Portable Fridge vs. Solar Powered Fridge: Which One is Right for You?

Jul 11, '24

Whether you're planning a weekend camping trip or prepping your RV for a cross-country journey, a reliable fridge is an absolute must-have. But with so many options out there, how do you decide what's best for your needs?  Today, we’ll explore the big question: Portable Fridges vs. Solar-Powered Fridges—what are they, and how do they differ? 

Grab a cup of coffee or your favorite road-trip snack, and let's dive in!

What’s a Portable Fridge Anyway?

BougeRV’s ASPEN Portable Fridge with Additional Battery Backup

First things first—what exactly is a portable fridge? In simple terms, a portable fridge is a compact refrigerator that you can easily move around. They're lightweight, often coming with handles or wheels for added convenience. Portable fridges can run on 12V DC power, which you can plug into your car's cigarette lighter, making them perfect for road trips, camping, overlanding, or even tailgating. Many models also offer the option to plug into the wall outlet (110V AC) or battery banks. 

The Appeal of Solar-Powered Fridges

A woman taking a drink out of a BougeRV portable fridge in the trunk.png

Now, let’s talk solar-powered fridges. These innovative units combine the benefits of a portable fridge with the eco-friendly perks of solar energy. Instead of relying solely on your vehicle's battery or an external power source, solar-powered fridges typically operate on battery backups that store energy collected from solar panels. Some models even come with detachable batteries! This makes them ideal for extended off-grid adventures or any situation where electricity might be limited.

Portable Fridge vs. Solar Powered Fridge

1. Power Considerations

One of the key factors to consider when choosing between a portable fridge and a solar-powered fridge is power consumption. 

Portable Fridges

  • Power Source: Typically run on 12V DC power from your vehicle.
  • Power Consumption: On average, they consume between 1-5 amps per hour.
  • Backup Options: Many models can be plugged into regular wall outlets.

Solar Powered Fridges

  • Power Source: Primarily solar energy, but many also support 12V DC and AC power as backups.
  • Power Consumption: Generally more efficient because they are designed to maximize solar input.
  • Flexibility: Great for long-term use in places without reliable power sources.

2. Portability and Ease of Use

Both kinds of fridges are highly portable, but there are some differences you should know about.

Portable fridges are typically lighter and more compact, making them easier to carry and store. They’re super easy to use, just plug into your car's 12V socket and you're good to go.

Solar-powered fridges are a bit heavier because they include extra parts like built-in batteries and tough metal shells, which are made to handle rough terrain over long distances. You need to position the solar panels just right to get enough sunlight, which can be a bit tricky if you're always on the go.

So, if convenience is what you're after, a small portable fridge might be your best bet. But if you're planning to stay put in one spot for a while, taking the time to set up a solar-powered fridge is worth it for the free, renewable energy you'll get.

3. Performance and Efficiency

A BougeRV Rocky solar-powered fridge cooling meat, snacks, and drinks

When it comes to keeping your food and drinks chilled, performance is crucial. Both portable fridges and solar-powered fridges cool down quickly and maintain consistent temperatures. Plus, they both feature digital thermostats for precise temperature control.

4. Durability and Maintenance

Now, let’s touch on durability and maintenance—because no one wants their fridge breaking down in the middle of nowhere.

Portable fridges are generally robust and built to withstand bumpy rides. Maintenance is pretty simple—just keep the interior clean and periodically check the power connectors. 

Solar-powered fridges are equally durable but require more careful handling because of the solar panels. Besides regular cleaning, you'll need to ensure the solar panels are free from dust and debris. 

5. Cost Comparison

We can't ignore the price tags. Now, let's break down the costs associated with each type of fridge.

Portable fridges generally run from $200 to $1,000, making them a more budget-friendly option. 

On the other hand, solar-powered fridges cost more due to backup batteries, with prices from $400 to $1,500. For example, our Rocky Series solar-powered fridge at BougeRV, designed for overlanding, ranges from $549 to $799.99 (as of now).

BougeRV portable solar-powered fridge for Overlanding

Conclusion: Which One Should You Choose?

So, after all this comparison, which one should you choose? Well, it really depends on your individual needs and lifestyle.

Choose a Portable Fridge If:

  • You value convenience and ease of use.
  • Your trips are shorter, or you prefer moving from place to place.
  • Budget is a primary concern.
  • You prefer simple maintenance:

Choose a Solar-Powered Fridge If:

  • You often go on extended, off-grid adventures like Overlanding
  • You don't mind the initial higher cost for long-term savings.
  • You’re okay with setting up solar panels and occasional maintenance.

Both portable fridges and solar-powered fridges offer fantastic solutions for keeping your food and drink cool while on the go. By considering your specific needs, trip duration, and budget, you can make an informed decision that will enhance your adventures and keep you well-fed.

Table of Contents