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Cooler VS Portable Refrigerator: Which is better?

Cooler VS Portable Refrigerator: Which is better?

Choose to have a weekend outside? You can't leave the iced beers behind unless you're old-school campers who can bear the canned lunch meat and cold hard bread, that’s why most of the people will take coolers or refrigerators to keep the food fresh now. Then comes a question: Is choosing a cooler or a portable refrigerator better?

What is a cooler?

A cooler is usually a plastic or insulated box to keep foods and drinks cool. People used to take them to picnic or camping. Coolers can be divided into hard coolers and soft coolers. There are many different options on the market according to sizes and colors.

What is a portable refrigerator?

A 12V Portable Camping Refrigerator is a powered portable cooling system, usually powered by your car's 12-volt electrical system, to keep your food and drinks cold (or frozen) indefinitely. The main benefit of a portable refrigerator is its portability. It uses a small AC power adapter to keep food cold. Compared with coolers it doesn't use ice, which means you don't have to worry about melting ice or soggy food. What’s more, it can reach the function of conventional fridge. 

Cooler VS Portable Refrigerator

cooler feature

Similarity: Both can keep foods and beverages cool and fresh. 

Difference: Cooler is an insulated bin or box used with ice or freezer packs to keep food or beverages cold while picnicking or camping. A portable refrigerator is an more modern electrical appliance used for keeping food fresh by refrigeration, usually compressor technology.

Compared with a cooler, a portable refrigerator is more modern and technological, unlike People who used to take a cooler to camp; it's the traditional and customary tool to store their foods. With technology developing, portable refrigerators appear, fridges can achieve app control and WIFI connection right now.

In fact, you should choose a cooler or a portable fridge based on what you plan to do. The following elements can be a reference when choosing for a suitable one, for example the price,storage capacity,function, maintain and lifespan are all need to have a look.


How do I choose a portable fridge



Portable refrigerator

Average $200

Average $500 not up to $1000

Ice:at least $1 for a pound

Electricity:power station/solar panel(at least $150)

Coolers are generally affordable, but coolers need ices to keep the foods and beverages cool, and it needs continually money paid for it. A party for 20 people needs 10-20 pounds of ice, based on the more popular weights, the average selling rate for a bag of ice is a 10-pound bag: $1 to $3. while the price also needs to consider.

    Due to the advanced technology of compressor, the cost of the refrigerator is higher than the cooler. While it’s a worthy transaction. In the later stage, there is basically no extra cost, and it can be used when powered on, whether from the car or solar panels. For a long trip, using 9BB solar panels is a good choice.

Storage capacity

The storage capacity of coolers includes ice and food. Small amounts of ice will melt quickly and not meet your go-out need, so use as much ice as you wish to keep cool. Make sure the ice in your cooler is enough. Usually recommend two-thirds ice, one-third contents ratio, or half to half ratio. That means if you plan to hold two-thirds of food, you should leave at least one-third for ice. The more ice you use, the longer it will last. Ice holding limits the time for cooling.

The storage capacity of a portable refrigerator can almost be 100% used. It’s far better than cooler for its Intelligent and modern technology. Despite the holding capacity of ice, the capacity of holding food is similar to cooler. And the food you keep can stay clean and fresh.

Temperature controlled

As a cooler, the temperature can’t be controlled accurately they are made simply, while a portable refrigerator can be controlled as you wish. Some products can even be controlled by an app from a distance. That means although you don't have to walk back and forth from the fridge(put it on RV), you can still control it through your fingertips. BougeRV latest 12V modern portable refrigerators can reach the real dual-zone and app control.


 Coolers are easily stained and stinky after frequently used and should be cleaned by water often.

With portable refrigerators, you can just clean it as a conventional fridge. It would be best to wipe d own the refrigerator by hand to avoid damage to the motors and electronics. Nor can you turn the refrigerator upside down and let it dry. You have to be more careful during cleaning.


 Your food safety is important to us, with travel and picnic season, you should pay more attention to food safety. Failure to store food properly will allow it to rot, spoil, and ultimately affect your health. Thus, choosing a proper container is vital.

The storage time are mostly not as long as a portable fridge. Although, the larger models can store more ice cubes and make it last more than a day, but you will need more ice and only if you keep it in the shade. All in all, the cooler is only suitable for a short trip.

With a portable refrigerator, you can hold the food for at least 3-5days even if you’re off-grid. It can be maintain in a stable temperature compared with coolers. That’s why it’s a wise decision to take a refrigerator with you on a long trip if you love the modern lifestyle.


   The lifespan of Coolers are decided by the material of them. A soft cooler can be damaged by knives or something sharp. You can use it only if you have ice.

   Portable refrigerators are more “precious,” for it has a compressor inside, it still has the risk of being damaged when being harmed. But a portable refrigerator usually durable and design for being used for about 20-25 years.

What are the advantages of coolers?

The price yummy, but coolers are only suit for short-trip. Conversely, you can take a cooler outside without a second thought. They welcome to be put on rock or hard-surface. Overall, a good cooler can last practically long if being appropriately maintained.

What are the advantages of a portable fridge?

The benefits of a portable refrigerator are clear. A portable refrigerator can give a better using experience. It’s an efficient and convenient way to store food and beverages. And because it's portable, it's effortless to keep and carry. Unlike a coolers, a portable fridge can be placed anywhere and have 100% using rate.

A portable refrigerator's capacity and efficiency are directly affected by its price. Its price can affect its portability and quality. You can place a refrigerator wherever you need it to keep your food and drink cool. A cooler won't fit in your car's trunk, but a high-quality fridge will provide ample storage and power. Moreover, a portable refrigerator will save you space. When traveling, a fridge can be an indispensable piece of equipment. It will be a good experience for temperature control. These appliances are perfect for camping and road trips, and you can even buy them for camping in a remote area, they can hold for far longer than coolers and only takes a few electricity .

 cooler vs portable refrigerator

Whats your choice depend on conditions?

According to all the features and descriptions below, it's your personal choice to a cooler or a portable refrigerator.

Choose a camping cooler if:

You don’t want take too much with you

You have a low budget 

You have ices no more than a days

You love the feeling of touching ice.


Choose a portable refrigerator if:

You have a sufficient budget and chase a modern lifestyle

You want a fresher food

You enjoy a full-time traveling lifestyle(van or RV life)

You’re a cooking-lover and want your beer stay cool

In Conclusion

  Most important is to choose one suitable for your go-out. No matter coolers or portable refrigerators can be your first choice. You can choose by suggestions we have mentioned. You can ask us once you need us. BougeRV will provide 1-on-1 service in anytime.


Vehicle Refrigerator For Your Road Travel - BougeRV

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Cooler VS Portable Refrigerator: Which is better?