Adding A Portable Camping Fridge/Freezer To Your Tundra Overland Build – What To Know & How To Set It Up
Whether heading to the neighborhood park for an afternoon picnic or out on the road for months at a time, most great adventures have one thing in common; they all require keeping food and perishables cold.
Enter the almighty car fridge/freezer. Those with these units eliminate not only the entire ice-retrieving and drainage process but many other hassles in-between.
We’ve all experienced the misery of plunging a hand into an ice chest to find that one can or losing that fantastic sandwich to soggy bread. Now, those are things of the past with a near-infinite number of fridge options that eliminate virtually every pitfall of a traditional ice cooler. Not only are they easy to use, but they’re also incredibly power efficient. In addition, the matter of powering them is now as simple as ever.
Find It Online:
- ARB Zero 63QT Fridge/Freezer: Check Price
- ARB Fridge Slide: Check Price
- Jackery Explorer 1500: Check Price
- Goose Gear Rear Seat Delete: Check Price
- SDHQ Complete Dual Battery Kit: Check Price
Where To Mount Your Fridge/Freezer
So, you want to put a fridge in your truck. Great idea, it’s one of the best road trip or camping-related upgrades you can make! But where should you put it?
Well, you have a few options – comprising both the interior and exterior. Perhaps the most obvious choice would be to simply set it in the back seat, assuming of course you have ample space. This works best for temporary use, such as a long weekend or a beach day, so long as you don’t have too many passengers.
There are alternatives though, which you might want to consider even for those shorter excursions, and definitely for long-term use. You may ask then, what does a more permanent placement option look like?
Rear Seat Delete
Image courtesy of Goose Gear (60% delete).
In the rear of most trucks, you have a split seat. This allows for a partial rear seat delete (40% or 60%) to mount larger gear, such as a fridge. The middle and driver’s sides are combined into one unit, with the rear passenger seat separate. The “40%” refers to the single passenger side seat, while the remaining “60%” would be the combined center and driver’s side rear seats.
While this does sound like a bit of a commitment and a lot of work, the reality is that the seats are simply held down with a few easily accessible bolts. Of course, with the seat(s) removed, you probably don’t want to rest the fridge on the now empty and uneven floor. Instead, you can simply purchase a seat delete kit from a company like Goose Gear, or build a platform that bolts to the original seat mounting points.
Depending on your purchase or design choices, this could provide storage space underneath the platform with near-limitless options for storage above.
DIY 40% Rear Seat Delete Platform
In my case, I chose a simple design that required minimal work and could be easily replaced if it failed. With a sheet of plywood and a 1’x6′ board as support, it is long enough for my ARB Zero 63QT fridge/freezer and the Jackery Explorer 1500 that powers it. To secure it, I bolted the platform to the factory rear seat mounts.
Keep in mind though, that there are plenty of other aftermarket and DIY options that are far higher quality and provide much more storage than this.
Cab space is valuable real estate and you may have no extra room for a fridge. No worries, there are alternative options!
Obviously, there are plenty of options for securing a fridge in the bed of your truck, ranging from bungee cords and ratchet straps to permanently mounted slide-outs.
Before deciding on mounting a fridge in the bed of your truck, there are a few questions you should consider, such as:
- Security: Is there a chance it could be stolen or tampered with?
- Weather: Does your truck have a bed topper/tonneau cover? Is the fridge itself weatherproof or is there a weatherproof sleeve available from the manufacturer?
- Convenience: Would you rather access the fridge through the bed, perhaps through a bed slide, or through a cab door?
- Size: With a larger fridge/freezer, there is a chance it may not fit inside the cab, or you will have to adjust the seats to make room.
If you’re leaning towards putting your fridge in the bed, your cleanest and easiest-to-use solution would likely be a fridge slide.
Image courtesy of ARB (ARB Zero Fridge Slide).
When mounting a fridge in the bed of your truck, there are two primary routes you can go with.
You can either ratchet strap it to factory bed tie-downs, or, for easier access and a cleaner appearance, you can purchase a fridge slide.
These are semi-permanent fixtures (most often attached with bolts) that provide two obvious upsides. First, you have an easy way to secure your fridge to your truck. Say goodbye to tangled ratchet straps or stretched-out bungee cords. Second, bed slides often extend half or even the full length of the fridge. This allows much easier access, especially if you have a bed rack that takes up overhead space.
Deciding where to place your fridge can seem daunting. However, it really just requires you to assess which method suits your needs best.
Powering A Fridge/Freezer
So you’ve purchased a fridge and decided where to place it. Now you face the next biggest hurdle – How do I power this thing?
Well, to help you narrow it down, below are the two most popular choices.
Dual Battery Setup
Image courtesy of SDHQ (SDHQ 2nd Gen Tundra Dual Battery Kit).
The first option is to run a dual battery setup. This is the somewhat DIY (and therefore a bit less expensive) route. There is extensive documentation and how-tos available online.
A dual battery setup includes your starter battery (what cranks the engine) and a “house battery” which runs any aftermarket accessories such as a fridge. The house battery could be any deep cycle battery, whether from a company like Battle Born or from your local auto parts store.
A setup like this will result in either a second battery mounted in the engine bay (companies such as SDHQ and Genesis Offroad offer aftermarket dual battery mounts), or somewhere in the cab/bed – perhaps built into a fridge platform! Going this route will require you to do further research, as there are many variables involved and options available. You will absolutely need an inverter, though, as nearly every fridge requires regulated power.
The most common way to charge a setup like this is either through solar panels or through the vehicle’s alternator. Either way will require running wires into the cab. Such a setup can be built as simple or complicated as you’d like, you have complete control.
Portable Power Stations
Alternatively, you can run a plug-and-play power station from companies like Jackery, GoalZero, or Geneverse. These are similar to dual battery setups in their functionality, though they are all-in-one units that can be easily removed from your rig and used independently.
These often come at a slight price premium, as you’re paying for convenience and mobility. Charging options on many of these portable power stations range from:
- Alternator charging (through your vehicle’s cigarette lighter)
- Household outlet (charge before you leave, charge when you get back)
- Solar panels (usually available as a separate purchase)
Some units are capable of charging through multiple avenues at once, as well as being capable of running a fridge for multiple days on a single charge.
In summary, both a dual battery setup and a portable power station function the exact same; charging via your vehicle, solar, or shore power and storing the power for later use. The main differences are in accessibility, portability, technicality, and price.
Power Requirements & Expectations
When deciding which route to go, you should also consider the power requirements of the specific fridge you’re looking to use. While all fridge/freezer manufacturers list their power draw numbers, it’s worth keeping in mind that real-world performance can be different. Many manufacturers report their power usage using ideal ambient temperatures, to provide the best numbers.
You’ll likely be better off researching the specific fridge you are looking to get. More often than not, you’ll be able to find thorough reviews with actual real-world power requirements.
My set-up: ARB Zero 63QT Fridge/Freezer and Jackery Explorer 1500.
For general ballpark numbers with modern fridges, here are the usage numbers for my set-up.
With ambient temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit during midday, and over a 7-hour period with no recharging, the ARB Zero 63qt consumed 20% (307Wh) of the Jackery E1500’s power capacity (1534Wh).
From my personal experience, I feel comfortable going about 3 warm days without needing to recharge my Jackery with this particular setup. Remember, results may vary greatly by power station and fridge combinaiton.
A fridge/freezer is one of the biggest quality of life upgrades one can make to their rig. Eliminating the worry over ice, soggy food, and any other limitations of an ice cooler. It gives you more time to focus on the joys of getting out and seeing what the world has to offer. Whether a weekend warrior or full-time on the road, the benefits are obvious.
Though there are many choices for fridges and how to power them, ultimately, it comes down to your requirements and budget.