Summer is here, and then some! With the sun out, you’d be hard-pushed to find a more classically British pastime than the picnic. Blankets on the ground in the park, at the beach, or out camping somewhere, bringing a spot of food and drink and relaxing the day away is great. Or maybe you’re taking full advantage of the festival season, which is pricey enough even before you buy food on-site.
A good cooler is, therefore, something that can’t be skimped on. With the weather embracing the UK this summer, what could be worse than a warm drink or a sandwich that’s a little less than fresh? Cool boxes are useful for sure, but you need ice packs for them, and they’re only useful for so long until they melt. And you’re faced with a warm, damp box. Electric cool boxes are a perfect solution to keeping food and drinks colder for longer. Read on for a selection of the best.
Product Quick Links
- 1. Waeco U32 Camping Cool Box
- 2. Dometic Combicool RC2200 Portable
- 3. JTF Electric DC/AC Cool Box
- 4. Mobicool MB32 Electric Cool Bag
- 5. Dometic TCX35 Tropicool
- 6. Progen Sports Electric Cooler Box
- 7. Oypla Portable Electric Cool Box
- 8. VonShef Electric Cool Box
- 9. Tristar KB7230 Cool Box
- 10. IceQ Electric Cool Box
- 11. Mobicool W48 DC Thermoelectric
- Which Electric Cool Box should I go for?
- Electric Cool Box Buying Guide
This 29-litre cooler from Waeco (also branded as Mobicool) is a high-quality choice and works as well as any fridge. The fan-based cooling system is capable of handling heatwaves, with different settings that allow you to take it as low as 18°C below the outside temperature. By pairing this temperature range with an insulation made from CFC-free polyurethane, the U32 works hard to keep your food chilled. It’s also suitable for storing non-refrigerated foodstuffs without any internal condensation, and thanks to its shape can also hold 2-litre drinks bottles standing up.
It’s also versatile, with a mains cable for convenience at home as well as a 12V cable that plugs into cars. When not in use, 12V cable can be stored into a small slot in the lid. The lid itself can also be fixed in place, or supported when open, by the carry handle.
The RC2200 from Dometic is one of the largest in their range, which combines with a powerful cooling system and sleek styling to make for a great all-round package. The clever 3-way ‘absorption cooler’ uses the most efficient energy type for whatever situation you’re in – it has a 12/24V DC cable for car use, 230V mains power for the home and a gas coolant system for when you don’t have access to electricity. These versatile and near-silent cooling functions can give you up to 33°C below the ambient temperature.
Allowing room for up to 8 2-litre bottles standing, the (approximately) 41-litre interior should suit even the largest of picnics. Brushed aluminium housing lends it a classy look, while shaped and recessed handles ensure it’s simple to move around.
Capable of both cooling as well as warming, the understated profile of JTF’s cool box hides the product’s quality features. It comes with adapters to allow you to easily switch between 12V car power and 230V mains power, and a simple on/off switch helps you save energy when it’s not needed. Cooling is up to 15°C below the ambient temperature, but heating at up to 68°C is also possible. Changing between hot and cold is operated by a single switch, with green/red LEDs to indicate which function is being used.
The product is well-insulated, with a CFC-free polyurethane foam layer in the body and a gasket around the lid to ensure it stays sealed. A 24-litre internal volume should hold plenty of food for a good-sized picnic, and with a simple carry handle and removable internal shelf for extra storage levels, ought to suit most needs.
With smart styling and great portability to complement the useful cooling features, this cool bag from Mobicool is ideal for those on the go. As a bag, complete with a comfortable shoulder strap, it is naturally much lighter than a comparative cool box at around 2kg. It is, therefore, very easy to carry around without getting in the way. It’s is also well-made and big enough for all but the biggest storage needs. Helpfully, it also packs down flat when not in use.
One notably useful feature is the 12V compatible cable, which at 2.7 metres is perfect for storing anywhere in the car. The connection is at the side of the bag, and while plugged in the fan cooling system remains super quiet.
Advanced and intelligent power-saving technology and a great capacity make for a high-tech, high-quality offering from Dometic. Controlled via a simple, soft-touch panel to the front of the box, temperature adjustment is a straightforward process. The product notably uses a thermoelectric cooling technology to refrigerate up to 30°C below the outside temperature but is also capable of heating the interior to +65°C. The use of a power-saving circuit within this system also gives the box an A+++ energy efficiency rating.
Running via a 12/24V DC cable for car use or a 230V AC cable for mains power use gives it versatility wherever you go. Tough carry handles add to the convenience of moving it around even with its generous 33L interior, making it a great solution for cold storage.
Sporting a smart blue finish, the multi-purpose Progen Sports cooler boasts a few handy functions. Foremost among them is the dual-purpose cooling (which lowers the temperature by 13-18°C) and warming (up to 65°C) settings, giving you a higher level of control over the temperature in which you store your food and drink – simple green or red LEDs let you know which setting is active. The unit is also powered by an integrated battery system with a 12V and 230V cable, so you can alternate between car and home use, with an automatic DC/AC switch to protect the circuits.
A CFC-free polyurethane insulation layer and an airtight lid gasket ensure it stays sealed and keeps the temperature constant, so your food stays fresh, while an internal volume of 24 litres makes sure that there’s plenty of room for all your food and drink needs.
This dual-purpose cooling and heating mini cool box from Oypla, with a decent 24-litre internal capacity, is a solid choice for picnics and road trips. Compatible with 12V power sources for plugging into the car and 230V sources for mains electricity, it features 2 separate plugs to keep the circuits safe. There is also a single switch to facilitate alternating between heating and cooling, indicated by green/red LEDs. The cooling function will take contents down to 15-18°C below ambient temperatures, and the heating function to 60-65°C.
The plastic housing utilises a solid polyurethane foam lining for good insulation and wipes clean for simple maintenance. It also comes with a useful internal divider to assist with storage of taller items such as bottles. The carry handle additionally doubles up as a locking mechanism for the lid.
Sporting a clean and understated look, VonShef’s entry into the electric cool box market is a robust and well-made choice. Sporting a 22-litre internal volume, ideal for most picnics and outings, it’s also tall enough to accommodate 1.5-litre bottles. Powered by a 12V cable, which will plug into the car, it will sustain an internal temperature of 8-12°C which is ideal for most foods and drinks. One neat feature is the cable storage; a handy compartment is built into the lid, giving you somewhere to keep the cable when not in use.
The carry handle, made of the same robust plastic as the body, is lightweight and firmly locks the lid when folded down, and creates a solid seal to ensure that the cold stays inside the box.
Boasting a generous internal volume of 30 litres, Tristar’s smart and minimalist cool box is a good piece of equipment inside and out. Tall but nonetheless portable, thanks to the solidly-made integrated handle, it uses its volume well and could easily carry plenty of food and drinks, even up to items as large as 2-litre bottles. It capably cools at up to 16°C below the ambient temperature with the thermoelectric cooling system, powered by a 12V car-type cable.
The lid also offers up some handy design features; an integrated storage compartment allows you to keep the cable out of the way when not in use, and cup holders are also built-in for an extra level of convenience. Lightweight and decent quality all-round, this would make a solid purchase for smaller picnics and trips.
IceQ’s Electric Cool Box features a bold red design and a generous 32-litre capacity as part of a great all-round package. The stylish colourway, matched with a powder-blue lid, cuts a striking figure and makes sure it’ll never get lost. The integrated carry handle locks the lid in place, adding insulation, and is strong enough to withstand a box full to the brim. The lid itself also features a twist-to-lock storage area for the 2 power input cables; a 12V cable for use with cars and a 230V for household use. Both cables also have independent on/off switches for convenience.
The fan-based cooling system will bring the internal temperature down by 20°C below the outside and features a heating function for added versatility.
Built to carry as much as possible, the large-volume of Mobicool’s W48 is surprisingly easy to manoeuvre. A primary carry handle at the front, which folds for greater versatility, works with a pair of sturdy wheels at the back to let you move it with ease. There are also two more handles on the sides, which are also folding, to facilitate easier carrying.
This convenience also extends to the lid, which opens from the centre. An internal divider pairs up with this 2-part lid and helps maintain a higher level of insulation by lowering any potential loss of cold air. The lid also features an integrated storage compartment for the 12V car-type cable, and the whole box is insulated further with a full foam layer.
Which Electric Cool Box should I go for?
Best quality & features – The Dometic Combicool RC2200 stands out as the best combination of capacity, design quality and convenience. The most notable feature that sets the Combicool apart is the intelligent 3-way cooling system that it utilises. A flexible 2-way electric system allows you to alternate between a 12V car connector and a 230V UK mains connector, but it’s the 3rd option that makes this unique. An integrated gas supply allows cooling even when no electricity is available, giving this a level of versatility for camping trips and excursions away from civilisation that no other box on the test can match. The cooling system is also near-silent to boot and can adjust the temperature to (up to) 33 °C below the outside temperature.
The intelligent cooling mechanism notwithstanding, the huge 41-litre volume and elegant aluminium housing would be enough to mark this as a great piece of kit. When you bring all of those features together though, it’s nigh unbeatable.
On a budget – The Oypla Portable is the best budget choice from the boxes on the test. It’s well-insulated, with CFC-free polyurethane foam forming the layer, and with a solid wipe-clean plastic shell is robust enough for most uses. It both heats and cools for added versatility, while a decent 24-litre interior makes it amply sized for moderately-sized picnics. So for a day out to the park, beach or campsite, it’s hard to go wrong and at this price, it’s an inexpensive replacement should you wear it out.
Best for daily use – The Mobicool MB32 Cool Bag is a perfect choice for a day-to-day cooler. A product designed for portability, a comfortable carry strap and lightweight build make this ideal for picnics and days out, of course, but would also be right at home as a shopping bag. With most supermarkets now encouraging the use of bags from home, this would make a great addition to a shopping routine. It’s durable, ideally proportioned for the cold and frozen elements of a weekly shop, plugs into the car’s cigarette lighter so it stays cool on the drive home, and packs down flat when you’ve unpacked everything. It would even have a place as a lunch bag; plug it in on your commute, and it’ll stay cool until lunchtime.
Best for camping trips – Mobicool’s W48 would make an ideal companion for any camping trips, be it a weekend or a summer holiday. The size is one of its main benefits in this sense, with 48 litres capable of holding enough for several people, for several days (if needed). The remarkable portability of this large unit is also a huge plus for camping; multiple folding handles and a pair of small but sturdy wheels give you the freedom to move it wherever you go. The split lid/inner compartment also helps with insulation so if you have to take it off a power supply it will still hold on to the refrigerated air on one side, even when the other is open.
For heating as well as cooling – The Dometic TCX35 Tropicool is a very high-tech solution for cool box needs, with the versatility to heat its contents as well as cool them down. Maybe you’re going to a barbecue but someone else has drinks covered, so you’re bringing burgers – no sweat. Simply adjust the settings, from the user-friendly soft touch panel to the front, select the heat option and you’re away. It’s a great multi-function and easy-to-use option.
Electric Cool Box Buying Guide
Nowadays, with hotter and hotter summers, an electric cool box is a must-have. Electric cool boxes have some vested advantages over their non-electric counterparts, first and foremost that you can keep things colder for longer, and without the need for ice packs. But, as with most things, the market is full of different options and it can be hard to know where to begin. That’s why we’ve got some of the most important factors to think about when looking for your ideal cool box.
How big do you need?
It’s important to have a good understanding of just how much space you’re going to need to store your food and drinks. So, when it comes to judging size (usually between 25 and 40-45 litres), it’s worth considering a couple of main things.
Firstly, how many people are you usually carrying food for? The smaller end of the cool box spectrum, at around 25 litres, might be enough for 2-3 people for a weekend trip, but any more than that and you’d need to consider either something bigger or more than one smaller unit. Therefore, the length of the trip/outing is also directly linked with this – as you might imagine, a longer trip may well need a much bigger box. Once you’ve taken those into account, choosing size should be much simpler.
How tough does it need to be?
Depending on the kind of use your cool box is going to get, you might need to give some thought to what it’s made of. Most cheaper units will have a plastic shell, outside and in, which will usually survive low to moderate usage, maybe over a festival weekend or some shorter camping trips. However, heavy-duty usage is going to need a heavy-duty build. Some units feature a hardened plastic, or even metal in some cases, which naturally can stand up to a bit more.
Pay attention to the power offerings from each electric cool box, as there is plenty of variances even among boxes that outwardly look the same. Electric cool boxes almost universally feature a 12V cable/connector that is designed to be plugged into a car’s cigarette lighter, but some come with either an adapter or second cable that enables use with 230V mains sockets. Depending on how you plan to use your box, this might affect your choice. In a few cases, you might even come across a third power supply, as some come equipped with a gas coolant system as well when you don’t have access to electricity.
Most manufacturers will tell you how many degrees Celsius below the ambient temperature their cool box is capable of, and this might be something that affects your buying decision. The ambient temperature is simply the temperature outside the box, and, the lower the potential reduction the better. Ideally, keep an eye out for cool boxes with a greater range.
All the information covered here should tell you everything you would need to know in advance of making the right purchase of an electric cool box. All that remains now is for you to get buying, take summer by the scruff and make the most out of your trips.
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