Every year, portable electric coolers grow in appeal. These handy amenities make it so easy to bring along food on camping trips, road trips, and other excursions…all without worrying about spoiled food. But there are lots of options to choose from, and not all portable electric coolers are created equal.
Read on for our roundup of top picks for the best portable electric coolers for camping…as well as where to find them, things to consider when purchasing, and more.
Our Top Picks
Dometic CFX3 45
Kohree Portable Freezer
Best for Both Heating and Cooling
Koolatron Thermoelectric Iceless
When it comes to all the bells and whistles you could possibly dream up for the best portable electric cooler for camping, Dometic has almost certainly thought of it first. This global megabrand is a certified favorite among campers of all kinds–from backpackers to RVers to just about any mobile living enthusiasts you can think of.
Though there are several different Dometic CFX3 subtypes to choose from, we’ve selected the CFX3 45 as our top pick for the best portable electric cooler. The benefit of the 45 as opposed to the larger 55 is it remains roomy and spacious but with a lower price tag. This makes it the more accessible option for many campers.
With the Dometic CFX3 45, you can trust you are getting all the bang for your buck. This king among portable electric coolers is easy to carry with a comfortable grip and lightweight design. It has fantastic insulation and is a big energy saver; its efficient compressor can even get the whole unit cold enough to make ice!
In addition, the Dometic CFX3 45 fits perfectly into the life of the modern-day camper. This nifty portable electric cooler sports Bluetooth and app-enabled capabilities. Once you download the Dometic app, you can adjust the temperature on your Dometic CFX3 45 from afar or measure its energy consumption history to see how much you have left on a charge.
While all of this comes with a high price tag, for one of the slickest and most versatile portable electric coolers on the market, you certainly get your money’s worth. That’s why we can confidently place the Dometic CFX3 45 on the top of our list of best portable electric coolers.
- Has a high cooling capacity while also being energy efficient
- Lightweight and designed for easy grip and carriability
- Bluetooth enabled with app controls to make setting and checking temperature a breeze
- Among the pricier options on the market
Best Budget Option
We get it–choosing the best portable electric cooler can come down to cost as much as amenities. You want to be able to confidently store your cold foods without worrying about spoilage…or breaking the bank.
For campers and travelers looking for a portable electric cooler that fits excellently into their lifestyle and their budget, we recommend the Kohree Portable Freezer. This compact but handy portable electric cooler underwent a design overhaul in 2022. What came from that hard work is a quiet running, efficient portable electric cooler that fits well into many people’s budgets.
Despite a price tag that is much lower than many name-brand behemoths on the market, the Kohree Portable Freezer still brings a lot to the table. This portable electric cooler can be plugged in and charged anywhere from a 12-volt car plugin to your average power station or even solar panel setup.
The Kohree Portable Freezer can also drop its temperature from its highest (50 degrees Fahrenheit) down to 32 degrees Fahrenheit in just under half an hour. Or, you can cool things down more slowly in eco mode.
Though this portable electric cooler does require manual carrying, it’s designed for easy transportation with padded grip handles that fold down seamlessly into the cooler sides. This cooler proves easy to fit in a packed vehicle due to its uniform design, and it’s very easy to defrost and clean out, thanks to the handy drain plug.
Efficient, sleek, and affordable, the Kohree Portable Freezer is not just a great budget option. All around, it’s just a great portable electric cooler.
- Highly affordable, particularly compared to other portable electric coolers on the market
- Compact and easy to fit in with plenty of gear
- Has a great freezing range from -4 up to 50 degrees Fahrenheit
- Lightweight and built for easy carry
- Does require manual transportation as the cooler does not feature wheels.
- Some consumers have reported the handles breaking
Best For Both Heating and Cooling
Sometimes, when you’re camping, traveling, or even just commuting long distances, you might be looking for more than just an option to keep your food cool. What about keeping hot food from turning lukewarm or cold?
In this case, you might find the Koolatron Thermoelectric Iceless Freezer to be a great option. This is a thermoelectric model (as opposed to a compressor model, like our other top picks). This means it doesn’t quite have the same freezing power and efficiency as some larger, workhorse portable electric coolers.
However, that by no means denigrates the usefulness of the Koolatron Thermoelectric Iceless Freezer! In terms of cooling alone, this compact freezer can do a lot. It has more space and can pack in a lot more than many of its contenders…even the pricier ones.
This portable electric cooler also boasts a great temperature range. It can reach fantastic temperatures on both the cold and the warm side, going as low as 26 degrees Fahrenheit and even as high as 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
While the Koolatron Thermoelectric Iceless does fill in this fantastic space for folks who need both cooling and heating capabilities, it does come with some costs.
This includes energy efficiency concerns and the need to unplug and replug the unit every 45 minutes when in constant heating mode in order to avoid damaging the inner lining. This unit also performs better when the cooling feature is supplemented with ice packs.
Nonetheless, for a simple, no-frills portable electric cooler that can and will meet your needs for both cooling and heating, the Koolatron Thermoelectric Iceless freezer is a great option.
- Effectively heats and cools your food.
- Has a large storage capacity
- Is lightweight and compact for use in the car, camper, or RV
- Can double as both a chest and an upright freezer
- Not a quiet or energy efficient model
- Can need some help with additional ice packs to help keep things cold longer
- Not as durable as other options on the market
Best For Energy Efficiency
All things being as they are, energy efficiency is a huge factor for many folks who are shopping for a portable electric cooler today. Particularly on longer trips or with a smaller volt charging source, you may have in mind a portable electric cooler that lasts longer on a single charge.
This is where the ENGEL MT35 comes into play. The compressor in this handy little cooler draws almost half as much power as its contemporaries. It’s small, which can be a real draw for some folks, and in addition, it comes with a great warranty and a sturdy build. This portable electric cooler was made with longevity in mind.
There are a few drawbacks to this cooler. It doesn’t have wheels, and its built-to-last design makes it fairly hefty, so transportation can be difficult for some. This cooler also does not reach subzero temperatures. It’s also a bit bulkier than many coolers, making it often more appealing to folks as a permanent fixture in an RV, boat, or camper as opposed to a truly portable electric cooler.
However, when it comes to durability and efficiency, the ENGEL MT35 is truly hard to beat. Some customers have reported excellent use for 15 or more years from a single one of these portable electric coolers. So if longevity is high on your priority list, this may be the perfect cooler for you.
- Highly energy efficient compared to other portable electric coolers
- Switches automatically between AC and DC power sources, so you don’t have to manually adjust
- Has a great 3-year warranty.
- Customers report a fantastic life span of double-digit years on a single unit
- Heavier than many other portable electric coolers
- Not easy to transport
- Does not achieve subzero temperature
- Can be pricey for its size and lack of transportability
Best for Rugged Conditions
As we’ve seen on this list, not all portable electric coolers are created equal.
Many are designed with different features they want to highlight, which can be highly attractive to consumers. Unfortunately, these nifty extra features sometimes limit a cooler’s durability. This can make a lot of portable electric coolers a good fit for glamorous camping, but they will fall apart in a more rugged outdoor experience.
The ARB ZERO Portable Fridge Freezer is built to last. This hefty, sturdy portable electric cooler is specifically designed with padded edges to help it survive bumpy rides over various terrain types. These coolers are known to last for many years and many types of camping trips.
In addition, with the ARB ZERO, you also have the option of purchasing an additional battery pack. This is great for long camping expeditions away from a charging source. You can simply trade out the used-up battery for the second, pre-charged battery pack, extending the lifespan of the ARB ZERO by quite a bit.
With these durable features as well as a fantastic storage capacity and the ability to be both a fridge and freezer or a single, large unit, the ARB ZERO is a real favorite. Consider this cooler if space, durability, and a great design are key features you want for your portable electric cooler.
- Extremely well built and highly durable.
- Can serve as a fridge and freezer combo or be adjusted to serve as a single large fridge OR freezer
- Has the option of purchasing an extra battery pack to extend the unit’s charge life
- Has a deep capacity for storing things like wine bottles and taller containers
- One of the pricier portable electric coolers out there
- Heavyweight and not as easy to carry
Portable Electric Cooler Buyer’s Guide
Consider What You Intend to Store
All portable electric coolers are built with capacity as a key design point. However, certain coolers go above and beyond when it comes to size, depth, and capacity, so it’s important to choose with these options in mind.
If you are planning on a no-frills food and drink situation, such as sandwiches and water bottles or drink cans, then you may need just a simple, standard portable electric cooler with average storage capacity. However, if you plan to bring along wine or champagne bottles or to store things like odd cuts of meat, a larger capacity, and greater depth might serve you better.
Consider Your Carrying Capacity
Everyone has their own limitations. When it comes to picking your portable electric cooler, you should carefully research the weight and dimensions of each one. Even the fanciest cooler won’t do you much good if it’s too large or too bulky for your particular situation.
Make sure you choose a cooler you can carry and lift when necessary and one that will fit in your camper, vehicle, and with your gear.
Consider Your Camping Locations
When choosing the best portable electric cooler for your needs, one thing to bear in mind is where you will be taking it.
Many portable electric coolers do come with wheels. Others are quite lightweight and designed with carrying in mind. Nevertheless, toting even a lightweight portable electric cooler can become a burden if your campsite is many miles from the car.
If you are someone who prefers a lot of carry-in camping, you may want to opt for a smaller, more lightweight, portable electric cooler–or at least one with wheels. Otherwise, even a nicely made cooler might become more hassle than it’s worth.
Consider Your Power Source
When camping, you will often encounter a wide range of potential power sources. Some campgrounds have electric hookups that feel just like being at home. Others have no power sources at all. Many fall somewhere in the middle.
So when it comes to choosing the best portable electric cooler, you want to consider what power sources you will have access to and how much power your cooler needs in order to run. Many will do just fine when charged on a 12-volt car battery, but others require a bit more.
Knowing the power needs of your cooler and your ability to meet them when camping will help you pick a cooler that is truly going to suit your needs.
That’s a Wrap on the Best Portable Electric Cooler for Camping
Excited to grab the best portable electric cooler for your camping needs? That’s just one piece of valuable camping gear! Check out our Camping Gear page for some great resources on other items that can help make your camping adventures even better this year.
- About the Author
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Renee Dugan is a lifelong writer, professional editor, and lover of the great outdoors.
A Midwest girl born and raised, Renee has always enjoyed the deep, life-giving inspiration that connection with nature brings.
In addition to channeling the awe of outdoor life into her prolific novel-writing career, she currently enjoys sharing it with her son and spreading knowledge of safe, fun outdoor life with Beyond the Tent readers and anyone she can help face-to-face.
Renee can be reached at email@example.com