To say the 80L Engel fridge/freezer is a big unit is a bit of an understatement. It’s massive in just about every way.
Now this may be a good or a bad thing depending on how you are travelling and what you want to achieve, but for the purpose of my road trip along the Ovens and Murray rivers, this unit fit the bill so perfectly it was as if it was sanctioned by a higher power.
This trip was car and bush camp based. That meant that weight and size was not a critical component in planning what we took. In fact having my car along for the entire trip made it a little too easy to take too much gear!
Some of the features of the Engel unit that impress from the start include the twin wire baskets, robust design and handles, 240V or 12V power options and the location of important componentry away from high-risk areas.
This model has a huge 80 litre capacity with all the efficiency and reliability you have come to expect from an Engel product. The many quality features includes a digital cabinet temperature readout for constant monitoring of the internal temperature, steel cabinet, steel handles and steel lid for durability are fantastic. A new interior LED light makes night operation a breeze and the unit is supplied with a 12 volt cord that plugs straight into your vehicle's cigarette socket and a 240 volt lead with three pin plug for standard power sockets.
The unit has a three year warranty and you can purchase a transit bag to suit, a fridge slide and replacement parts are readily available if you lose them.
With a capacity of 80L, the unit swallows 118, 375ml cans of drink, has external dimensions of 561mm H x 790mm W x 490mm D and weighs in at 39kg empty, so it is a big unit.
Our trip never saw us too far from civilisation at any stage, however we have both become tired of the need to replenish ice and the need to deal with the way water intrudes into everything in a cool box. It is for these two reasons that a fridge/freezer is such a favourite of mine. Yes it comes with size and battery demands, but the benefits of keeping food in good condition make all the difference on a long trip, especially one that stretched over almost 2 weeks. We ran the Engel at about 3C the entire time with the internal temperature gauge vacillating between about 2.1C and 4.5C.
The first use of the Engel was at a camp site accessed by boat. This presented no dramas as the Engel was carried into the boat, then carried up to camp. The thing to note here though is that this fridge/freezer really does require 2 people to carry it. It weighs around 39kg dry, so you can virtually add 30kg more if it’s full of food and drinks. But the very sturdy handles make carrying this big unit a breeze and we were not left thinking that the handles would not cope with the punishment.
The next camp site was accessed with the car and it was here we made a really good discovery. We could leave the unit in the back of the car and access it via the back hatch. The battery sat next to the unit and we backed the car partly under the tarp. Now we had dry food and if the weather turned bad, we could still access the fridge without having to go out in the rain. It came with an extra bonus that when we left camp to go fishing, we could lock the car and ensure the relative safety of the Engel and the battery. It’s a sad reflection of life these days that gear security is an issue, but it definitely is, especially when the camp sites are easily accessed by cars.
The Engel was run almost exclusively on a 120aH battery and while the weather was not mid-summer hot, the Engel maintained our temperature of around 3C with ease, not once draining the battery flat. We did have a 3 panel solar array pumping power into the fridge and battery during the day, but I was still very surprised at the Engel’s frugal power needs.
One last point to make about the Engel was the benefits it provided in food protection. The entire duration of our trip saw a mouse plague in process and the little buggers were everywhere. We had to tie up the garbage bags, tightly close all dry food storage and the Engel provided unparalleled security for all our cold food and drinks. Every tent zipper was always closed and clothes bags were also closed. As it was when we got home we found a mouse in the dirty clothes bag that was a little worse for wear!
This food protection cannot be understated, wherever you may be. I know many people would not and probably could not eat bread or lettuce that had been nibbled on by rodents or cockroaches. The Engel stops this totally in its tracks, regardless of the numbers of pests and we had no concerns about our fresh food all trip.
I love fridge/freezers and the 80L Engel was the first Engel I had used in the field. Friends had told me they rated the Engel as amongst the very best on offer and after my big field trip I’d have to agree. I would love to assess this unit over a year or two and run it over a current meter to assess its power consumption in the field, but time is unfortunately limited.
The 80L Engel retails for under $2000. It’s a big investment, but for a serious camping family or some mates who have a big car and the room to carry it, you could do far worse than take a good look at this unit. I sadly have to give this unit back, but I will not be surprised at all if I find one (perhaps a 65L version) taking up permanent residence with my camping gear.
With only a battery needed to make the Engel operate perfectly, this set up does away with all the concerns about watery food, food spoiling, food being partially eaten by pests and more. If you can find the budget, I’d highly recommend an Engel fridge/freezer. Check out www.engel.com.au for more information on all Engel products.Reads: 4544