We love driving out into nature and boondocking for up to a week at a time. And one of the most enjoyable aspects is being able to cook our own meals while surrounded by some of nature’s most beautiful environments. But being able to keep our produce and meats fresh is critical. And so in this post, we wanted to review our camper’s Dometic Fridge and argue why it’s one of the best 12v fridges for campers and RVs.
We’ll look at what we like about our Dometic fridge and some of the things we wish we could change.
So if you’re ready, let’s get to it!
Is A 12v Fridge Worth It For Campers?
Absolutely yes! While 12v fridges aren’t cheap, they are worth the additional cost over standard ice coolers. These fridges are energy efficient and keep your food cold indefinitely. Not to mention you don’t have to worry about hunting for ice every 2-3 days. They’re hassle and stress free.
If you’re on a tight budget, then keep reading. We’ll also talk about some of the more affordable, off-brand fridges that are more cost friendly and won’t break the bank.
Convinced? Let’s get to our Dometic 12v fridge review.
The Controls On A Dometic Fridge
We have an older Dometic model, but the control system remains largely the same.
To keep things simple, Dometic fridges have only four buttons:
We hate fumbling around with complicated user interfaces and just want a product that keeps things simple and just works. And we think our Dometic 12v fridge does just that.
What We Like About Our Dometic Fridge
There’s plenty to like about the Dometic 12v fridge. Below are several of our favorites.
1. Rugged Design
Life in a camper isn’t always smooth. When we drive, there are always bumps and jolts and sliding around. That’s why we appreciate the heavy duty design of these Dometic fridges.
Ever corner is reinforced with thick plastic protective cap and the thick handles bars are fastened solidly to the fridge’s frame.
2. Easy Control System
As we mentioned above, the Dometic refrigerator has only four buttons. And this keeps operating the fridge easy and straight forward.
3. Still Operational After 3 Years
Best of all, after almost 3 years (and 50k miles) on the road, our 12v Dometic fridge still functions as it did on Day 1.
Things tend to break down on the road and we’ve had our fair share of maintenance chores. But our fridge hasn’t had any issue…yet.
What We Dislike
1. Drain Location
The issue we dislike the most with our fridge is the location of the drain. In our model, the drain is located in the center-ish of the main compartment.
The drain is there to let out the excess water that accumulates at the bottom of the fridge, but it’s center location makes it difficult to tip the fridge to drain the water.
It would be more useful if the drain was located at the back corner of the fridge. This would make it easier to get rid of the water that accumulates at the bottom.
2. Gimmicky Bluetooth/App Feature
While this isn’t something we necessarily ‘dislike’, we definitely do not find the Bluetooth & app capabilities, which came with our fridge, useful.
All the app can really do is help you change the temperature of your fridge without you having to physically touch the fridge.
But considering in a camper, the fridge is never more than a few steps away, this feature is lost on us.
We would rather have Dometic do away with this Bluetooth/App capability and offer us a more affordably priced fridge!
3. Price Tag
Admittedly, these 12v fridges from Dometic aren’t the cheapest option on the market. We paid close to $900 for our 40L fridge and was one of the most expensive purchases we’ve made during our entire camper van conversion.
But considering that our fridge is still working after several years of abuse is a testament to how well it’s been manufactured and assembled.
Still, there are other cheaper alternative 12v fridges available for purchase online. We talk about several popular alternatives further below.
The Inside Of A Dometic 40L 12v Fridge
In our 40-Liter Dometic fridge, the inside is separated into two sections; a larger, deeper compartment where we store our bulky food items, and a smaller, shallower section where we store our dairy (eggs & butter) and wet cat food.
If we pack our fridge well, our 40L fridge can usually fit about a week’s worth of food.
Dometic 12v Fridge Models
Dometic fridges come in different sizes and features. Below is a handy table we put together to help you understand the differences.
Table 1.1 - Dometic 12v Fridge Models
|Model #||CFX3 25||CFX3 35||CFX3 45||CFX3 55|
|Interior Volume||25 Liters||35 Liters||45 Liters||55 Liters|
|Exterior Dimensions||22.4"(D) x 16.5"(H) x 13.5(W)||27.3"(D) x 16.0"(H) x 15.7(W)||27.3"(D) x 18.7"(H) x 15.7(W)||17.9"(D) x 18.9"(H) x 28.4(W)|
|Temperature Range||-7°F to +50°F||-7°F to +50°F||-7°F to +50°F||-7°F to +50°F|
Affordable Alternatives To The Dometic 12v Fridge
There are several popular & affordable alternatives to our Dometic fridge.
To be honest, we haven’t put our hands on these other 12v fridges to test them out, but the happy reviews we’ve seen on Amazon suggest their worth checking out if you’re on a tight budget.
Below are several favorites.
Table 1.2 - Affordable Alternative 12v Fridge Models
Top Loading vs. Front Loading 12v Fridges
Whether to get a top-loading fridge or a traditional front-loading (think college dorm fridge) was one of the choices we had to make when converting our camper van.
In the end, we chose the top-loading type and we’re happy we did for the following reasons.
But in the end, the decision is entirely up to you. For many, visual aesthetics is an important aspect. And in this regard, the traditional front-loading fridges win, hands down.
But for us, being able to pack as much food in a smaller space is critical for us. And, not to mention, we literally open and close our fridge as much as 50 times per day. So limiting cold air loss is also an important factor for us.
12v Fridges vs. Ice Coolers
If you’re still debating whether to get a simple ice cooler or splurge on an electric fridge, we think the answer is pretty clear; get the fridge!
Investing in a proper 12v fridge will keep your produce and meat fresh and cold without having to worry about going back to the store to purchase ice. As long as you have battery power, your fridge will do it’s job and keep your food cold.
And if the price tag of a name-brand 12v fridge (Dometic, ARB, etc) makes you hesitant, just remember that there are several popular off-brand fridge models that others in the camping community have been perfectly happy with for a fraction off the price.
How To Wire A 12v Fridge To A Camper Battery
The Dometic fridge comes with two different electric cords for either a 12v or 120v connection. It’s your choice which plug (and socket type) you want to use.
120v socket – Simply plug your fridge into any standard household socket. We don’t prefer this method because, in a camper, this means you’ll have to keep your inverter on 24/7, which wastes electricity and depletes your batteries faster.
12v Socket – You can also plug your fridge into a standard 12v socket. This is how we do it and it’s the most efficient method.
Want to learn how to set up a camper electric system? Check out our DIY camper electric guide to get your camper properly outfitted for off-grid living.
How To Clean A 12v Fridge
Roughly once a month, you’ll find a sizable puddle forming at the bottom of your fridge. When you see water forming, it’s a good idea to drain the liquid and clean your fridge out.
Simple remove all the contents from the fridge and open the drain to let out all the water. You may have to place a towel inside to soak up any remaining water.
After all the water is out, spray the inside of the fridge with cleaning solution and wipe away any dirt or grime that forms on the surface.
How Much Power Does A 12v Fridge Consume?
The amount of power that a 12v fridge consumes is largely dependent on the temperature you set. For our 40L Dometic fridge, we set our temperature to 3C and the power required hovers around 0.8A per hour.
Does A 12v Fridge Require Ventilation?
Yes, they do! Just like a standard air conditioner, a 12v fridge will exhaust warm air. And this warm air will need to be vented to keep the fridge from having to work too hard for long periods of time. Venting a fridge can be done by simply installing a vent grate out the back of your kitchen counter.
Can a 12v fridge produce ice?
Yes, many can! Although you should double check the product information just to make sure.
For Dometic fridges, all the CFX3 12v fridges can go as low as -7F.
Final Thoughts: Get A 12v Fridge For Your RV Today!
When we were doing our research, we spent a lot of time debating whether or not it was worth it to purchase a pricey 12v refrigerator for our camper. But in the end, we’re extremely happy we did and love our Dometic fridge.
Because we have a fridge that keeps our food cold, we’re able to boondock for much longer periods of time. We also don’t have to worry about finding a convenience store every 2-3 days to restock on ice.
And for us, our fridge has helped reduce a lot of the stress associated with carrying fresh food in our camper van. Long term van life can be tricky enough and if a single product can help make van life easier, we’ll give it a shot!
If you have any questions about our experience traveling with a 12v fridge, please let us know in the comments below!