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Fridges for Your Overlanding Vehicle

Hi there and welcome to the eleventh article in the How to Build an Overlanding Vehicle series. We are going to be talking about fridges as one of the ways of achieving self-sufficiency, which is one of the underlying features of Overlanding.

When we started Overlanding in the European Alps, we didn’t have a fridge. We simply stocked up everyday with what we needed as we were never really remote and we ate most days in restaurants.

Photo 1 of Fridges for Your Overlanding Vehicle

When we came back to New Zealand and started getting out more, we used a chilly bin, which was really a compromise. I had figured that every petrol station in New Zealand has ice and a chilly bin would do the job. We quickly realised that a chilly bin was a good solution for an overnight trip, but with the amount of travelling we do, it just wasn’t what we needed. Without an effective way of arranging things, food quickly becomes soggy with the melting ice and we spent nearly every other day cleaning it out.

The solution was to buy a fridge and I must say that it was an absolute game changer! One of those things that, once you’ve had one, you could never imagine Overlanding again without one.

There are range of fridges on the market at  various price points. Initially we went for cheaply priced fridge and were pleased with what we had. Certainly a step up from the chilly bin. Unfortunately with the amount of Overlanding that we do the fridge only lasted two years and had cost us around $600. Typically it would stop working immediately after a supermarket shop, before heading out for a few days…….

We started to do some research to find a replacement. What we were looking for was something with a low power draw, flexibility in capacity, good storage solutions, a long guarantee, track record, quality components and mid-price range.

Photo 2 of Fridges for Your Overlanding Vehicle

What we came across was Bushman fridges. Very well known in Australia and with a very good reputation. The original Bushman fridge has existed for over 20 years with virtually no modifications.

The fridge comes in either the standard 35L version and can be extended to 52L making it extremely flexible. As we’re away all the time, ours is kept in the 52L configuration.

The power draw is low and Bushman claim that it will “run off the fumes of an old battery”. It’s really impressive. At an ambient air temperature of 25°C, which is hot for New Zealand, and set at -4°C, the fridge only draws 0.67Ah. That means 16Ah over 24 hours. Even without using our solar blanket, we can stay in one place for nearly five days with the fridge running.

It also has a clever system of baskets, so that we keep all our frozen food in the bottom and work up the three levels to the top. So it’s really a fridge freezer and has the capacity to stand wine or soft drink bottles vertically.

Importantly, it also has a five year guarantee……


This was our choice, but there are many other brands on the market. When you’re looking at buying a fridge, you need to consider and number of things.

How much capacity do you need? This will depend on how many you are and how long you are going to be away. How often will you be away using it? This will have an impact on your budget. We bought a $600 fridge that lasted two years, but we are out all the time, in fact we live out of the truck and have done for three years. If you only get out on a big mission once a year and do the occasional weekend, a cheaper fridge is probably going to be ok.

Photo 3 of Fridges for Your Overlanding Vehicle

Do you need a dual battery system? The ideal is yes, but if you have a good quality fridge with good insulation, keeping it switched off overnight should be ok as long as you’re not opening it all the time.

When you buy a fridge, think about how you are going to store it in your vehicle. It will need to be secured so that it doesn’t bounce around. In the early days, we did have a chilly bin go through one of the windows on a particularly rough track.

The best thing to do, is to install an slider. This can either be pull out or drop down. Again, make sure that you buy good quality equipment that will last. A drop down slider means that the fridge will be more accessible once lowered. They are expensive and can add a lot of weight. We use a pull out slider, but because of the height, my partner finds it difficult to access items at the bottom.

So there are our thoughts on fridges. If you have already invested in a dual battery system, then it would be a shame not to install a fridge. It will definitely change you Overlanding experience!

Hope you’ve enjoyed reading and found this article informative.

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