Adding a New Refrigerator to Your Pop Up Camper


Before the summer camping season started, we knew we needed a working refrigerator in our pop up camper.  Our 2001 Jayco Qwest originally came with an icebox, but it didn't come with our camper. We decided to search for a unit that would hold up well to travel and be cost effective.

We explored several options.  Some experienced campers are insistent on absorption fridges.  Others say just use a dorm fridge or a cooler.  The only downside to a cooler is the ice and draining off water that gets really old.

With every project with our camper, I do quite a bit of research reading reviews and determining what functions best for how we will use it.  After my research, we sought out the Koolatron KCR40B AC/DC Hybrid Heat Pipe Refrigerator.  A hybrid fridge is a happy medium between a standard dorm room fridge and an absorption fridge.  While a dorm room fridge will typically cost less than $100, an absorption fridge will cost nearly $400 at the lowest end and up.  The Koolatron fridge is just under $200.  Big difference.

This refrigerator looks great too with a nice modern feel.
But the price is not the only factor.  We wanted a unit that would stand up to travel and bouncing around in the pop-up camper.  This fridge is built for campers, trucks, and boats.  It is made for riding around as opposed to standard fridges that are used in a stationary location.  Depending on how far you travel, think about this factor.  Dorm fridges just aren't built for travel, and you will not have an option for an alternative power source.

While absorption fridges can run off of electric, battery or propane, the Koolatron Hybrid Heat Pipe Refridgerator runs off of battery or electricity.  We only use our fridge on electricity, so we didn't really need the propane option of an absorption fridge or really need a battery option.   We could add a battery if we choose.  The advantage of an alternative power source would be cooling down before we arrive at our campsite.

I pack everything in a cooler before we leave and transfer it over to the fridge we we arrive.  I know that some people pack the fridge and run off of propane or a batter when towing, but this just isn't how we do it.

Additionally, if you would like to use the refrigerator with the battery operation while towing, you really need circulation vents built into your camper.  This would allow for the heat produced by the refrigerator to be released.  We do not have to vent on our camper since our pop up originally came with an icebox.  At this point, the only reason to add vents would be if we decided to use a battery for cooling while traveling.  The jury is still out on the need to add a battery or vents to our camper.

The Koolatron Fridge will cool to a temperature of 30 to 40 degrees below the ambient temperature.  If the temp in your camper is 80 degrees then, you will have a temperature of approximately 40 degrees inside your refrigerator when it cools down completely.    The temperature in your camper will affect the refrigerator.  It is already hot in Mississippi, and I was pleased at how well our fridge worked.

Over our Memorial Day camping trip, our fridge got down to 34 degrees over the weekend.  I felt like it cooled down well and worked efficiently.  The temperature does not lower immediately, but give it time.  If you add items that are hot and wait for them to cool this will affect cooling time as well as how tightly you pack the fridge.  Air needs to circulate and there are some things that you can do to boost the cooling time.

I kept track of the internal temperature with a thermometer inside.
The refrigerator was simple to install.  We already had a place for the new refrigerator in the space for the previous icebox and a more recent dorm room fridge.  I removed the old fridge and cleaned out the spot.  The Koolatron has an AC cord that plugs into the back then your electrical power source.
We have a simple spot under a cabinet where the ice box was originally and the new fridge could just slide right in leaving plenty of space around it.
The interior of the fridge is roomy and has a light.  These are two features that our dorm fridge did not have - space or lighting.  It runs quietly, and I barely noticed a sound at all from it.

If you are using this unit, here are a few recommendations to help you get the best results from your new Koolatron Hybrid Refrigerator.
  1. Make sure you have space in the back and around the sides of the fridge within the cabinet to provide some ventilation.  You don't want it to fit too tightly in the cabinet.
  2. To help cool down your fridge, add some frozen cold packs before leaving to begin cooling the interior before you arrive.
  3. Don't pack things too tightly into the fridge.  Allow for air to move freely throughout.
  4. You could freeze some of your drinks that go into the fridge to help it cool down and place into the fridge to begin thawing and helping to cool when you arrive.
  5. Plug in as soon as you arrive to begin cooling as quickly as possible.  
  6. If you are going to use the battery power source, make sure that you have air vents in your camper walls behind the fridge to allow for proper circulation while towing.
  7. Don't stand with the fridge open.  Give it time to cool and keep it cool by keeping the cool air inside.
Our family camps for mostly weekend trips involving 3 nights at the most.  This refrigerator will keep our food and drinks cold easily without the need to pack coolers with ice and draining off water each day.  I like camping with some of the comforts of home.  A refrigerator is one of those comforts for me.  Plus, we like to cook and stay at our campsite instead of eating out.  We think this is one piece of equipment that campers really need to enjoy camping with out big soggy coolers.  

If you are looking for a refrigerator to update what you have or simply add to your existing camper without a fridge, this is a great product.  We got our camper at a bargain price, an absorption fridge would have cost nearly what we paid for our camper.  This just didn't make sense for us.  Budgeting for updates will help you to stay on track and keep your expenses from getting out of hand.  For more information and tips on budgeting for your pop up camper remodel, take a look at my post from last month on how I tracked expenses on this project.  

This post contains Amazon Affiliate Links.


  1. I would love to see a pic of the inside please :-)

    1. I'll get some photos of the interior and add them when I get it all popped up over the weekend to do a little work. Thank you for your comment.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. Hi, Congratulations! This side is helpful. There is much to learn here. We can fix our mistakes from here. Thank you for this post shearing me.

  4. Buying a refrigerator is a complicated task in view of the many types of refrigerators that are available today. Anaheim refrigerator repair

  5. I am having trouble removing our fridge in our 2004 Coleman pop up. Any advice?

    1. Is it anchored in? Ours was already replaced with a dorm fridge. Some I know can be screwed to the frame of the cabinets. Feel free to shoot me an email with photos, and maybe I can give you some more specific advise.

  6. Awesome! No words. You always go one step beyond.

    There is so much great, useful information here. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
    Read our guide if you wish.

    Thanks again :)

  7. The fridge emits hot air that it collects from the interior. In order for it to properly emit hot air, you need to leave space at the back where the coils exhaust hot air. Assistenza frigoriferi LG a Roma

  8. A professional will make sure that the refrigerator is repaired properly and the same problem does not occur again. appliance repair etobicoke If you hear clanking, hissing, or snapping sounds that you've never heard before, then it's time to call on a refrigeration repair pro to find out what's causing the problem.

  9. It has been a couple years since this was posted. How has the fridge held up?

    1. It held up great over time. And I certainly would recommend this option. Thanks for asking!

    2. I would also add that we invested in a 55 quart Orca Cooler that we really liked and held much more than the fridge did. So if you are on the fridge about the fridge versus a cooler, you might want to sink the money into a large rotomolded cooler that would keep things cold for a long time!

  10. Just recently bought this fridge for our 1998 Coleman popup and love it. Thank you for the recommendation.

    1. That's great! I hope you love it, and it works well for you! Thank you for following along. Happy camping!


Thank you for your feedback and comments. I always review before sharing with other readers. Have a great day!