Trail Tips for Packing & Organizing your Dometic CFX3 55IM

Trail Tips for Packing your CFX3

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

Preparing dometic refrigerator

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

packing dometic refrigerator

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”.

Frequent use

camping food and drink preparation

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.

camping beer and drinks preparation

Scheduled use

camping food preparation

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”

packing snacks for camping

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

packing dometic refrigerator

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!

fully packed dometic refrigerator

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!

Play Tetris!

dometic refrigerator packed with food and drinks

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

4Runner rooftop tent for camping

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!

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2 years ago

Great article! I’m always trying new ways to pack my CFX3; never thought of the towel trick. I absolutely believe in prepping all my food before I set out to the max extent possible but don’t really rely on ziplock only because of liquids seeping out through the seal. It seems to always happen so low profile sealable containers is the way I go. They do take up a bit of space but I can continuously use/clean/prep new food/reseal while out.

Carlos Valdez
Carlos Valdez
7 months ago
Reply to  Mark

One item I bought that was an absolute game changer was a vaccum sealer. This is when I got tired of water finding it’s way into zip lock bags and other things that shouldn’t be under water from melted ice. It also let’s me marinade meat before I plan to use it. It got to the point I had bacon, sausage and the like sealed up for specific meals. So on a three day trip for breakfast let’s say, I had 6 slices of bacon for one breakfast for two people and so on.
But with a powered cooler you don’t realy need to keep water out. vaccum sealing would then help saving space / keeping liquids in their respective bags.

2 years ago

Slightly unrelated haha, but would love to see a write-up on your middle row seat deletes Max! You described them conceptually on your site but some more photos and details would be great. Thanks.

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