How to properly pack a portable fridge for Offroading and Overlanding: Tips and tricks to best-pack a Dometic CFX3
It’s the day before you leave on an adventure you’ve been planning for weeks, you have all of your food and drink laid out and ready to be packed into your CFX3 fridge. How do you get the most out of your fridge, and make it as efficient as possible while you’re out? I’ll run through some tips for packing your fridge to help! For our example, we will be using the new CFX3IM for the baseline fridge, however many of these tips can be easily adapted to other fridge makes and models.
When to pack
It’s pretty common practice to throw everything in your fridge just before hitting the road, but it may not be the most efficient way to start your trip. Loading up your supplies at warmer temperatures than you’ll have the fridge is set at will cause the fridge to draw more power from your vehicle at the beginning of your trip! Save yourself the vehicle power draw by filling your fridge and pre-chilling your goods (and fridge) the night or day before your leave using AC power from your house. This way, when you’re ready to set off, everything inside is already at its set temperature!
Separation is key
With Dometic’s baskets out and ready for packing, you’ll need to consider how you’ll use your fridge while you’re out! Since it comes with a handy divider, I usually separate my fridge space into three categories; frequent use, scheduled use, and “can’t get warm”.
This half of the fridge basket is where you’ll put items that you’ll use constantly or replenish frequently. For me, this typically includes beer, water, and all cold snacks or beverages that I will be consuming on and off. *Beer tip:* use an old cardboard 6-pack holder to organize your beers/beverages. This way you can remove one, and the space stays open for when you replenish without having something else fall in its place.
The other half of the main basket is dedicated to your main meals, which you will typically eat in a scheduled manner. “Dinner Friday night, lunch Saturday, dinner Saturday night…” You can layer your meals, in the order which they will be prepared and eaten. By dedicating this section of your fridge to a layered approach, you can ultimately pack the fridge in a more efficient manner. I like to use silicone or zip-lock bags for packing prepared foods (substituted with towels in the above photo for effect) as they will usually waste the least amount of overall space and can be removed or collapsed as food is consumed. Silicone bags are preferred ultimately to reduce waste as they are washable and reusable. Other food that is prepackaged will typically use a minimal amount of space and doesn’t need to be repacked.
”Can’t get warm”
The CFX3 has a new, smaller basket that fills the area above the compressor and it works perfectly to keep items cool, but not cold. I have found that this smaller basket is perfect for things that can’t get as hot as the interior of the vehicle, such as chocolate, butter, cookies, and so on. I also keep my allotment of coffee stored here in a silicone bag.
Take up some space
The key to any 12v fridge’s efficiency is how much of the space is being taken up by the contents inside. A fridge full of air will demand more power to keep the items inside cold. Ideally, your fridge is full of food and liquids to keep the temperatures as stable as possible, however, depending on the length of your trip you may not end up with a packed fridge when you leave. To help with taking up the space, you can add water (I add Nalgene bottles fulls of water) which is a great thermal sink and will help keep your fridge from working too hard. Plus, you’ll always have cold water on hand!
Another way to take up space is by using something as simple as a beach towel to reduce the amount of air in the fridge. Yes, a towel. But it does a really great job keeping the air volume down, all while keeping your beers from knocking around too much in the fridge! Win, win!
Before taking off on your trip, weeks prior, take your baskets out of your fridge or bring the fridge into your garage to practice packing your fridge. It sounds boring and maybe a bit OCD, but you’ll soon learn the best way to pack your model of fridge. This will change what food you bring, how you prepare it ahead of time, and what order you’ll put things in. For example, you’ll learn that chopped onions take up less space than a round whole onion, or that canned beer takes up less space than bottled brews. Your preparation ahead of time and knowing what packs well into your space will allow for an easier time the night before you leave!
Time will tell
As with anything, you can only prepare so much before experience takes over and “perfects the method”. But that preparation will get you much closer to a perfected method in the end. Take note of things that you used and enjoyed or found annoying while you’re using the fridge. If you need one thing constantly that causes disarray when you remove it, consider a different location for it so it can be removed/replaced with ease. It’s the little things and changes over time that will make the biggest difference with how you pack and enjoy your fridge in the future.
What has worked well for you when you’re packing for a trip? What tips have you picked up over the years? We’d love to hear your thoughts!