Whether your fishing trip or camping excursion is a week- or month-long, you can get guaranteed food and drink freshness with the best marine refrigerator. Using portable marine refrigerators is essentially like being able to take your pantry anywhere with you.
No need to be mindful of keeping the cold air inside with blocks of ice. Just peace of mind that you can cook a nice lunch or dinner after a day of catching fish. Every boater’s dream life, in short.
Want to land the ones that have the most efficient marine refrigeration? You better start paying attention to these three primary factors then.
- Cooling and Temperature Control: It’s a given that most marine refrigeration units perform stellarly in keeping their contents cold. However, there are some products that actually have compartments intended specifically as a freezer or fridge.
Some units are even innovative enough to allow you to shift each compartment to a freezer/freezer combination, fridge/fridge, or a mixture of the two. You should also consider how easy it is to control and monitor the temperature of the unit with the use of an LCD control panel.
- Energy Efficiency: Power consumption is important because boats don’t have an infinite power supply. This is why many users like units with Eco Mode for more power saving.
12v refrigerator marine refrigerators are the norm among boaters because they can conveniently hook it up to their vessels’ batteries. A couple of units can run on their own batteries with set charging times and battery life. Many incorporate 12V/24V connector cables for versatile charging.
- Capacity: Most brands use quarts or cans as a guide for users to figure out how spacious each refrigerator is. Capacities of 45 cans or more are suitable for most long trips, but of course, this still depends on how long you tend to be out at sea or in the great outdoors.
To me, these are the most important for the general purpose of portable marine refrigeration systems. I’ll expound on a couple of other vital factors in the accompanying Buying Guide of my marine refrigerator reviews.
Table of Contents
- Top 12 Marine Refrigerator Reviews
- 1. Alpicool C20 Portable Refrigerator
- 2. Dometic CFX-35W Electric Powered Cooler
- 3. Whynter FM-45G Portable Refrigerator
- 4. COSTWAY 23499-CYPE Car Refrigerator
- 5. Ausranvik Portable Refrigerator
- 6. Alpicool C50 Portable Refrigerator
- 7. Engel MR040F-U1 Portable Tri-Voltage Fridge
- 8. ICECO VL60 Dual Zone Portable Refrigerator
- 9. EdgeStar CRF150SS-1 Convertible Refrigerator
- 10. BLACK+DECKER BCRK17B Compact Refrigerator
- 11. Dometic CRX-65 Black Refrigerator
- 12. VBENLEM Portable Refrigerator
- Factors To Consider When Choosing A Marine Refrigerator
- What Is The Ideal Size Of A Marine Refrigerator
- How To Install A Boat Fridge
- How Do I Organize My Boat Refrigerator
- Can You Use A Regular Refrigerator On A Boat
- Do Sailboats Have Refrigerators
Top 12 Marine Refrigerator Reviews
1. Alpicool C20 Portable Refrigerator
What this unit lacks in capacity compared to other refrigerators for boats, it more than makes up for reliability and energy efficiency.
I’ve traveled with this box for more than 25,000 miles in both my camping, fishing, and cruising trips. It’s been with me to dozens of lakes and national parks. It may not be the ideal choice for hardcore travelers because of the limit in storage space, but it’s one of the most reliable and power-saving units I’ve owned.
I’ve paired it with numerous battery packs on my boat and my 200W solar setup on my RV. It typically doesn’t eat up power, especially if I set it to Eco mode and set the thermometer to -10. Expect it to consume around 240 watts for an entire day and overnight with that setup. That’s even with ambient temperatures reaching a little over 80 degrees.
Once you shut off the car or boat engine while hooked up to the battery, its energy efficiency truly shines, especially if you set it on Eco. It never lets me down with its cooling ability. It can even freeze its contents overnight if you decrease the temperature further, but it will require more power if you choose to do so.
Other qualities I like are its near noiseless operation and the relative lack of weight compared to other units or marine refrigerator brands for that matter. I like that I can sleep next to it because all I’ll hear is a very subtle white noise. As for the weight, I like that I don’t have to ask for a helping hand every time I need to transport it.
2. Dometic CFX-35W Electric Powered Cooler
Dometic is a household brand in refrigeration precisely because of products like these. It’s got every quality I like in my portable refrigerator.
I like how the brand has improved this product over time. I only recently bought it, having been wary of the negative feedback it got years back. I’m glad I decided to give it a try because it has given my other previous units a run for their money in performance alone.
It’s basically an electric-powered cooler because it’s built like one, but you don’t have to put ice in it. It also contains the average drain plug you see from a standard ice chest, which makes cleaning easy.
What I mainly love about it are its performance and amazing power-saving. It gives me plenty of control over what I want to chill or freeze. It’s also versatile in that I can have one side for freezing my meals and catch of the day, while the other’s for keeping my beverages cool.
It appears and feels to be as rugged as it claims to be. I especially like that they integrated stainless steel components in the right places. While I wouldn’t leave it out in the open, I’m fairly confident that this will give me 5 or more years of consistent cooling and freezing.
3. Whynter FM-45G Portable Refrigerator
This is one of my favorite units to use when I decide to travel and cruise for months. I once lived in a sailboat years ago, and this refrigerator never let me down with its low power draw, sheer versatility, and cooling capability.
Almost any boat fridge 12v compressor has the natural benefit of actively helping you save electricity. I admit that that’s the main reason why I decided to go for this fridge. It’s able to run on a 110V AC power source or a 12/24V DC one without having to trigger switches and move wires so that’s a real plus. I like that it includes both cords for AC and DC, too.
I once had to deal with a sweltering 90-degree heat off the Texas Gulf Coast. I let it run on a 250Ah 12V DC AGM battery. It managed to drop the temperature to the desired level of -10 degrees from the said high ambient temperature in just an hour on Normal. I usually let it run on that mode and the Low Power one, and I’ve never woken to food items swimming in ice water in the morning.
I’m also a fan of the overall robust construction of this fridge/freezer. It’s basically all metal and the latch feels sturdy enough to be sat on. Despite its heavy-duty build, it’s as quiet as a mouse once it’s running.
4. COSTWAY 23499-CYPE Car Refrigerator
Don’t underestimate this fridge’s relatively low price point. It delivers the essentials without breaking the bank. The fact that it manages to throw in a few more nifty bonuses makes it one of the most affordable refrigerators on this list.
I use this mostly for lengthy camping trips that span for 5 or more days. However, I also tend to lug it around with me when I’m going on week-long fishing holidays. At an economical price, you get fantastic cooling and capacity.
Speaking of its cooling ability, it has handled plenty of extra hot excursions in the Midwest over the years. I’m talking about 95 degrees of unbearable heat here. It can be a real lifesaver for anyone who wants to preserve cool, refreshing drinks even if you’re putting up with hotter than normal temperatures.
You get plenty of breathing room because of the sweet depth of the entire interior. I tend to not be deprived of additional space for my drinks and fresh ingredients that I can later cook. Like most of the fridges I owned, it’s also able to function as a freezer and fridge based on your immediate needs, and that’s always a good thing for any serious traveler.
I’ve had it run off a portable solar panel and a Goal Zero Yeti 1,000. Power consumption is fairly standard, bordering on minimal. I usually get a reading of 45 watts every time I check it when the marine refrigeration compressor kicks in.
5. Ausranvik Portable Refrigerator
Compared to most portable fridges, this one always brings its A-game with quick cooling, low power consumption, and satisfactory capacity. All these without being much of a burden on your wallet.
It’s easy to use this on my sailboat because it works well with a 12/24V DC electrical system. Paired with the relatively fast way it cools its contents, I’d be more than willing to grab that opportunity especially if I’m fishing in the summer. You don’t want your catch to stay out in the heat for long if that’s the case.
That’s just half of what makes it great in my eyes, though. It’s a fridge that’s all about efficiency. For one, it only cycles when it needs to. If the ambient temperature is not too hot, the compressor won’t be triggered that much, allowing it to save plenty of power.
Having fallen victim to fridge lids inadvertently squashing my fingers in the past, I appreciate the brand’s inclusion of an anti-pinch feature. Mind you, these accidents hurt like hell, and I’ve read that they could even lead to irreversible damage sometimes. It’s a must if you usually bring along your kids with you when heading on any outdoor trip.
I bought the 45-quart one and got exactly what I anticipated as far as capacity goes. It’s alright for the size and manageable weight.
6. Alpicool C50 Portable Refrigerator
This Alpicool product sets the bar high for what innovations portable refrigerators can bring to the table. Want better power-saving and outstanding cooling? This fridge is a full-on beast with those qualities.
I regard this as one of the best gem discoveries I made in recent years. I’ve always stuck to Dometic products and other established brands in the past. What drew me to this initially are superficial features like the minimalist design, space-efficient dimensions, and notably spacious interior. Generally, I’m still satisfied with all three.
However, what impressed me most are the cooling and energy-saving aspects. Even with the LED light thrown in, I can still count the number of times I’ve drained a fully charged battery after an entire day of use regardless of ambient temperature and humidity. Take note that I do leave it on Eco mode most of the time. I normally choose “power sippers” most of the time, and this one’s proven time and again that it deserves that label.
As for the capacity, I like to bring this along on my camping/fishing trips to Glacier National Park. I can bring 8-days worth of drinks with a couple of sandwiches and still have plenty to hand out to the fam and my fellow campers.
It’s highly portable thanks to the handle. Besides the LED light, I also like that it’s similar to a cooler because of the drain plug. I also love how the dimensions allow you to easily set it in a nice little corner of your boat or car without occupying too much space.
7. Engel MR040F-U1 Portable Tri-Voltage Fridge
This is one of the more well-designed beauties I’ve had the pleasure to own. It’s proven to last for years, barely eats up your boat or car’s battery, and has great temperature control.
This one makes it to this list primarily because I still use it even after 5 years. It handled regular use magnificently in the first three years of that span of time. I mostly took it along in RV rides, but it has also spent a fair amount of time on board my pontoon boat. I reckon it clocked 50,000 miles in total and is still going strong.
It can run entirely on my RV’s or the VMAX AGM marine battery that I frequently bring when out fishing. Even if it’s hooked up 24/7, the draw is minimal. On top of that, it can keep your meals frozen for you for the entire day. I’ve been able to prepare sumptuous meals like stews, a couple of Chinese fares, anything that can be grilled, and breakfast omelettes with its help even though I’m in the middle of nowhere.
I can safely say that its temperature doesn’t or only slightly fluctuates based on my experience with it over the years. The 40-quart size is generous enough, but not that notable. I like that I get to open its lid easier because of its dimensions, but that’s my subjective opinion. Overall, it’s decidedly sound and delivers great value for money.
8. ICECO VL60 Dual Zone Portable Refrigerator
ICECO is one of those less recognized brands that can prove to be a real gem for anyone looking for cheaper but high-quality fridges. The VL60 serves as one evident proof of this.
This fridge sports the versatility I’ve come to enjoy from products that let you use their cooling to mainly chill or freeze or a combination of both. Once you get the hang of controlling the temperatures, you can have chilled drinks sitting on top of frozen steaks and veggies that you can enjoy every day.
It can hold meals that can last up to one week depending on what food you’re going to make. Don’t expect this to be the case if you have plenty of other chilled or frozen ingredients to add to every meal. I like that I can compartmentalize everything from the get-go thanks to the interior’s design.
The compressor runs incredibly softly, almost whisper-quiet. It’s one of the most silent freezers I’ve owned, and this is coming from someone who knows what deep silence is all about, having spent a month camping in Big Bend once. I even have to double-check whether it’s running sometimes!
I’d be lying if I say the bargain price coupled with the 5-year warranty didn’t attract me from the start. Imagine my glee when I discovered how solid it is, especially in cooling and overall energy efficiency. I once took this to a three-day fishing marathon. Set on Eco mode, it only drew 0.30 amps on average and wasn’t much of a burden on my sailboat’s battery even when running 24/7.
9. EdgeStar CRF150SS-1 Convertible Refrigerator
Compact and durable, EdgeStar’s convertible refrigerator makes short work of most cooling and freezing requirements. Anyone who wants a dependable fridge they can comfortably haul around should consider this.
A trucker friend of mine recommended this to me. Since it’s more of a tiny freezer than a fridge, it’s actually quick cooling but doesn’t suck the power out of any vehicle you connect it to. I’ve hooked this up to my RV and sailboat often, especially if my trip would only last 3 days at most.
Since it doesn’t take up too much space, I tend to bring it along as a backup freezer. I can put any kind of fresh produce like broccoli and other greens and fruits in it and enjoy healthy meals for days. The insulation rivals most conventional refrigerators with freezers that I can think of, and this is readily apparent in the consistent, fast freezing performance.
I’d have to give a thumbs up to the locking feature, too. It’s not at all hard to take the extra step to secure your items. That, plus the fact that it also sports a stainless steel finish is what convinces me that great care was given in making a fridge-freezer that will last.
I love that the size immediately complements how convenient it is to carry it around. It’s a fridge that you won’t think twice to carry with you because of how manageable it is and how you know bringing it along can guarantee fresh, healthy meals while on the go.
10. BLACK+DECKER BCRK17B Compact Refrigerator
Being a vintage brand, it may seem only natural that a fridge from BLACK+DECKER should automatically be included here. Well, this just happens to be the only one I owned that really gave me what I would deem as truly brand-worthy features and performance.
This is actually a frequent fixture in our family yacht. We seldom take it out because we’ve delegated it as a sort of official food pantry. Anything fresh that can be chilled or frozen goes in this neat little ice chest. I have most of the cooling performance and reasonable capacity to thank for that.
Believe it or not, I’ve been able to store more than a week’s worth of food in this box. The glass shelf can be removed, after all, so I can put in more items than I normally can in fridges with the same capacity. It’s not too super in the drinks department, but I can stow a couple of water bottles and beer on the door’s shelf.
You can effortlessly set the temperature and even freeze anything you can fit in there, with the help of its tiny freezer. It doesn’t chill as quickly as other iceboxes I’ve tried, but it does manage to maintain its temperatures. I also checked it frequently in the past, during the first few months after we bought it.
I’m a fan of the dimensions. It’s a basic squarish shape that won’t give you any headaches as far as positioning is concerned. It also means it occupies less precious real estate than most.
11. Dometic CRX-65 Black Refrigerator
There’s more to this fridge than meets the eye. If you think its seemingly narrow spread is claustrophobia-inducing, think again. It’s spacious and space-saving at the same time, deserve the Dometic seal of quality performance.
That being said, I’m actually more enamored by the midget-like size of this product. The cooling part is almost a given, having been made by a well-established brand. I got exactly what I expected: solid cooling from a brand that has built its reputation.
It can handle comparatively high temperatures well above. I once drove through Texas with this box next to me on the driver’s seat, and the mercury’s reading averaged 88 degrees. Incidentally, if that doesn’t tell you how compact it is, I don’t know what would.
It doesn’t hurt that hauling it around is a piece of cake even though it’s packed full of chilled food items that are housed in separate Tupperware containers. Speaking of categorizing, this is actually one of the few dwarf fridges I’ve owned that affords me this much organization.
Don’t be fooled by the number of shelves once you open it. As proof, I’ve been able to pack this with food like burritos, salads and their dressings, and various uncooked and pre-cooked meals.
12. VBENLEM Portable Refrigerator
Despite its one glaring downside, this ice chest can still wow you with energy-saving features, close to silent operation, and roomy shelves.
Absorption fridges give the ready benefit of running as noise-free as possible. This one’s a prime example of what this technology can achieve in that regard. I even set this next to me while fishing once, and it’s like sitting next to a box. Good for not disturbing the fishes, too.
Another perk that I’d like to underline is the eco-friendly design. Almost all absorption fridges give this ready benefit, and there are unfortunately still very few available in the market. This is the only one in this list that has this advantage, I have to point out.
I love the way they wisely designed the shelves. They’re spaced just right in my opinion because I’ve been able to fit most of my drinks in each one. I don’t have to put them lying down to make the most out of the box’s entire dimensions.
It delivers exactly what it promises in power consumption. I tested it out and it only slightly deviated from the 0.8 kW/h that it claims. That’s still far less power draw than most compressor-run options available today. It just happens that this absorption fridge can go toe to toe with a lot of them, even a few of the products featured here.
Factors To Consider When Choosing A Marine Refrigerator
It won’t hurt to pay attention to these other vital elements when deciding on what marine refrigerator suits you best.
Most compressor-run refrigerators tend to be noisier than their absorption-based counterparts. This is why I favor brands that use compressors but manage to keep their products’ running sound to a minimum. Trust me, you’ll all the more appreciate it if you need to sleep near your portable fridge and it’s running all night.
Basically most products made of metal or contain a stainless steel finish give a ready hint of a fridge’s longevity. Almost any of the most recognized brands nowadays can guarantee at least 10 years, so this factor shouldn’t be much of an issue.
For one, you’ll find many Vitrifrigo marine refrigerator options that are as sleek as they are durable. I’d be more than inclined to buy a permanent one for my yacht, but they’re not exactly that budget-friendly.
Look at the dimensions of each ice chest you’re considering. This especially applies to anyone who only has a few meters of space to work with when deciding where to put a prospective fridge.
Mini marine refrigerators are almost always compact enough to address this issue. With that in mind, expect most sailboat refrigeration systems to eat up a significant space of your boat’s real estate.
Many travelers and boaters prefer lightweight options for a good reason. You’ll appreciate how easy it is to heave any icebox of your choosing once you regularly bring it along with you on most trips.
The Different Types Of Marine Refrigerators
A vast majority of the products featured here fall under this category. The main perks are obviously, one, they can be used on-demand and, two, they’re way cheaper than a lot of more conventional marine options out there.
Plenty of products that use isotherm marine refrigeration, known for the way it boosts cooling efficiency, and absorption options fall under this category, too. As it stands, it’s a broad category since portability mainly relates to size and not technology.
There is even a boat fridge kit you can use to convert a refrigerator into an isotherm one. I’ve read many notable isotherm refrigerator reviews in the past that can swear by their usefulness in marine settings, and I couldn’t agree more. To me, they’re just as good as any Norcold marine refrigerator out there.
- Cold Plate
Though I haven’t used marine cold plate refrigeration, I’ve learned from many of my friends who love to boat for weeks that this kind of fridge helps them save on power. I’m not surprised since it keeps its contents cold even if you shut it off for a period of time. Another term for it is holding plate marine refrigeration, so don’t be confused if some platforms use it instead.
While now mostly frowned upon by boaters because of its risks, a propane marine refrigerator still remains as a viable option for many. Another disadvantage is that you’d have to carry a dedicated propane tank with you. It can be quite reliable, though, as long as you take the necessary steps to ensure safety.
What Is The Ideal Size Of A Marine Refrigerator
To me, the ideal size is anything that you’re comfortable with. The best marine refrigerator for your purposes shouldn’t take up more space than you intend it to. The capacity should sufficiently cater to the items you take with you for every camping, boating or fishing trip.
How To Install A Boat Fridge
Most of the options featured here can forgo any need to install since they can run out-of-the-box. You only need to hook them up to your solar panel, 12V battery or motor, or your car or boat’s engine for them to start running.
If you want to know how to install a permanent fridge on your boat, though, this can be a lengthy and technical process. I highly recommend you watch this video instead to get invaluable tips and a good overview of what to expect:
How Do I Organize My Boat Refrigerator
How your fridge chills or freezes its contents mainly dictates how you should organize your items. Understandably, ice chests are seldom alike. Stick to these tips
- If the ice chests contain shelves, it’s best to stick to its design.
- Chances are, there are spots that are colder than others, so do your best to discover them and position your items appropriately. Anything that needs more cold naturally has to be placed on the coldest portions.
- What are the items that you’re prioritizing? If it’s fresh food, then you’ll probably need to allot more space for them. They tend to eat up more space than their frozen counterparts.
- Anything you usually have to take out frequently should be easy to reach and take out as much as possible.
Can You Use A Regular Refrigerator On A Boat
Yes. In fact, almost any household appliance you can think of can now be taken onboard a boat. There are plenty of workarounds to power supply with the availability of marine batteries and solar power. Most refrigerators
Do Sailboats Have Refrigerators
They do. Most come with these nifty appliances from the day they’re released from the factory and there are equally many that give owners a lot of leeway in customizing and personalizing their boat.
If they belong to the former, they more than likely use built-in refrigeration systems from the get-go. However, by no means are these systems permanent. They can always be replaced just like any other appliance. You can also carry any number of fridge your boat can support.
Any one of the products I featured here deserves the best marine refrigerator tag since they helped meet my needs. Ultimately, anything that doesn’t let me down in cooling, power draw, and capacity earns that recognition from me. I’m more than willing to bet that the same goes for you, so be sure you stick to the one that pairs well with you like any great shipmate!