A Guide to find the best portable freezer
If you want to go on a picnic, a portable freezer ensures that the ice cream stays frozen until you’re ready to eat it. If you’re taking frozen steaks or meal kits, you can rest assured that the food stays cold as long as the portable freezer has power. The risk of food borne illness is significantly reduced. If you’re living in an RV or cabin, a portable freezer could be just what you need to store frozen foods and preserve fresh ones instead of running to the store nearly every day if you don’t want to live off canned goods.
What is a portable freezer?
A portable freezer is simply a portable unit capable of freezing the contents or keeping frozen items frozen. They range from ice coolers with an extra chiller to keep things cold to full sized freezers on wheels.
Best Portable Freezer 2018 Comparison Chart
When would you want to take a portable freezer?
There are horror stories of hunters who bag their quarry, spend hours dressing the meat, load it in a basic cooler, and find that it has spoiled by the time they get back to civilization. If the goal was to enjoy wild turkey, deer or moose, they failed. The solution would be to invest in a portable freezer. The ideal case would be a high end portable freezer that would keep the meat frozen for days, just in case the butcher is backlogged for a while. You won’t have to worry about getting the game meat through customs or the long flight before it spoils.
Portable freezers are an excellent choice for campers. You’ll be able to ensure that your burger meat, bacon and other frozen foods stay frozen for days. You’re far less likely to have people become ill because key ingredients went bad. A side benefit is being able to take frozen fruits, vegetables, juice mixes or meal kits instead of worrying about using up fresh stuff before it goes bad. A side benefit is the ability to make meal kits yourself and freeze them until they’re used. Whether you’re premixing smoothies or omelets, spices mixes or baby food, you can save time and hassle by making it and freezing it before you leave.
A portable freezer is an excellent way to take a freezer with you when traveling in a car or RV. You don’t have to rewire the RV as you might for installing a new fridge with a freezer.
Selection Criteria For The Best Portable Freezer
There is as much variety in the portable freezer market as you’d find among refrigerators. Let’s look at main differences between portable freezers. And we’ll address how you determine what you need when shopping for the best portable freezer for your situation.
It’s a freezer. By definition, it freezes something. However, there is far more than that in a number of cases. For example, not all portable freezers cool down from room temperature to freezing quickly. If the goal is to turn it on, pack it up with drinks and leave, a slow cooling unit is undesirable. If you’re going hunting, then a cooler that takes a long time to cool down once you bring in the game meat puts your health at risk, since you need the meat as cold as possible as quickly as possible.
- Capacity / Size
Something you need to consider carefully is the weight. Don’t necessarily opt for the lighter freezer if it comes at the expense of insulation. Those extra few pounds of insulation may add hours to the life of your frozen foods if the power is out. If you just want something to keep a few picnic items frozen, you can go with a small unit. If you want to keep a week’s worth of frozen meals for two preserved, you’ll need a larger portable freezer. If you just want to keep medicine or breast milk frozen, then you don’t need a big freezer.
- Electrical Power Requirements
Are you going to run the freezer off of your RV house batteries? Then a 12 volt portable freezer is probably the best choice. There are portable freezers that run off 24 volts, and those work well in trucks, buses and larger RVs. And some portable freezers can run off battery power or plug into a conventional power plug. Many portable freezers come with an AC adapter that lets you accept 120 volt AC power if you’re connected to shore power, allowing to you reduce the load on your house batteries.
If you’re looking at a “car” sized portable freezer, a neat feature is finding one with a power plug that goes into a cigarette lighter receptacle. If you have a newer car, a small portable freezer that can run off the power from your infotainment system’s USB port may be worth a look.
- Portability / Transportation
Another issue is how easily the freezer is transported. You might be able to drag a portable freezer one handed to a campsite, but you’d prefer one with attached wheels and a pull handle. Very large portable freezers may need a protective frame and large wheels to go anywhere other than the back of your RV. Conversely, if you only use the portable freezer for dry camping or picnics, a lightweight unit you could carry by hand should be your first choice.
- Controls / Displays
Some portable freezers can double as portable fridges based on the settings. Other portable freezers are designed with separate fridge and freezer sections. These are invaluable if you’re moving into an RV that lacks a fridge. A rather novel feature of late is the integration of wifi enabled digital displays into portable freezers. No, it isn’t calling for service – but it can send you a text message if the contents have become too warm.
- Other Features
A portable freezer should be designed to handle much harsher conditions than the freezer sitting in your garage. After all, it is going to sit in the trunk of a car or interior compartment of an RV, vibrating at best and bounced around at worst. If you’re going fishing, then a portable freezer made for boats is a necessity. You don’t want a unit that is wiped out when it is hit by a wave or exposed to the rain. Portable freezers you can take on the boat should also be designed to continue operating at angles of up to 30 degrees.
If you’re going to be using a portable freezer as part of your de facto kitchen, then a flat top that can double as a work surface is a plus. If it will mostly be used for picnics, then features like built-in cup holders are deciding factors.
If your cooler may often end up disconnected from its power source, whether you’re taking it around the campsite or running it off a generator, then you should give priority to units that can truly keep their cool for a long period of time. If you’re going to be in this situation, a portable freezer that can chill down to well below freezing is attractive since it could warm up quite a bit before anything melts.
Depending on what you’re packing, the ability to segregate items or pack particular food products is a point in its favor. For example, if you go to a lot of parties or picnics, a freezer that lets you drop in 2 liter bottles vertically is attractive. If you’re tired of digging through the freezer looking for particular items, freezers with built-in storage racks or wire holders should be on your checklist.
Something we tend to overlook is how easy it is to clean until something leaked inside the freezer. Understand how easy it is to clean the inside of the freezer before you buy it. And make sure the freezer model itself isn’t prone to leaking water, whether it comes from the compressor or the freezer’s interior. The only exception is if you often fill it with drinks and ice as they warm up over the course of the day. In these cases, you want a freezer that is designed to let that water leak out without affecting the electronics or mechanical components.
Interior lights are a feature you’ll see advertised often, but unless you’re often digging things out of the freezer at night, this isn’t particularly important.