If you’ve been following my adventures, you know I used a basic cooler as my “fridge” for most of my van life travels. It was a super cheap option up-front. But the long term costs wore me down: waterlogged food, buying ice twice a week, emptying the cooler every few days–exhausting!
On the flip side, portable refrigerators are pricey (and some can be high-maintenance). During my research, the only affordable portable fridges I’d find were the mini fridges that basically just held drinks. Then I considered a cheap thermoelectric fridge, but ultimately decided against it since it can only keep food about ~20 degrees colder than ambient temperature.
But in budget vanlife style, I found the BougeRV portable refrigerator that boasted a decent price tag ($310) and storage space (30Qt or 28L to be exact). So, off I went with my first “car refrigerator” to take a walk on the bougie side!
What is the BougeRV 12 Volt Portable Fridge?
The BougeRV 12V fridge is a travel-size compressor fridge that can run off of 12V/24V DC power or 110~24V AC power. It can be used as a camper van, RV, or car fridge–or even taken on beach trips, camping trips or road trips. It comes in a variety of sizes:
All of these RV refrigerators come with a 2-year warranty, a 12/24V DC power cord and a 110~24V AC power cord, and a user manual. My 30Qt fridge also comes with a removable plastic divider, if you want to separate the fridge space into two.
12V BougeRV Fridge 30 Qt Features
So, what exactly are the specs on this portable fridge? I’ve taken it off-grid in my camper van and put its features to the test.
- Weight: 22.8 lbs
- Capacity: 30 QT = 28L = 0.99 cu. ft.
- Refrigerant: R134A
- Foaming agent: Cyclopentane
- Temperature range: -7-50 degrees Farenheit
- Voltage: 12/24 V DC OR 110～240 V AC
- Wattage: MAX MODE 60W or ECO MODE 45W
- Noise: ≤45 dB
- SKU: A3001-02803
Optional Freezer Mode
Advertised as having the ability to “keep your ice cream hard” (……*slightly awkward sounding*) the portable fridge’s temperature can get down to -7 degrees F. But you’ll need to set it to “max mode” and then use the app control panel to adjust the temperature. So, it’ll definitely suck up more power if you want it in “fridge freezer” mode, but it’s nice to know the option exists!
I found it really easy to adjust the fridge’s temperature. That being said, there were a few times I drastically lowered the temperature and although the display screen would change, I wouldn’t hear the fridge’s compressor turn on so I wasn’t sure if the fridge was already at that temp, or I wasn’t doing it correctly, or it wasn’t working…but what I always found was that my food was COLD. Very cold.
3-Level Battery Protection
This portable compressor fridge is built with a 3-stage charger that ensures you won’t accidentally kill your vehicle’s battery while running it. Basically, it uses a battery monitor to switch the fridge on or off depending on how much power it’s receiving from your rig (or power source). The three stages include high, medium or low mode.
I left my fridge plugged into my 12V charger for 4 consecutive days and never had an issue with it sucking up too much battery. Which leads me to the next point…
Energy Saving (Eco Mode)
In eco mode, the BougeRV fridge uses less than 45W to run. If you’re already in a colder environment or you don’t have any really delicate perishables in the fridge, eco mode is a great way to save your van’s precious power supply.
Use Max mode if you need fast cooling power; it uses 60W to run but its power consumption won’t exceed 1kWh per day.
Again, I’ve never had issues with this 30 quart portable refrigerator sucking up too much of my van’s power supply. I can run it off of my Jackery 240 portable power station as well, which means I can remove it from my van and still use it!
If you live van life, chances are high you’ve experienced “turbulence” while off-roading down random dirt roads. Weee! Thankfully this 12V refrigerator is built to withstand some ups and downs on the road; BougeRV reports that it can handle up to a 30-degree tilt without turning off or being affected. I put this to the test down some gnarly washboard dirt roads that shook my van to its core. The fridge was unphased.
Handy Display & Control Panel
It’s the little things, right? I love the level of detailed instructions that BougeRV has included as a stick-on next to the temperature and mode display. Let’s be real: user manuals are great, but if you forget how to program something in the moment, it’s a pain having to dig up them up. It also means that your friends or van renters can learn how to use the fridge with ease and always have access to instructions, without needing your assistance.
True to its advertising, I have found this fridge to be extremely quiet. It’s never supposed to be louder than ≤45 dB (which is described as being as loud as a “whispering nearby”). Most recently I was camping in colder climates so the fridge didn’t need to turn on that often, but when it did, I can attest it indeed was as quiet as a “whispering nearby”.
Storing the Fridge in My Van
The portable fridge is compact enough so I can keep it either underneath my van benches or between my driver and passenger seats. I love keeping it underneath my benches so it’s out of the way, but I need to invest in the portable refrigerator slide so I can easily slide it in and out–right now it just gets caught on my rug!
Something to keep in mind is that the 12V DC power cord is long–which is great for flexibility, but not great for trying to hide wires in a small space. I’d recommend choosing a dedicated fridge space in your camper van while building it out, rather than adding this fridge in after the fact. Or, hide the extra cord length underneath a rug or behind something sturdy, the cord doesn’t get stepped on or bent every which way constantly.
Since I haven’t owned this fridge for a full year, I have only been able to use it during the colder months, in cooler temperatures. But I’m impressed with its performance so far. It has never failed to keep my food VERY cold, is easy to program, is very quiet, only runs when necessary, can run off my van’s battery, my Jackery battery or a house outlet, and fits WAY more food than I expected it to.
The BougeRV 30 Quart portable fridge is also really easy to move around my van, weighing about 22 pounds. Compared to the same type of fridge from different brands, that’s insanely light (Dometic’s fridge weighs ~40 lbs. and Alpicools’ fridge weighs ~35 lbs).
My biggest concern (as mentioned above) was when I lowered the temperature to 32 degrees (from 40 degrees) but I didn’t hear the compressor turn on. The fridge didn’t seem to react to my reprogrammed temperature. The temperature sensor is located inside the “bubble” layer at the bottom of the fridge–maybe that had something to do with it? Not sure if it was user error or machine error, but I’d be hesitant to rely on this as a portable freezer. At least, take it for a test spin with some ice cream or something, first.
NOTE: If your fridge is still in the box or hasn’t arrived yet, make sure you let it sit for six hours on a level surface before plugging in and turning on.
BougeRV Portable Fridge Accessories
Depending on how “bougie” you want your BougeRV fridge setup to be, these accessories could come in handy. Personally, I really want the fridge slider so I can easily move the fridge from underneath my van’s benches. The refrigerator cover would definitely help keep the nicks and scratches off my cooler, but wouldn’t call it a must-have.
This epic folding wagon would be perfect for carrying the portable fridge down to the beach, or around a campfire! And the portable battery is a great way to power your fridge if you don’t want to use up your van’s battery or solar power.
Portable Fridge FAQs
How many amps does the BougeRV 12V fridge use?
The fridge’s compressor refrigeration technology will pull anywhere from 30-55 Amps/hour throughout a typical day. But a lot of its Amp usage will be affected by its surrounding temperature and/or if it was pre-cooled before being turned on. The hotter the ambient temperature, the more work it will have to do to stay cool.
Can you run this fridge directly off of solar panels?
You can’t run the fridge directly off of solar because solar doesn’t provide a stable flow of power, which the fridge needs to operate correctly. But you CAN use a sort of “adapter” such as your portable power station to charge off of solar panels, and run the fridge off of the power station (which I’ve done).
What’s the BougeRV’s power input?
The BougeRV fridge uses the same power input port for both its AC and DC power cords. It comes with both AC and DC power cords, so you have the option to charge your fridge in a house or in your vehicle.
Does the compressor run 24/7 or should it shut off?
The compressor will automatically shut off when it reaches its programmed temperature. It will automatically turn back on if its internal temperature changes by 2-3 degrees. But as mentioned, the compressor will likely run a lot more if you’re in really hot climates where it has to work hard to stay cool.
So, whatcha think? Is the BougeRV 12V portable fridge the fridge you’ve been hoping for? If you’re shopping for more campervan appliances, check out my roundup of top campervan heaters or my favorite campervan coffee makers.