Introducing Kacooler Fridge – Running a China Branded Fridge for Off-Roading and Overlanding?
Kacooler Fridge – A Portable Fridge & Freezer Supplier in China
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about “Made in China”? Lower quality, not durable, not dependable?
I would be lying if sometimes I didn’t think the same. Just because an electrical unit is labeled with the “Made in China” stamp doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily going to be low quality or not dependable, though. Doing your homework is all part of the game here in deciding what to buy and how important the country of origin is for you.
Did you know Dometic refrigerators are manufactured in China? What I am saying is that sometimes it’s not really about the country of origin but rather the supply chain and quality of parts that are provided for that supply chain. Engineering has an impact on the general design as well, and most importantly, QC (quality control) along with testing plays a huge role.
We got a Fridge! And no, not from Dometic.
We were recently approached by a refrigerator manufacturer in China to start carrying their products. Although we don’t physically sell any products here on Trail4R.com, we absolutely wanted to test one out. After a few e-mails back and forth, we were able to get our hands on a test unit.
The company’s name is Kacooler (pronounced “Kaw-cooler”) and you can find all of their portable refrigerator products at kacoolerfridge.com. The supplier provides a fairly wide range of products including refrigerators for RV/van life folks along with marine-specific units, truck/overland, and off-grid users. They manufacture top lid single-zone and dual-zone fridges, mini-refrigerators, and drawer-style fridges.
You can’t actually buy any of their products directly from their website, but I’m sure if you reach out to them, you may be able to get your hands on a unit for around $300-$400, depending on size.
We will also update this post if they have a resource link to buy.
There are tons of options to choose from when it comes to portable truck refrigerators for off-road and Overland use. From the popular CFX line from Dometic to ARB and other major brands such as Snomaster, there are plenty of manufacturers that provide refrigeration for the way we travel.
I have had my eyes on the Dometic line for a couple of years now but have never quite been in a position to pull the trigger on an $800 – $1,200 product.
There is plenty of no-name, unbranded and direct-to-consumer options that you can find on Amazon and eBay for around 50% less than Dometic, ARB, and Snomaster. The last thing I wanted, though, was to spend around $400 only to have something break and then be out $400. At the end of the day, I just didn’t know which fridge to trust. There aren’t too many reviews on these direct to consumer brands.
I never really considered buying a refrigerator directly from a manufacturer in China or through any Asian direct-to-consumer websites like Alibaba until we were approached by Kacooler.
It’s actually not a bad idea if you find a good company. I am glad we got to test one of these units.
Kacooler – Portable Fridge & Freezer Supplier in China
When the product arrived, it was packed well, however, it did not include any instructions, wiring diagrams or general manufacturer specs/features sheet.
At first glance, the product did seem rather basic in design. I did like the fact that there were strong handles to pick the unit up with. The one area that was lacking in the quality department was the fridge door lid retention cable. It’s essentially a ceiling fan pull chain that connects the fridge lid to the body and prevents the lid from falling over. The fridge was also lacking a fridge lid lock. We solved this problem by throwing a Perfect Bungee over the top while out exploring to keep the fridge shut.
After we removed all the packaging and took the unit out of the box, we started testing it right away. The unit turned on instantly and was reading the temperature in Celsius. For an initial test, we threw some LaCroix cans in the fridge and it didn’t take long for the unit to cool down.
After a bit of toggling with the buttons, we were able to switch the Celsius temperature reading over to Fahrenheit and adjust the temperature up and down fairly intuitively with the touch screen display.
This specific refrigerator can adjust from -18° Celsius to 10° Celsius which converts to -2.2° Ferinheight to 50° Ferinheight. We were able to get the fridge well past freezing temperatures (32° F/ 0° C). IT WAS COLD. We were starting to get excited about running it on the trail.
- Power Supply: 12/24V (automatic changeover)
- Input Power: DC 30W
- Net Capacity (L): 29L
- All-in-one multi-function fridge and freezer
- The refrigerator features stout handles
- A touch screen that reads in Celsius and Fahrenheit
- And “Eco” mode appeared. Not sure what that’s about.
They do offer a warranty. They offer a 1-year on the fridge and 2-year on the compressor. Compare that to a 3-year warranty on a Dometic fridge.
- The unit shipped with the actual refrigerator along with two power cables; one 110-volt wall charger and a 12-volt DC cigarette lighter adapter charger.
We currently run the refrigerator on a daily basis inside the office.
We use the unit as an extra refrigerator to keep all of our drinks cold. It’s been running for about 6 months now with zero problems.
This has worked out pretty well for the office as our only other option for refrigeration has been a mini-fridge. It’s pretty nice to have the extra storage space to keep things cold.
Testing 12-volt DC Cigarette Lighter Adapter
We have field-tested the unit with its 110V outlet charger along with a 12-volt DC cigarette lighter adapter charger on our Lion Energy Safari LT power station.
The one thing that we did notice was a high spike in amperage draw. When the refrigerator needed to cool down, the compressor kicks on and draws a high amperage spike. The Safari LT computer thinks this draw is a short circuit at the DC cigarette lighter adapter and shuts the power station off.
So instead of running our refrigerator to the 12-volt DC, we used a 110V outlet instead. This has worked out great for us on quite a few trips now.
Our Current Fridge Setup
Our current setup is running the fridge to the AC port on the Safari LT and then charging the Safari LT directly from the DC cigarette lighter adapter in the cargo area – directly from the 4Runner.
Before we head out for the weekend, we fully charge up the Safari LT and the fridge. Then plug the fridge into the AC outlet on the Safari LT. At this point, the fridge runs directly from the AC port on the Safai LT.
When we turn the 4Runner off or on, the DC cigarette lighter adapter kicks on and charges the Safari LT until its fully powered. You may want to double-check that it triggers on though. It’s worked a couple of times when we turn the truck on and others have not triggered the unit.
This section of content was pulled from our previous Lion Energy Safari LT article.
Does The Fridge Work?
Yes, the Kacooler fridge has been working quite well.
After some trial and error in figuring out the high amperage spikes, we have been comfortably and consistently running the unit from a 110V power source. I think the main question here is if the refrigerator stayed cold or not. Yes, anytime we have powered this refrigerator, it has stayed cold.
We have not tested the actual internal temperature of the refrigerator in comparison to what the actual display reads. We currently have the refrigerator set at 39° F and it keeps all of our drinks, and anything else in the unit, incredibly cold.
The major downside to running this refrigerator was the lack of documentation. If you are just starting out or really interested in learning about the options you have when it comes to powering the unit, then an off-brand or something from Alibaba might not be for you.
With well-documented instruction manuals on brand name refrigerators, you will have the ability to learn about that specific unit’s minimum voltage requirements, amperage draw, control features, and more. All of this technical information is important to understand when running a refrigerator both in a home/garage setting or an outdoor van/truck setting.
The other major downside is the lack of a lid lock but as mentioned above, this was fixed with a perfect bungee so that the lid doesn’t bounce around when off-road.
Running A Truck Fridge Direct from China? Is it worth it?
So is it worth it?
- Is it perfect? No.
- Is it feature-packed? No.
- Does it have a rock-solid warranty? It’s not bad!
- Does it work? Yes.
- Is it affordable? Yes.
To me, it comes down to budget. If you don’t want to spend around $1000 for a name-brand fridge, maybe Kacooler is a good option for you. It’s honestly a pretty good unit if we were to spend around $300-$400. That’s basically the price I have paid for some of our YETI soft coolers.
I might end up with a brand name unit eventually but honestly, this fridge has fulfilled every offroad requirement we would need to meet.
In a perfect world, I would like something with a little more customization in terms of programable voltage drop shutoff and perhaps a dual-zone (fridge/freezer) unit. The 29L Kacooler is a fridge/freezer, however, it only features one zone so you either have cold temps or freezing temps.
Kacooler does carry a dual-zone fridge/freezer, and I am not going to lie, it does look pretty nice. As mentioned above, they also have drawer-style fridge options which might be a good option for some guys as well.
Questions or Comments? Leave them below!