When ever you do any sort of a trip, it could be for a day, weekend or longer, there is something that we all have to do and that is eat.
When considerating any sort of outing, one thing that has to be thought of is food. What are we going to do about lunch? The easy way out is to buy from take-away outlets, go out for dinner etc, but this gets very expensive, especially when you have a family to feed compared to preparing your own food. We are so use to going to the fridge or freezer and getting something out to prepare a meal, as this is a way of life for us.
I decided to write this article as there is very little available to advise campers what options are available. I have tried to give some ideas in how to do go about chosing the correct option in the way of ice boxes and fridges for your requirements, and some gideance so as not to fall into some of the traps that are not considered, because nobody had told you what was required, or how it works.
- Thermoelectric Coolers
- Ice Boxes
- Food Boxes
If a fridge is going to be used in the vehicle, then it is advisable to have a second battery fitted. The installation of this battery wiring is done in such a way, so that while driving, both batteries are charging, but when the motor is turned off, a component (this could be a diode or relay unit) in the circuit separates the two batteries and only the secondary battery is then used to run the fridge and lights etc. This will safe guard you from being stuck with a flat battery, as the main battery is used only to start and run the vehicle not the accessories. The fitting of the second battery and equipment can be done by your vehicle dealer, 4 wheel drive speciality service centre or an auto electrician. The battery type recommended for this usage is deep cycle type, as they are designed to be constantly drained, powering things like the fridge, lights etc. and recharging through the next day as you drive along. Apart from the cost of the fridge, there is also the cost for the set-up of the second battery, and this is not cheap, cost can be from about $650 to $1300. This cost is for the deep cycle battery, battery-cradle to carry the battery, isolator and all wiring and installation. Cost can vary depending manufacture of vehicle and equipment chosen.
In some vehicles there is not enough room for this arrangement.
An alternative is to use a battery pack. These are available from a number of manufactures like Engel and EvaKool. To use these power packs you need to plug them into an outlet that has been fitted in the vehicle so that they can be charged as you drive along. You then plug the fridge into the power pack. This can be a cheaper alternative but you have something in the back taking up valuable luggage space. Some of the four wheel drive vehicles have these outlets already fitted, but if the vehicle does not, it is best to have an outlet specially fitted. The use of the outlet on the dashboard that is supplied in most vehicles should be checked before using,as they are designed for light load units like phones & GPS units. Most will not take the load of the fridge and outlet could overheat and burnout.
One thing to rember there is not an infinite amount of power in a battery as it will have to be charged if you are going to be on a camp site for more than a day or so. In caravan parks one can get a powered site so that you can run the fridge from mains power or charge the battery with a charger.
The alternative is to use solar pannels. By watching the clip below this lays out all the different types of fridges and ice boxes that Evakool manufacture and distribute as well as solar panels
An alternative unit is done by Matson who are the specialists in battery equipment. They have a package they called Bush Power. This is a complete system that consists of the battery units, a fuel efficient generator and a smart charger. This is more for the serious get away and off the beaten track people. Whilst on location on holidays, if you are in the same location for a period, sola cells have become very popular for recharging batteries, but there is a cost involved with all these things. Sola Panels are very popular with motor homes where the vehicle could be in the same location for weeks on end and situated on an unpowered location. Power generators are nice to have, but in a lot of locations they are banned from use because of the noise factor.
‘Bush Power’ also offers a full range of modified and pure sine wave inverters, smart chargers and a unique battery analyzer.
There are a number of Thermoelectric coolers on the market that heat as well as cool.
Thermoelectric cooling uses the Peltier effect to create a heat flux between the junction of two different types of materials. A Peltier cooler, heater, or thermoelectric heat pump is a solid-state active heat pump which transfers heat from one side of the device to the other side against the temperature gradient (from cold to hot), with consumption of electrical energy. Such an instrument is also called a Peltier device, Peltier heat pump, solid state refrigerator, or thermoelectric cooler (TEC). The Peltier device is a heat pump: when direct current(12 volt D.C.) runs through it, heat is moved from one side to the other. Therefore it can be used either for heating or for cooling (refrigeration), although in practice the main application is cooling. It can also be used as a temperature controller that either heats or cools.
As a refrigeration technology, its main advantages of a Peltier cooler are its lack of moving parts or circulating liquid, and its small size and flexible shape. Its main disadvantage is that it cannot simultaneously have low cost and high power efficiency..
Now that you understand what a Thermoelectric cooler is, one is to remember that you don’t get anything for nothing.
These coolers use a lot of power. The norm is 4.5amps – 6.0amps continuous on 12 volt. This means that the normal car battery will be flat in half a day
The other thing to look at and that is the temperature that the cooler will go to. In the brosure they will say “up to”say 20℃ or 30℃ below ambient temperature. In cooler countries they are terrific, but in Australian conditions it is a bit different especially in the summer. This means on a hot day when the temperatures are say 40℃ + the temperature in the fridge, might if you are lucky, get to 10℃. Some makes are better than others but watch that clause where they state the amount that the unit will cool below ambient.
The use of the Esky or ice boxes, (Esky is a trade name for a particular make of ice box) is an alternative to the use of a fridge and a lot cheaper. The big advantage is there is no requirement for power. There are a number of manufactures of these units and unfortunately most do not do the job properly as the ice does not last in them for more than a day or two if you are lucky. The reason for this is there is no insulation in the lid and as a result the heat of the day, just goes straight through the lid and melts the ice.
It is easy to detect an ice box with no insulation in the lid, for all you have to do is give the lid a tap with your finger and then tap the side. If there is a hollow sound compared to the side you know there is no insulation present. You are only going to get what you pay for and it is better to pay a bit more and get a better product.
Good ice boxes are fully insulated and this includes the lid. There are different grades of boxes available. Thickness and quality of the insulation are important factors and a good one will hold ice for eight days plus, but to get this amount if time out of the ice there is a couple of things that you have to follow.
When getting your bags of ice do not take them from the top of the fridge as these could have been in the fridge for only for a short time. Take your bags from the bottom of the fridge, as these will be well and truly frozen or as we call “old ice”. Before you put the bags in the ice box do not break the ice up, leave it as a mass. Put a small hole in the bottom of the bag at one end and place this end down the drain end of the ice box. Depending on the size of the box will depend on how much ice you require. Not enough ice means that it will melt quickly. In a 64 litre good quality ice box you can put 2/3 bags and you should get over a week out of the ice.
The secret to getting this amount of time out of the ice is to drain the water out of the box in the morning and at night. By doing this you are keeping the ice dry. This is most important as the water is 4℃ warmer than the ice, and leaving the water in the bottom of the ice box will melt the ice quickly. By getting rid of the water the ice will last longer. If you have children and are using the ice box for the food and drinks, children have a tendency of going to the ice box to get drinks out and of course the box is opened more because of this. Another ice box is the ideal solution just for the drinks.
Another little thing that can be done, is to put some sheets of glad wrap over the opening and put a slit in it for a hand to go through and retrieve a drink. By doing this, the cold air in the box is not replaced by the hot air, and this helps to preserve the ice.
Just a tip to remember if you don’t have an esky or fridge and can’t afford to go out and buy one, go and see your green grocer/supermarket/fish shop. They all use the poly styrene boxes with lids that broccoli and fish comes in. The fish ones will need a wash out but these are better than nothing and are usually at the right price, FREE!
One thing to remember and that is to take a food box with a lid on it. This is to keep non refrigerated goods like the bread, flower, sugar, tea etc. Native animals like possums, rats, dingos, kangaroos etc love to get into our food. Don’t give them the chance of getting into your provisions. Don’t leave food or food scraps around the camp site as this only encourages them to return. Far better to be safe than sorry after the event, because they can make a heck of a mess. Be warned. Tote boxes are good for this purpose and come in various sizes.
©Harry Cramer 2011