When car top tent camping off the beaten path, one of the first things you are liable to be looking for is a bag of ice to top off the cooler. In our early days of cartop camping we attached a trailer rack to the hitch mount on the back of the car and used a 35 Quart Pelican Cooler designed for long-lasting ice storage. It was designed to keep ice for up to seven days and did so very well. The cooler was heavy when filled with food, drinks and ice, but it worked well just leaving it mounted to the car and using it as we traveled without ever taking it off. Unfortunately, the walls of the cooler are thick and that limits the space inside the cooler. By adding a wire shelf accessory to keep some items dry and out of the ice water, there was even less room for food items. On more than one occasion we had food wasted by immersion in the ice water, containers leaking etc. There was also no way to keep anything frozen, so most packed food items were only going to last a few days. For short trips where ice was readily available, this was a very good cooler and did great, given it’s limitations. Shown on my hitch rack is a 35 quart which they no longer make. I’m including a link for a similar Pelican 30 Quart Elite Cooler for about $239 on Amazon if you are interested in the cooler option. The Pelican was a great option and very heavy duty. I prefer the rigid handles and latch mechanisms over the rope handles and rubber bungie latches on a comparable Yeti. It is also quite a bit cheaper than the Yeti. However, for boondocking or traveling to areas where ice was not as available, this was not a good option for us. I’m also including a link here for the Curt Aluminum hitch rack which fits a 2″ receiver, folds up and can carry up to 500 pounds. That has been used extensively and held up very well. From many I reviewed, I bought this one because it is aluminum, won’t rust, and is quite a bit lighter than the competition. It was a good buy at $129.
I started checking boondocking and off road overlander sites to see what other people do when off-road in remote locations where they don’t have access to ice. One of the most popular and best reviewed products was the Dometic line of refrigerated ice chests. There are several different shapes and sizes and different features at different price points. The first thing I did was measure the area in the back of my SUV that I would mount it and haul it. I decided that this needed to be inside the car for security and protection from the elements. The second thing I did was figure out how I could access this while on the road without having to remove it from the car. After measuring I determined that I could accommodate the DOMETIC CFX3 75-Liter Dual Zone Portable Refrigerator and Freezer. Note that the CFX3 is a newer version of the CFX and has updated technology. The two models look exactly the same on the outside, so if you are going to buy one, be sure to get the CFX3. The DZ stands for Dual Zone, and the 75 indicates this model is 75 Liters. This unit has two separate compartments where the temperatures can be set independently. The two lids are the same size, but the compressor is located below the bottom of the left compartment, reducing the capacity on that side. I determined that I could use one side as a freezer, and the larger right side as a refrigerator. There is the option to set the thermostat to freeze on both sides, refrigerate on both sides, etc. I will review my unit later in a later blog, and if you follow my link, you’ll pay the same price, but I’ll get a small commission. You can buy the Dometic CFX3 75DZ for about $1378 on Amazon here.
The photo above shows my cooler mounted on my homemade slide out. There are commercially available slideouts, but they are expensive, and I thought I would build my own. More on that in an upcoming blog.