Cool Boxes & Camping Fridges Buying Guide

Whether you’re on the campsite, at a picnic or hanging out with friends in the sun, a cool box and camping fridge is a must-have piece of kit.

With there being so many cool boxes and camping fridges to choose from, we thought it would be best to get together a guide on the different types you can enjoy on your next outing.

What you need your cool box or camping fridge for will determine what type you need. Do you need one with a large capacity? Can it be powered from your car? Once you’ve figured out the purpose of a cool box, then it comes down to which model you prefer and what’s best for you in terms of price and size.

Read on to find out more about cool boxes and camping fridges as well the newest models available at Winfields Outdoors…

Why buy a cool box or camping fridge?

Cool boxes and camping fridges work in the exact same way as your fridge at home does, they keep food - and some drinks - fresh and cool.

If you’re out and about on a trip or even simply meeting with friends, they will keep lunches just how you like them and your drinks chilled. No one wants to have a lukewarm drink or an iffy, soggy sandwich - especially in summer.

Read more: 10 Camping Products You Didn’t Realise You Needed

In short, cool boxes and camping fridges are an essential item for any staycation or day trip.

What are the types of cool boxes and camping fridges?

You’ll find, particularly at Winfields Outdoors, that there is a wide variety of cooling options for your next camping trip.

You may be overwhelmed by the names given to them, how to use them or just the sheer number of options available to you. But don’t worry, we’ve briefly explained each type of camping cooling equipment you can own:

  • Passive cool boxes and bags: the standard cool box you would think of but they need freezer packs to keep things cool. They’re made with a hard shell and use foam insulation. They work best when they’re full so there is less air to warm up.
  • Powered cool boxes - electric & thermoelectric: keep food and drink cooler for longer, but don’t cool warm items. Can be powered by your car or mains power and offer a longer cooling time than passive boxes.
  • Compressor cool boxes and fridges: has a small compressor unit that generates the cooling power but can be run off a battery or via the mains.
  • Absorption Three-Way Fridges: three-way camping fridges can run off 12V power (your car), the mains or even gas. They can be more expensive due to the power options, but they offer great usage and help to cool warmer items.

Read on below for more details on each type…

Passive Cool Boxes

Popular for their ease of use, these are a go-anywhere option that doesn't require any additional power. Passive cool boxes feature foam insulation but must use a cooler pack or ice to keep your items cool. Passive cool boxes can be effective for as much as 24-48hrs if you use them correctly and keep them full so less air can circulate and warm up.

  • Hard shell, so they are extremely robust and come in a range of sizes
  • Cheapest cooling option outside of a cool bag, they don’t need any power - making them lighter
  • Foam Insulation that works best when in conjunction with freeze packs
  • Work best when full so there is less air circulating that can be warmed up
  • They are ideal for day use, including picnics, festivals, day trips or light camping

Powered Cool Box: Thermoelectric Cooling – Electric Cool Boxes & 12V Cool Boxes

One of the most popular types of cool boxes are ones with thermoelectric technology. These are your electric and car cool boxes which will run off either 12V or mains, or both! Most of our thermoelectric cool boxes and 12v cool boxes are ideal for UK use thanks to their capabilities of handling between 12°C and 22°C ambient temperatures.

  • You can use 12/24v from your car, van, a leisure battery or mains hook-up at the campsite
  • Ideal for UK use thanks to outdoor temperature range from 12°C up to 22°C
  • No fumes – you can keep the coolbox in your tent or locked up in your car
  • Most will run off 12V and mains, although some are solely 12V but with a converter to mains as an optional extra
  • Light in weight and available in a range of different sizes

Powered Cool Box: High-Performance Thermoelectric Cooling

For going abroad to Europe, then there are higher performance thermoelectric camping fridges available that will cope with higher ambient temperatures, so if it’s 30°C outside then it will be 0°C inside the cool box. Their more efficient technology means that you can control the temperature you desire.

  • Cooling up to 30°C below outdoor temperature, making them ideal for both UK and in Europe
  • Work off both 12V and mains
  • Intelligent power-save circuit that draws little from batteries
  • You can control the cool box to the temperature you desire
  • Better insulation than a standard thermoelectric cool box

Compressor Cool Boxes

Often the top-of-the-range option when it comes to cooling on the move. These cool boxes feature a huge amount of tech, from digital screens to temperature setting control and even app connectivity. This allows you to set the temperature, and track it, from your phone. All compressor cool boxes use an electric compressor to cool the box.

  • Can work off 12V - your car, mains electricity or even built-in solar panels
  • Larger capacity, from 40 litres upwards
  • Some models, particularly from Kampa Dometic, feature WiFi/Bluetooth connection for an app to control temperature
  • Robust and durable shell
  • Can be used in most temperatures due to its electric compressor to cool and recycle air

Absorption Cooling – Three-Way Fridges

The term ‘Three-Way Fridge‘ means that these types of camping fridges will run off 12V, Mains and also gas. One of the main reasons people buy one of these camping fridges is because they may be camping places where they won’t have the option to use electric.

Their size (generally quite big, around 40 litres) is another great feature that people love, as well as their incredible reliability.

  • Can work off gas, 12V and mains, giving great versatility
  • Silent operation
  • Some models are great for use in Europe as well as in the UK
  • Great space offered 40 litres and above
  • Robust and durable shell
  • Incredibly reliable technology used

Key Point: When it comes to powered fridges and running them off your car battery, you must always have your car running or you will drain the car battery.

Cool Box Tips

Once you’ve bought your cool box or camping fridge, you want to use it as best you can to get the most out of it. So, we’ve put together some top cooler tips:

  • Pre-chill: make sure everything you put in your cooler is already as cold as possible. You can always pre-freeze items to increase cooling duration. This would include buying food on a trip.
  • Fill it: when you have a half-full cooler, most of the cool contents, such as air, will leave. Keeping it full will prevent this from happening. If you are coming up short, top it up with more treats!
  • Shut it properly: it’s an easy thing to forget, but try to limit the amount of time your cooler is open and put cool items back as soon as you’re finished with them.
  • Pack it out: don’t hold back on your ice packs particularly if you have extra space to fill. Cool boxes work best when full, so you can improvise with more ice packs by filling plastic bottles with water and freezing them.

What are the best cool boxes and camping fridges?

Winfields recommends…

Best Passive Cool Box

Igloo Latitude 50 Cool Box

This cool box features incredible space with a 47 litre capacity. So, there’s plenty of food and drink you can fit inside. Plus, with its three-day ice retention, you can keep items inside throughout a weekend. It’s integrated drink stands also mean a handy, small table on the go.

Find out more about the Igloo Latitude 50 Cool Box

Best Powered Cool Box

Outwell ECO Prime 24L Cool Box

Lightweight and compact, this cool box features a high-density polyfoam for enhanced insulation and can cool 18ºC below the outside temperature. This versatile cooler also has a heating function, being able to warm to 50ºC and can be powered by the mains or your car.

Find out more about the Outwell ECO Prime Cool Box

Best Compressor Cool Box

Kampa Dometic CFX3 45 Portable Compressor Cool Box

New for this year, this is part of the market-leading CXF3 compressor cool box range by Kampa Dometic. This cooler features superior cooling technology, Wifi/Bluetooth to your phone for temperature control, a high-resolution colour display panel and USB charging.

Find out more about the Kampa Dometic CFX3 45 Compressor Cool Box

Best Absorption Three-Way Fridge

Bayasun 3 Way Absorption Fridge 34L

This fridge combines high performance and a sleek design to bring you one of the best camping fridges around. Powered by either a 12V in-car charger, 230V mains plug or gas, it’s extremely versatile and provides excellent cooling power up to 25ºC below ambient.

Find out more about the Bayasun 3 Way Absorption Fridge

Take a look at our full range of cool boxes and camping fridges or entire equipment collection including:

Camping Furniture | Cooking & Eating | Sleeping | Much More for All Trips

Read more from the Winfields Blog to set you up for 2020...

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The Best UK Campsites To Stay At in 2020 | The 10 Best Family Camping Tents 2020 | Inflatable Tent & Air Tent Buying Guide


  1. wilson
    Is it still possible to get one of these 3way camping freezer boxes please
    1. Craig Winfields
      Craig Winfields
      Hi Martin, I'm sorry but we are completely sold out this season of 3 way camping fridges!
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