BATTLE OF THE FRIDGES
Waeco CFX 35 vs Engel MT35F. Long term review
A portable cooler in your expedition vehicle makes life much more comfortable. Most important reason to get yourself a cooler must be cold beer off course. Followed closely by being able to grill your steak on a campfire every evening in the bush. Alle jokes aside, keeping your food in a cooler allows you to travel long distances without the need to resupply on fresh food. Unless you like to eat dehydrated astronaut food for 2 weeks in a row, a portable fridge is the way to go. NGO’s use them to transport medicines in remote regions. As a a hunter who likes to eat what he shoots, I transport my meat after the hunt in my Waeco CFX 35.
We compared two 35 liter fridges for the last 6 months on multiple overlanding and hunting trips: a Waeco CFX 35 & an Engel MTF35. Although they are both labelled as 35 liters, they will actually contain 32 liters. They can be powered by 100-230 volt or 12/24 volt. The temperature can be set from -22 C to 10 C. How long the fridge will run without the need to start your car to recharge the battery will depend on the capacity of your battery system. A double battery system in your vehicle is highly recommended for longer trips. We run our fridges from Yellow Top and Red Top OPTIMA batteries, both linked with a CTEK 250 Dual. When the voltage drops below a certain threshold on the Red Top (which is used to start the engine) the Ctek will separate it from the Yellow Top (which is used as the house hold battery). The Ctek will provide an optimal charging current via a solar panel or when the car is running via the alternator. Depending on the weather conditions we can run our systems up to 3 days without the need to charge the batteries. Very energy efficient!
Both products will freeze or cool, on larger models you have the option to do both. We like to keep things compact and there’s really no need for frozen food on our trips. Perhaps we miss the occasional whiskey on the rocks but being hardcore explorers we’ll drink our shot straight from the bottle, no ice needed!
As we don’t have a labo at our disposal to do scientific research on the performance of the fridges we chose to do real world tests. After all, these machines will spent their life in the back of a 4×4 on bumpy and muddy roads…No endless data feeds here but we have come to the following conclusions. Both fridges function very well in real world situations. We will not discuss the technicalities of the built-in Danfoss compressor nor if they will actually freeze to -22 C in the desert. None of that, they do the job just fine. But we did come to some conclusions. As they both function very well technically it comes down to the ease of use, which is a very important quality when overlanding. One has a clear advantage over the other one…
- interior light, very handy
- usb charger built-in
- a separate section, which is very useful
- easy to clean as it has a drain plug on the bottom
- energy efficient and silent
- heavy duty built quality
- handy control screen
- will run on 100-230v and 12/24 v
- low voltage protection
- the lid opening side is not switchable on the smaller models.
- metal casing, heavy duty
- very basic controls
- legendary “Engel” quality
- no frills approach
- interior light
- the lid design is a pain, it will come off every time you use it
- not very handy
- will not run on 100V
Although both products perform excellent technically the Waeco CFX 35 has a clear advantage in functionality over the Engel MTF35F. We like the digital display, the usb port to charge your phone, the extra section, etc. We feel the design is better than the Engl. If you are a “no bells or whistles” kind of overlander who prefers a metal casing and a more hard core approach than the Engl might have your preference. However, we have no doubt that the Waeco PP plastic casing will survive a serious beating in the back of our truck!