If you are new to adventuring or overlanding and overwhelmed with products and don't know where to start we recommend that the first thing you buy is a fridge. It is often hard to justify buying something you don't use often. While we hope that you head out to camp every chance you get, that isn't always the case. Spend money on something that you can use when you camp AND when you aren't camping! My wife, mother and sister have had fridges in their cars every single day for the past year (my wife has had hers for over 4 years). It is so convenient to go to the store, pick up kids from school, drop them at soccer practice and get home and the milk is still cold and its 100 degrees outside. We LOVE our 12V fridge and are totally spoiled to using it daily.
While attending an Overland Expo in Austin, TX hosted by Texas Avid Outdoors I was fortunate enough to be set up right next to the guys from SnoMaster USA. I had heard some talk about SnoMaster and was excited to see one in person and put my hands on it. Todd gave me a fridge to use for the day, and by the end of the event I knew I had to have it. CB Adventure Supply takes pride in bringing high quality products to our customers with some hands on - "let me tell you WHY I think its best" knowledge. I wanted to put the fridge through some testing in order to be able to stand behind it. I have now had two different SnoMaster fridges in my possession for over a month, and this is my overall review of the fridge.
The two fridges that I have been using are the BD/C-42S and the BD/C-60. I chose the single bin units because we don't carry frozen stuff with us on our adventures, so I like the openness of the single bin units for packing. I have however, seen the double bin units in action, and it is pretty sweet to have ice cream on one side and cold beverages or food on the other.
Every SnoMaster fridge/freezer comes with two power cords (one for vehicle use the other for a 120 outlet), removable baskets, bottle opener, remote control (the BD/C-42 is a remote display unit-not a controller), LED lighting inside and an insulated transit bag (a pricy upgrade for other fridges). Upon opening the box you can see and feel the quality of the unit. The entire unit is stainless steel as well as all the hinges, handles and latches and the latches are lockable. The seals are also much more robust than the fridge I've had in the past.
All of the SnoMaster fridge/freezer units utilize a SnoMaster 66 watt compressor. The compressor is built by SnoMaster, and not available in any other fridge in the USA. It has a max amp draw of 5 amps, which is a lot of cooling power in a very efficient package. Unlike many other available options, SnoMaster manufactures their fridges AND their components! This is why they are comfortable offering a 5 YEAR WARRANTY.
The fridges have 3 cooling speed settings: low, auto and high. The most efficient is the auto setting, so that is what we used for all of our testing. There are also 3 fridge cutoff settings to protect you from ending up with a car that won't start: 11.8V, 10.7V and 10V. To test these settings we started by plugging the fridge into the back of the land cruiser and setting the battery cutoff to the 11.8 setting. The digital display on the fridge shows you the current power level of your battery at all times (this information is also displayed on the remote). This battery monitor is NOT available on all fridge brands, but is standard for every SnoMaster fridge. With the vehicle parked and never started it took over 24 hours for the fridge to get to the 11.8V cutoff. The fridge started to sound it's alarm and quit cooling. The cruiser started right up. We then lowered the setting to the 10.7V cutoff and had the same experience. Finally, we lowered the fridge cutoff to the 10V setting and let the fridge drain the battery to the point of cutoff. Again, the cruiser fired right up (I am running a single battery in my cruiser). At the 10V setting it took over 3 days to draw the battery down to 10V with outside temperatures in the low 80's during the day and mid 50's at night. I would much rather have some spoiled lunchmeat than be stranded with a dead vehicle. I have great confidence in the battery cutoff feature!
After using the fridge around town for grocery runs and kids sporting events, we loaded up both fridges for a 5 day trip to the desert (2 fridges is overkill, but we had them so we took them). We had one fridge in the cruiser and the other inside our Turtleback Trailer as we headed off to Big Bend Ranch State Park with some great folks from Texas Overland. Throughout the trip we had our food packed in the BD/C-60 and our drinks in the BD/C-42S. We set the food fridge at 35 degrees and the beverage fridge at 32 degrees. We threw a bag of ice in our beverage fridge, and after 3 days it had not melted at all (nice to have ice for your berverage, and we didn't freeze our other drinks). I used a digital thermometer throughout the trip to monitor the actual temps inside the fridges. I was amazed at the accuracy of the temp setting on both fridges. Our previous fridge temperature setting was way off. Temperatures fluctuated by only 5 degrees throughout the trip as we opened and closed the lid and as the temps outside fluctuated. The temperature was mostly 1-2 degrees below the set temperature. We were very impressed by this because the fridge we previously had struggled to maintain consistent temperature. Room temp yogurt is a no go. (pictured below are the hand held remotes showing the set temperatures followed by the digital thermometer showing actual temperatures)
Our trailer has a dual battery setup, and it never pulled the trailer batteries below 12V. The cruiser does not have dual batteries, and the lowest we saw the cruiser battery get was 11.6V. I have to say the most noticeable difference in the SnoMaster fridge and the fridge I had in the past is the consistency and evenness of the temperatures. Inside the SnoMaster units the entire wall is part of the cooling system. There are no warm spots in the fridge, and the stuff on the bottom is the same temperature as the stuff on the top. Pictured below you can see the silver lining on the wall is all part of the cooling unit. It covers the fridge top to bottom and all the way around, including the dairy section (unlike other brands). There is also a drain in the bottom of the fridge for easy clean out.
Another nice feature is that the lid can be reversed. It can open from whichever side works best for you. One negative thing I noticed is that the lid, although very easy to remove for loading and unloading contents to the fridge, it is a little more difficult to get back on. The pins that the hinge slides onto are small and have to be lined up just right. Once you do it a few times it is no big deal, but it takes a little getting used to.
Overall, I am extremely impressed with the SnoMaster fridge units. They are very nicely built, use quality parts, run efficiently and for those of us who live in hot climates, the fact that they come with the insulated transit bag adds a lot of value. It is also nice to have the peace of mind that comes with the 5 year warranty. When looking at 12V fridge options available on the market today be sure to consider all the things that come with the SnoMaster units. I believe SnoMaster is the best value on the market today. SnoMaster's entire lineup is now available from CB Adventure Supply. Be on the lookout for our next article, "Tips for Packing Your Fridge." Adventure is out there...