ICECO’s New Line of VL Series Dual Zone Fridges: First Impressions and Complete Overview
Last year, I did a review on the ICECO JP50 detailing out all of the features and compared it to similar models on the market. Not only were my initial impressions positive, but I’m still a fan one year later. I also still hold firm that dollar-for-dollar you cannot get a better deal than with ICECO.
Do you actually need a fridge?
First and foremost, why would anyone want or need a fridge? Well, it all depends on what kind of adventures you plan to get into. Below are a few things to consider:
- What kind of food do you want at camp?
- How long are you going to be away?
- How many people are you planning to feed?
- How remote will you be?
- What are the weather conditions you’re heading into?
- Most importantly, do you have a portable power station (i.e., Jackery 500, Dometic PLB40, Lion Energy Safari LT, Michelin XR1, Rockpals 500W, etc.)?
If you’re going away for a night here and there and don’t plan to do any extensive camping or overlanding, a fridge might not be something you need. When I first started overlanding, a fridge was always something I wanted, but I couldn’t justify buying one after already sinking $300 into a YETI cooler.
Plus, I wasn’t at that stage in my 4Runner build where it made sense to invest money in camp accessories… I mean, I had a snorkel and a rooftop tent, but didn’t even have a lift or armor at the time! So, my priorities were a bit out of whack.
However, if you camp for extended periods of time (I’d say 2+ days), then a fridge might be something to consider. Also, you should consider a portable fridge if you’re camping/overlanding in warmer climates and want to keep things frozen or cold without the worry of swapping out bags of ice.
At the end of the day, you’ll make the decision that’s best for your specific wants and needs. Having had a fridge for a few camping trips now, I can honestly say it’s been a game-changer.
Find It Online:
- ICECO VLPro75
- Manufacturer Direct
- Use code – TRAILCO – to save 12%!
- Manufacturer Direct
So, Why ICECO?
You can call me a “fanboy”, but I do my research. There are tons of brands out there that make portable fridges and all of them have their pros and cons. Who are the competitors? When it comes to true dual-zone portable fridges (fridge and freezer combined) Dometic and Whynter seem to be the front-runners. ARB and Smittybilt make fridges that you’ll inevitably see on Toyota builds, but at the time of writing this story, neither offered a true dual-zone fridge. There are others out there, but none that I’d say are truly competing with ICECO.
To me, I’m not overly concerned with the appearance as much as I am the internal components, design and build integrity, a solid warranty, and a competitive price-point. If none of that matters to you, just buy what everyone else is buying but don’t complain if it doesn’t meet your exact needs! The point is, do your research.
So, why do I choose ICECO time and time again?
- Internal Components: ICECO uses the same Secop/DanFoss compressor as Dometic, ARB, and Smittybilt. Secop/DanFoss is a well-known compressor and the fact that all of the big guys use them says a lot. With my JP50 fridge, I never had compressor issues and I actually found it to be fairly noise-free. CHECK
- Design and Build Integrity: ICECO’s new VL Series dual-zone fridges offer a similar design as Dometic with doors that open sideways vs. longways, a black rugged shell, and durable handles. In fact, ICECO’s fridge doors can open either way and easily come off which comes in handy for cleaning. CHECK
- Solid Warranty: Both ICECO and Dometic offer a 5-year warranty on the Secop/DanFoss compressor. To boot, ICECO includes one (1) replacement handle and four (4) replacement corner bumpers, so you have backup exterior parts overlanders commonly break. CHECK
- Competitive Price Point: ICECO’s dual-zone 75L fridge is about $400 less than Dometic. CHECK
There’s always going to be a time when going with a name brand at a higher price-point just makes sense. In the world of suspension parts, there’s a clear difference between stock shocks and King’s. So dollar-for-dollar, you’re getting what you pay for but in that scenario, you’re not comparing apples to apples. So when a portable fridge comes in at roughly half the price of the big name brands and it has all of the same features, components and warranty, I think the decision speaks for itself.
We were so impressed with the ICECO JP50 that in our pursuit for a dual-zone fridge, the new VL Series was unquestionably the direction we’d go. When it came to the JP50, we actually felt like the storage capacity itself was more than perfect for a 3-day trip. However, we had plans for extended overlanding trips and really liked the idea of having a freezer on one side and a normal fridge on the other.
ICECO offers two dual-zone options in their new line of black VL Series fridges; one holds 75 liters and the other, 90 liters. Again, storage capacity wasn’t our biggest concern but the size of the fridge itself was. So, we opted for the slightly smaller model; the VLPro75D.
While you can easily see the features on the ICECO site for this particular model, I figured I’d go into a bit more detail here and my personal thoughts on each.
Find it online:
- ICECO VLPro75D – Check Price
Flexible Side-Opening and Removable Lids
With the JP50, the lid opened longways from front to back. That particular design was fine, but not ideal if you have your fridge mounted to a slide on top of a storage system in the trunk of your 4Runner. Between the height of entry and the opening position being front to back, access is limited unless you remove the fridge altogether from the trunk.
So now that the new VL Series fridges have doors that open from side to side vs. front to back, access in most situations is much easier. Plus, the lids themselves can open from either side and can be removed completely for a variety of reasons (easier access, cleaning, using them as a shield against zombies, etc.).
Control Panel Breakdown
It goes without saying, any electrical component you have that might be exposed to the outdoor elements will last longer if it’s weatherproof. The VLPro75D control panel (also the 90D) is waterproof, weatherproof, and dummy-proof.
As pictured, the DC, AC, and USB ports all have a rubber protector when not in use. One of the other conveniences of this model worth noting is that it supports a DC port on both far ends. So depending on your cargo configuration, this can come in handy.
Since the 75D and the 90D are dual-zone fridges, the panel offers the option of setting different temperatures on each side, each one is properly labeled, and you have the option of having one side completely off while the other maintains the desired temperature.
The “Cooling” indicator above each zone lets you know if the compressor is running to achieve that specific temperature. So for example, if you set a zone to 38° and the current internal temperature is 75°, the “Cooling” indicator will maintain green until it hits that specific temperature point you set it to.
Max Mode is for fast cooling and Eco Mode is for more energy-efficient cooling. If you’re in no rush to get your fridge to the desired temperatures, use the Eco Mode setting. If you’re in a rush and need to cool everything down quickly, use Max Mode. Just know that if you’re using Max Mode, you may burn down the battery in your generator a bit quicker. Also, you will consume more energy if it is plugged into an AC outlet.
The Battery Monitor is a “Triple-Level Battery Protection” setting which ICECO says is to help with vehicle battery depletion.
As a 4Runner owner, you might use the AC port in the cargo area to keep your fridge powered during your trip. It dawned on me that after each time we powered off the truck (fuel stops, meal breaks, bathroom breaks, etc.), I was going to have to go back into the cargo area and reset the fridge. What you don’t see on the control panel is that behind the scenes, the fridge has a memory function that prevents the user from having to reset all of the fridge settings in the event the fridge becomes unplugged. So when you power back up and hit the road, as long as the AC port is turned on, your fridge will resume cooling to the temperature(s) you initially set.
The 75D model has a storage capacity equivalent to 91 cans of soda (56 quarts on the left and 33 on the right) where the 90D can hold up to 150 cans (56 quarts on the left and 40 on the right). That in and of itself is a significant amount of storage space and for my particular setup/needs, the 75D has been more than enough space.
With the JP50, ICECO used a blueish bulb for the fridge’s interior lighting. While it lit the area just fine, I found it to be a bit different, uncommon, and not really warranted over a typical white bulb. My guess is the idea was similar to the red light setting on a headlamp, so opening the fridge at night in a camp setting would cast just enough brightness but wouldn’t be too bright. Maybe?
Either way, the VL Series fridges now offer two white LED lights. And to boot, both zones offer a removable wire mesh basket which can make it easier to find what you need without pulling apart the fridge.
To be honest, I’m not sure there’s really much more to say. Clearly, I am a fan and think you should buy one. In fact, I still think if dual-zone isn’t something you need but you want a fridge, go for the JP50 all day. Both the VL Series and JP Series fridges come in at lower price points and offer almost all of the same features and functionality.
If you want a Dometic because that’s what everyone else seems to have, then go that route. Just know that the difference in price is purely because of the brand name.
The one thing that ICECO does not currently offer is Bluetooth or app capabilities… but what do you really need all that for? It seems like nowadays, companies make apps for their products for the sake of saying they have an app. My LG fridge’s app will send me a notification when the air filter or water filter needs to be replaced… but the indicators on the fridge also tell me they need to be replaced, so what’s the point of the app? Just seems like unnecessary tech.
Stick to the basics when it comes to overlanding gear, focus on durability and quality and we’ll all be happy! That’s what ICECO seems to be doing.