Cooler Boxes / Cooler Bags / Fridges Guide.

Are Cooler bags good but Cooler boxes better? It’s not quite as straight forward as that I’m afraid.

Generally it’s the solid sides and superior insulation that makes a coolbox a better performer than a coolbag.The cooler bag has better packability.
Boxes can be bulky and do not compress. Cool Box shape can sometimes make them harder to carry hence some models having wheels.
Cool boxes can also come with electric supply, cooling fans etc. Most campsites are more than helpful in providing freezers where campers can keep ice blocks / gel packs to help with the cooling function of your box. (Some campsites may charge a small fee for this service. Best to mark your belongings with a permanent maker.)
Insulation qualities are very hard to asses except by personal experience, but generally the cheaper the product the less you can expect from it in terms of performance.

Cooling Tips

  • For best efficiency put pre cooled products in your cool box rather then relying on your cool box to cool stuff down. It saves your ice packs melting too fast.
  • Open the lid as little as possible. Simple I know but the more you open the lid the more the cool air escapes from your cool box and the quicker your ice packs melt.
  • Remember that cold air is heavier than warm air so the cold air gravitates down. In other words put your ice packs towards the top of your ice box.
  • Storing your ice box. Make sure that its completely dry and clean when putting it away. If possible allow the lid to be left open or unlocked so that mould or odours to do not develop in your cooler.

Choosing your Cool Box.

Q: How many are in your family or camping group?
It’s very common for families after purchasing their tent and accessories that a simple cheap small cooler is sufficient. However if you consider how many people are going camping with you and the amount of food and drinks that you need to keep chilled. It becomes very important when packing your goods into your car that you have a cooler box that is big enough to cater for your family.

Q: How long to you intend to be away for?
Unless your hiking most campers are in close proximity to shops and therefore would be able to buy food as they need. It’s nice to be able to relax on the camp site with a few nice cold drinks and not having to make a trip to the shops daily. Some cheaper ice boxes will not keep food chilled for long therefore ice packs will be required to exchange daily or purchase bags of ice daily. If you purchase an ice box that is rated like O’ Meara Camping Igloo Maxcold 5 day ice boxes which can hold ice for up to 5 days or even the Eskimo 10 Day Ice Box then obviously the insulation will be much better.

Q: Camping in Ireland or France etc?
Camping in Ireland is different than camping abroad. Irish weather over recent years does not experience severe heat. Therefore keeping your ice box stored outside your tent is not a real problem. However if camping in heat having a cooler that is UV protected is very important.

Q: Capacity in your Car?
You can purchase an ice box from 9 Ltr capacity to 165 Ltr capacity. We would all love to be able to store everything we need in our cooler. However as us campers know space is key. For your journey to your campsite if space is tight you could use your cooler as a storage box first and then only buy your fridge products once you get to your destination.

Q: Cost?
Ice boxes range in price anything from €10.00  to over €300+. Decide on your budget and get the best advice possible from a shop that knows about their ice boxes. O’ Meara Camping have the largest range of coolers in the country. Our staff go camping and are members of scout groups. Experience and knowledge is important.

Mains or 12 Volt Operated Coolers: 

Mains & 12 Volt cooler box’s are very popular for the camping industry as they are small, light & most of the 12 volt coolers are low wattage. They range in price, capacity and quality.
Many don’t know that the most popular and cheapest types of cooler box’s (Thermoelectic) work on ambient temperature which means that the box has a fan that sucks in the air temperature that surrounds the box and then depending on the quality of the box you purchase it can reduce that air temperature by either 15, 18, 20 or even 30 degrees below that ambient temperature.

Therefore on a cold day these boxes will be very good but on a warm day they will not. Many consumers are swayed to purchase the cheapest box and not take into account how cold it will go. Read the information below which will give you an insight into Mains Coolers.

Compressor, absorption or thermoelectric?

How you intend to use the fridge will determine what type you’ll need.

Compressor portable fridge:

These models operate in the same way as your home fridge. They run on a 12V battery or from 240V AC mains electricity, usually by using an AC adaptor. This type is the best option for most people.

Generally work better than the thermoelectric or absorption types.
Stay cold under a wide range of ambient temperatures.
Much less of a drain on a car battery during normal running.
Setting the temperature and maintaining it once the ambient temperature changes can be problematic. Food can freeze or become too warm if you don’t change it.
You may need to buy an AC adaptor separately if it doesn’t come with one.


The Marshall family like to hit the road as often as they can and find a spot to pitch their tent. They sometimes stay in caravan parks or camping grounds with powered sites, but not always. They’ve set up their car with a dual battery system and wired a compressor camping fridge into the second battery. That way power is provided to the fridge without causing car-starting hassles. George is also a keen fisherman and uses the fridge to store his bait –

Absorption portable fridge

If you’re keen to connect to gas, an absorption model is your only option. It doesn’t have a motor and this type needs to sit level and have a heat source, which can be from a car battery, mains electricity or LP gas.

If you’re camping for a prolonged period or you’re in a remote location, being able to use gas as the power source can be handy.


The Princes are serious campers who like nothing better than to spend time in fairly remote locations. They find an absorption fridge best suit their needs. They make sure everything is cold first at home before they set off, and then run the fridge/freezer off the car battery while getting to their destination. Once there, they switch over to LP gas. If they’re travelling on rough and hilly roads it doesn’t work very well, but it’s better than nothing, and it works well once they’ve stopped and have set it up level.

Thermoelectric portable fridge

This type is really designed for short-term refrigeration or keeping warm. They generally have limited cooling ability and are a substantial drain on the car battery. They are quite noisy and are about the size of a small insulated cooler.

When we’ve tested these types in the past, we’ve found none of them were able to maintain a temperature that’s adequate to store hot food safely.

As for their cooling abilities, we’ve found some are unable to cool to an adequate temperature once the external temperature gets to about 25°C. So on a hot summer day, a thermoelectric portable fridge probably isn’t going to be up to the task of keeping your food and drinks cool. A Igloo cooler with ice or ice packs may be more effective for a few hours at least.

Don’t be tempted to add ice to a thermoelectric cooler as manufacturers warn against it.

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