Preparing the Camper Fridge for a Trip

Of all the procedures to carry out before heading off on a trip in your camper, one of the most important is preparing the fridge.

Presuming you have a caravan, campervan, camp trailer or poptop camper with a 3 way fridge, it will be necessary to “fire it up” and keep the food cold until you reach your destination. As simple as it may seem, getting this process right can sometimes be a challenge if you haven’t used the camper for a while or you have a lot on your mind, or you are too busy and likely to forget some other important thing.  Well I’ve put together these instructions to follow for “preparing the camper fridge”, and although there are many different types of fridges and set ups, I hope you get the general idea.

  1. Before your trip and hitching the campervan to your vehicle, connect the electricity and run your fridge at least 2 hours before packing the cold food into it. This will ensure your fridge has chilled down sufficiently to prevent food spoiling. It could also take a some time to prepare other items before you depart so its good practice.
  2. If using a 3 way fridge (runs on either GAS, 12volt or 240volt electricity) when your van is plugged into the 240 volt mains power, that it is set to the “AC” position (this is the 240v function)
  3. If you dont have mains electricity and intend using gas to run the 3 way fridge, then switch it to run on gas. Using the gas guage on the fridge, check the fridge is running before leaving because the gas burner will sometimes stop just after initial starting and will need to be restarted.
  4. Allow your fridge to chill down. This generally takes between 1 – 2 hours depending on your make and model.
  5. Once chilled to about 2-3 degrees C, start packing the food into the fridge. It’s important to allow the fridge to then regain its temperature before you depart, so leave it closed and running on power or gas for another 30 minutes or so before departing. It will usually take you this long to hitch the campervan or make other preparations before departure anyway.
  6. Lock the fridge door in place so that it wont accidently open during travel.
  7. Now, before you lock up your camper ready for the trip, be sure to set the fridge to “DC” mode (12 Volt) so it runs on your vehicle’s power while travelling. It’s easy to close the campervan and forget to switch the fridge over to “DC” power before you leave, so remember to close the camper only after you have set the fridge to run on “DC”.
  8. Next you will need to hitch the camper if you haven’t done so already and plug in the electrical plug from the camper to the vehicle. You should be ready to depart so start your vehicle’s engine to avoid the fridge sucking the power from your car battery before you leave.
  9. Check your brake and indicator lights are working on the camper as this will evidence that power is running to the camper’s fridge also.
  10. Assuming you’ve completed all the other tasks needed for your trip, you’re ready to set off.
  11. While driving your fridge will be running on 12 volt DC power from your vehicle. This is important to remember especially since you will probably make a few stops where your vehicle’s engine will be stopped. If the engine is stopped the fridge in your camper will continue to suck power from your car’s battery, and it wont take long to drain it preventing you from starting the car.
  12. Here’s what you do when you take a short break (5mins – 30mins) and stop your vehicle’s engine. Simply disconnect the camper’s electrical plug from your vehicle.  This will mean your fridge will be without power, but if left closed, it should safely maintain its low temperature without any food spoilage for upto 30 minutes.
  13. Very importantly, REMEMBER TO PLUG IN THE ELECTRICAL SOCKET from the camper to the vehicle before you set off again. leave yourself a note just in case. I can tell you, its very easy to forget.

There you have it! A simple procedure for preparing your camper fridge and keeping food cold during a trip. Your camper set up may be different in several ways, but this should provide a general guide for people to overcome a common dilema that is experienced by many camper owners.  Want to add anything here?