Recently I had a friend ask me about our cooler and how we deal with ice every day. I told her we used a refrigerated cooler and she had never heard of it before and asked me my thoughts about her getting one for their family road trip. Here are my thoughts for anyone considering this.
First, you need to know your budget. These are not cheap, they are an investment, but we found ours paid for itself after just a week or so. Despite the higher cost, they are definitely worth it for many families. Our ability to purchase groceries and make meals on the road has saved us many times over the cost of the cooler and cooking equipment that we use. As an additional bonus, we are also able to eat healthier than we typically would in a restaurant on a regular basis.
Some questions you can consider before purchasing any cooler for your trip: Where are you going? How much cooking will you do on your own? How accessible will ice be for you?
Why a refrigerated cooler?
We prefer these for the following reasons –
- We aren’t always at places where we can get ice easily
- We love that this can charge itself off our car the whole day while we are driving and it can keep our groceries at a consistent temperature so we don’t have to worry about things like meats and dairy items spoiling
- We never have to worry about water seeping into a bag or container that is not water-tight or not sealed properly
This is the cooler we use
We’ve been very happy with it, but the few things that are less than perfect are… well, the weight, though that will always be the case with any cooler of this size, and a cooler this size filled with water melted from ice would have been even heavier. If we could change things, we would leave out the ice maker, which is just a freezer area that allows you to make a few small trays of ice. We find it doesn’t make that much anyway, and we’d rather have the extra space and would get rid of the freezer area if we could.
Uses we’ve found beyond our road trips
I used to think it was more unique that we live in such a hurricane-prone area, but not only are we seeing more hurricanes, but there are also tornados, blizzards, and other natural disasters that can cause power outages. For anyone who has ever had to clean out a refrigerator in preparation for or (much worse) after a few days of a power outage, you will realize that the cost of this cooler is well worth it for simply being cheaper than an actual refrigerator if it can save you from replacing one.
Consider getting a large battery as well.
A battery isn’t crucial but again, we find it well worth the investment as it is a huge additional help. We have upgraded our battery so that we can leave the cooler in the car overnight and it can run off the battery and stay cool all night. It will not last you days through a power outage, but it will give you a lot of extra time to move to a better location with power that you can plug into.
This was the initial battery we had, which was really great, though we did end up investing in a more powerful model. It was a much bigger investment but we still found it worthwhile.
This is the battery we upgraded to.
For you campers out there who have more time to take advantage of solar power, check out this amazing option. We aren’t there yet but would love to hear your thoughts if any of you have one or get one!
We do still keep one smaller cooler in the backseat of the car with us. Right now it’s a cute collapsible one we found at Target that is great for a short picnic or something, and fantastic for being collapsible so it doesn’t take up much space when storing it while not in use. It’s not the same, but similar to this one… https://amzn.to/36jmto7
That said, it is not totally waterproof and we find that the bottom ends up pretty wet by the end of the day. This could be because the heaters for the back seat are behind the center console, and that is exactly where we need to keep our cooler for best access, but either way, we are looking for something better to replace it with. We like a soft-sided cooler for these smaller places so it isn’t too rigid if seats get moved or toys push into it a bit, but to stand up to our heaters, until Honda chances the locations of those on the Odyssey (our minivan,) we may need to look at a hard case for something more substantial. Let us know if y’all have one you love that you would recommend! In the meantime, we’ll keep looking and maybe try out something like this…
Comment below to let us know your questions or suggestions, we love to hear from you!
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