Outdoors folks know how challenging it can be to keep food and other perishables chilled properly. You’re constantly adding ice and putting up with soggy food that fell into the big puddle at the bottom of your cooler. After each camping weekend, you turn to your better half and yell, “There’s gotta be a better way!” Thankfully, there is.
Amazing as it may sound, you can buy a refrigerator/freezer for your vehicle. Known as a fridge freezer, it’s about the size of an ice chest on steroids and runs on 12 volts. Most have dual capability with two separate power cords so they can run off 120 volts while parked near established power.
They’re called fridge freezers because they can do both. A dial lets you set the temperature to either chill or freeze. You can’t do both, like your machine at home. (Some units out there are just refrigerators. If you want to keep food frozen, make sure you buy the proper type.)
Fridge freezers are surprisingly efficient. I often run mine even when the car is parked in the garage. I usually plug it into an outlet, but a few times I let it run off the car battery. It’ll run upwards of four days before draining the battery.
I have owned an Engel brand for many years, but am quite partial to the redesigned ARB fridge freezer . The latest version incorporates all the features that are missing from the Engel. Overland Journal magazine, in its summer 2010 issue, gave the ARB its Value Award.
Like the fridge in your home, the fridge freezer must be maintained or mold will build up. That’s what happened with mine. As you’ll note from the photos, most of the mold occurred at the bottom. The mat was encrusted pretty well, also, and there was some mold along the seam.
What to do if you have mold
Mold A rag and some hot, soapy water did the trick for me. Water with a touch of bleach is supposed to work well, but keep it away from the rubber seal. I have heard that a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water works well in a spray bottle, too. Let it sit for 10 minutes and wipe it off.
Use an old toothbrush for mold along the seam or stubborn spot. Actually, most any softer brush will do. Avoid using a metal object like a butter knife, as you can damage the lining.
How to prevent mold build up
Mold forms where moisture and food are, so eliminate both. Double-bag meat and other juicy foods, and wipe up any leakage or spillage. As long as the inside stays dry and clean, there is little chance for mold to form.
Mold If you’re not using the fridge, empty it, and clean it as needed. Prop the lid so the unit vents properly. Some people roll the edge of transit bag over and tuck that under the lid. On the new ARB, just push the latch in first to prevent the lid from closing completely. I often use a paint stir stick. It’s about 1/8” thick, but that’s enough to allow air to flow into the unit.
Once you return home, clean the fridge thoroughly and – assuming you won’t keep it running – leave the lid propped open. If you have problems with strong smells leave a tray of baking soda in the bottom until your next use.
Is the mold harmful? Probably not, especially in the amounts you’re likely to find in your fridge freezer. Even so, if you’re really sensitive to mold, you may want to wear a mask or (my favorite) ask someone else to clean your fridge.
Once you purchase a fridge freezer, you wonder how you got by without it. Spend a few moments on cleaning, and you’ll be assured of many happy trips outdoors.