Camping Cooler vs. Portable Refrigerator| Which is Better?

Have you ever wondered if you should replace your camping cooler with a portable refrigerator but are unsure about what makes each stand out? Camping outdoors offers a unique experience that outdoor enthusiasts are never tired of, but one thing that can quickly make a fun trip tour sour—a poor cooling unit or the absence of it. It’s not unusual to find yourself constantly craving a chilled sip of your favorite drink when you’re outdoors, and in this guide, we’ll show you the best cooling unit to work with, depending on the peculiarity of your needs.

Comparing Cooler vs Refrigerator: What You Need to Know

Keeping items cooled during your outdoor trip remains an important part of your planning. You may be torn between using a camping cooler or a portable fridge. Both items have unique features, benefits, and disadvantages, making them more suited for specific uses. Let’s dig right in.

Outdoor Camping Cooler: Features, Pros, and Cons

When camping outdoors, you’ve got a variety of cooler options to work with depending on the size you want and the cooling capacity required. Since they’re available in different sizes and shapes, you will have the luxury of choosing from simple backpack designs to huge cooling containers for a richer experience. Based on their size and functionality, you’ll find them in various shapes and designed with different exterior materials.

Coolers are insulated containers designed to keep items stored within them at optimal temperatures. Some coolers will keep your items chilled for days if you don’t open them frequently.

The backpack cooler designs are easily collapsible when emptied and can be comfortable when carried on hiking trips, but they’re just good enough to hold up a few items for one person’s use. Some designs are watertight, and you won’t need to worry about water penetrating the unit if you have to wade through water on your hiking trail.

Larger-sized coolers do not afford as much flexibility; hence you’ll need to think about where it will be used before deciding to stock them up. These coolers also come in varying capacities, but there’s a limit to how much you can store in them since you’ll need to have them packed with enough ice to cool your drinks and perishables while outdoors. Coolers may not be suitable for long-term camping trips unless you’re using them in your backyard, and you can quickly dash in when in need of more ice.

While some rough country coolers may do well under tough weather conditions, some designs may not be as tough as they may lose ice faster when exposed to intense hot weather conditions. Although most coolers are relatively cheaper than portable refrigerators, some branded types tend to be more expensive than some budget car fridges. But on a large scale, coolers are often less pricey.

If energy saving is of necessity to you, coolers can help cut cost on your energy expense, as you don’t need a power source to keep them functional, like is required in a portable fridge cooler. Also, most coolers are easy to clean up after taking out the melted ice water and would be ready for use after a long time.

Here’s a rundown of what to expect from a camping cooler:


  • Flexible sizes and designs
  • Watertight exteriors
  • Heavy-duty latch seals


  • Generally affordable
  • Zero power cost
  • Cleaning is simple and easy


  • Consistent ice refill
  • Not suitable for long-term hikes
  • Ice melts under sizzling hot weather
  • No temperature controls


Portable Car Refrigerators: Features, Pros, and Cons

Choosing a car refrigerator over a cooler can be a major financial step, but it’s often worth it under the right circumstances. Do you need to travel with your food and veggies permanently refrigerated? Then the portable car refrigerator is a must-have, especially if you spend a lot of time in your RV, or you choose to spend summer hiking new places and discovering nature’s wonder.

All of that experience won’t be complete without a consistently powered refrigerator that keeps things cold and fresh and at the perfect temperature, you need them to be. Unlike coolers, most refrigerators for camping are designed smart and you can easily automate your preferred settings from your smartphone. Even better is the fact that you don’t have to worry that the fridge will lose ice from consistently opening it to grab a drink.

Although you need to think about how you’d keep your fridge powered, most 12v cooler fridge designs can be powered straight out of the car, which isn’t so much power consumption, and other types could use solar or battery power to stay functional throughout your camping stay.

One thing that stands the portable refrigerator above the cooler is that, it can serve the dual function of a cooler and refrigerator. If you need your items to stay iced, some designs have separate compartments for refrigerating and icing. Also, a portable fridge will allow you to stock up more items than a cooler would since a cooler would need to be filled with ice to preserve its content.


  • Precise temperature control
  • Smart and intuitive app controls
  • Dual purpose use
  • Needs a consistent power source
  • Multiple cup holders


  • More storage capacity
  • Long-lasting cooling
  • Smart and convenient control
  • Won’t lose ice easily


  • Relatively expensive
  • Requires power supply
  • Can be difficult to clean


If you ever find yourself thinking “cooler vs. fridge—which do I go for?” You can now decide which suits you best based on the guide above. Don’t forget to consider where you’ll be using it and for how long, so you can know if a portable fridge works for you or vice versa.




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