Keeping the beers cold when out adventuring might arguably be the single most important aspect of camping. Long gone are the days of filling an esky with ice only to drink warm beers on day two. We now have access to multi-zone, multi-power portable fridge/freezers. There’s a plethora of options on the market in an assortment of shapes and sizes, however the key factor to keeping trendy craft brews icy is power.
Traditionally, a vehicle’s 12-Volt (12V) output keeps your brews happy whilst on the move but an expensive DC-DC charger and dual-battery setup (or battery box) is required to keep your hops from heating up when you turn the ignition off. This is even more important if by chance you choose to utilise your portable fridge/freezer for less critical, non-essential items, like food. Fortunately, Companion has saved our bacon, literally, with its Lithium 75L Dual Zone Rechargeable Fridge/Freezer.
It’s well known ‘an army marches on its stomach’, so keeping the troops well fed and watered when out exploring and camping is a vital part of any trip (see our family camping guide here). There are plenty of options available to ensure food stays fresh, ice cream frozen and Furphy’s frosty, but not many do so wirelessly, while simultaneously ensuring you don’t need a bottle opener or won’t run out of battery on your phone.
The Companion Lithium 75L Dual Zone Rechargeable Fridge/freezer gives you everything you want in terms of capability as a fridge/freezer to keep things cold, with a dual speed SECOP compressor and a temperature range of -20°C to +20°C in both zones. The unit then steps things up a notch with a selection of extras that really enhance the useability beyond the norms of what you would expect from a car-fridge.
On first inspection, the chunky plastic exterior and recessed cup holders suggest a glorified esky more than a fridge, but don’t let looks deceive you. The Companion includes a rechargeable 12V 42AH Lithium-ion battery within its polypropylene body and weighing in at 30 kilograms is comparable in weight to battery-less models from some other manufacturers. A solid exterior coupled with aluminium lining and a 30-degree tilt in all directions means the unit is damned near bombproof.
On fixing the Companion into the back of our trusty ol’ Prado however, one of the first thing we noticed is it is long. Although relatively comparable in terms of depth (482mm) and height (460mm) to other similar models, at 990mm wide it’s much wider/longer. This means it doesn’t quite fit onto our Prado’s fridge slide without putting one of the rear seats forward, or fitting it width-ways. Certainly, a frustration on one hand for this tester, but the good news is its low-profile allows the fridge to easily fit under the lid of most ute-trays and larger 4WD wagons – the LandCruiser 200 Series, Nissan Patrol and Land Rover Discovery, plus any 4WD ute, for example – should be fine with the length, owing to their longer cargo areas.
The recessed spring-loaded handles are ergonomic as well as robust, so long arms and decent biceps allow a single person to manhandle it when empty. Load her up, however, and she’s definitely a two-person job.
Inspecting the exterior more closely, you might notice the little things that make a big difference, such as dual bottle openers, with one on each side. Certainly not essential by any means, but it makes the whole unit that little bit more useable. There are also dual DC/Anderson power inlets on either end, which is super handy for accessible charging. The dual direction lids are smooth to open and the option to open them from either side, or even take the lids off completely from both sides, makes it a whole load easier to get things in and out when the fridge is in the back of the car, without having to pull the whole unit out to access. The digital LED display control panel (this seems to be the only bit of the whole shebang that isn’t ‘dual’) is clear and easy to read, and it’s pretty straightforward to set and adjust the temperatures of both compartments, and even turn one compartment off to extend life.
In the field with the Companion 75L Dual Zone Rechargeable Fridge/Freezer
Both fridge/freezer compartments cool extremely quickly and have internal LED lights and removable baskets which means it’s easy to see what you’ve got in stock. There’s even a bonus accessory storage compartment, which is lockable with a padlock and accessible to the two USB ports that are hidden on the removeable lithium battery, (the other two are on the outside under the LED display) so you can leave your phone securely charging. The only minor niggle with that is there’s no neat way of having the cable run from the USB port to the phone through the removable ‘floor’ of the storage compartment.
So far so good, and we haven’t even got to the main selling point of this bad boy yet: the battery. The integrated removeable 12V 42AH Lithium-ion battery not only gives a claimed 16 hours of run time on a single charge (impressively, we managed to get more than 30 hours when we tried a basic battery expiry test indoors at 23-degree Celsius ambient temp with an occasional open/close of the lid), it also doubles as a power pack for the four USB ports. The ability to have the fridge run totally wirelessly without any external power, for such an extended period, is a huge bonus, especially if you want to get off the grid. As well as having both AC and DC power options to recharge the battery, there’s also dual Anderson plugs which means you can use solar panels to keep the battery charging whilst in use.
We tested Companion’s 120W Foldable Solar Panel/Charger with our fridge on a relatively overcast day and found it to be an effective and a great alternate option to keep the fridge running longer when there’s no access to power. While companion’s 200W Solar Panel/Charger can deliver 18V at 11 Amps per hour, our 120W delivered a more than sufficient 12v at 6.6 Amps per hour, meaning we could both charge the battery and run the fridge indefinitely with eight hours of sunlight per day. If we upgraded to the 200W Solar Unit we would need less than five hours of sun for infinite fridge usage.
A bonus trick of the dual Anderson plugs is an ability to power two fridges from Companion’s Lithium Battery via a daisy chain. Theoretically both could be powered indefinitely off the 200W solar unit and eight hours of sunlight.
The final word
Overall, the features of the Companion Lithium 75L Dual Zone Rechargeable Fridge/Freezer definitely make it one of the best most useable options we’ve tried. The ability to have the fridge/freezer charge on the run, but the battery kick in when we turn the car off, is brilliant. The main downside is the size of the behemoth, but if space is a major concern, Companion have a 60L single zone option to better fit your needs. If you can fit it in your vehicle – and owners of larger 4WD wagons and utes will have no trouble – you need to check this smartly designed fridge/freezer out.
RRP: $1700 Go to Companion Outdoor for more info and to see its entire fridge/freezer range.