunlight, you have an infinite power source.

  • Portable camping fridge batteries: These are rechargeable batteries designed specifically for running camping fridges. Depending on the model, they can power your fridge for several days on a single charge, and you can recharge them using your vehicle’s 12v system, a solar panel, or even mains power when available.

Remember, the best way to power your camping fridge highly depends on the length and nature of your camping trip, your power needs, and personal preference.

Long-Term Power Solutions for Extended Camping

If you are embarking on an extended getaway or camping adventure, then you must ensure you have a reliable portable fridge power supply to keep your supplies in good condition. A well-rounded solution is to build a robust system that provides sustainable and dependable power, and that's where dual-battery systems, solar panels, and heavy-duty wiring can come into play. 

Dual-battery systems offer camping enthusiasts a two-battery setup where one battery can be used to start your vehicle, while the other powers your camping fridge and other appliances. Integrating this into your setup ensures that, even after hours of keeping your perishables fresh, you'll still be able to start your car. 

Solar panels are another eco-friendly method of powering your camping fridge battery. As a renewable source of energy, solar panels are both environmentally friendly and cost-effective in the long run. With advancements in technology, portable solar panels have become increasingly lightweight, compact, and efficient, making them perfect for camping trips. 

Harnessing multiple batteries and the power of the sun requires some heavy-duty wiring. High-quality, heavy-duty wiring ensures that minimal energy is lost in transferring it from your solar panels or a second battery to your camping fridge – critical energy optimisation tactics for those longer trips where every bit of power counts. 

using solar power for camping

Tips to Enhance Fridge Efficiency

If you're planning your next camping trip and researching the best way to power your camping fridge, you should also spend time considering ways to enhance the efficiency of your camping fridge battery, including:

Pre-cooling Your Fridge 

Before you power up your camping fridge, pre-cool it at home. Start by plugging it into mains power the night before your trip. Not only does this allow your fridge to reach the optimal temperature, but it also means your camping fridge battery won't waste energy cooling down a warm interior.

Ensure all items you plan on storing in the fridge are already chilled before packing, too. Doing so will save additional power and keep your refrigerated goods at a safe temperature.

Using Insulative Covers 

Investing in an insulative, portable fridge cover for your camping fridge can be a game-changer. These covers help keep the cold air within the fridge, reducing the energy required to cool the interior. Equally, they simultaneously protect against external heat, reducing the strain on your portable fridge power supply. 

Ensuring Proper Ventilation 

An often-overlooked factor in optimising the performance of your camping fridge is ventilation. Ensuring your fridge is well-ventilated will help improve battery life.

Although it might seem counterintuitive, never enclose your fridge in a closed, confined space like a car boot for extended periods, as this can lead to overheating and increase power consumption. Instead, always make sure the vents on your fridge are uncovered to maintain efficient operation.

Power Your Fridge with Jaycar

Finding the best way to power a camping fridge requires an understanding of both your energy needs and the assorted power sources available.

For example, a camping fridge battery can make for a portable and convenient power option, while a solar energy source is an excellent, sustainable and efficient alternative. Generators offer a reliable solution, too, but they may be bulky and noisy, detracting from the camping experience. Then there is a powered campsite, which may be an ideal choice for those desiring a plug-and-play power supply for larger appliances. 

To find the right option, consider the duration of your trip and your expected power usage. Short camping trips might not require long-term power solutions, meaning a portable fridge power supply like a battery may suffice. On the other hand, for extended camping trips, a combination of solar energy and a backup generator could prove the most efficient. 

For some of the leading camping fridge freezer models available for all sorts of adventures, explore the Brass Monkey range available online with Jaycar today.