BougeRV Portable Fridge Review

 Is This Cheap Vanlife Fridge Worth It?

By John Serbell June 10, 2021

Having reliable refrigeration is the key to full-time truck life. But a good 12V refrigerator may be one of the most expensive items in any DIY camper construction. Top models, may cost you $ 1, 000 or more - it ' s hard to accept when your budget is limited or you don ' t want to spend so much money. BougeRV is a Chinese company that sells solar modules, RV accessories and 12V refrigerators in the United States and elsewhere. Due to their low price and surprising quality, they have recently received much attention in the vanlife community. BougeRV offered to send us one of their refrigerators for testing and review, and we accepted them so that we could see whether this cheap 12V refrigerator could withstand the test of the journey. Can BougeRV portable refrigerator compete with our preferred vanlife refrigerator ( including more expensive refrigerators from top brands )? Is it worth your hard money, or should you insist on doing something else? Is it energy saving or power consumption? How does it withstand the harsh test of full-time vanlife?

About the BougeRV Portable Fridge

BougeRV refrigerator is the latest in a series of cheap, mass-produced 12V refrigerators that have entered the market in the past few years. Although BougeRV is quite new on site, they seem committed to becoming a credible brand and doing well in marketing games. They have obtained characteristics and comments on the platforms of several famous influencers in outdoor, off-grid, RV and vanlife space. So far, their products have performed well and received positive evaluation from testers and daily users. Taking this into account, let ' s start a hands-on evaluation of the BougeRV 50L portable 12V refrigerator.

The BougeRV is a solid entry into the portable refrigerator market, which seems to be the norm in the wild

53 Quart (50L) Portable Refrigerator/Freezer

  • Freezing zone: 40L + Refrigeration zone: 10L
  • Home use: 110 V-240 V AC power
  • Car/Big truck use: 12/24 V DC power
  • Refrigeration range: -4℉~50℉(-18℃~10℃)
  • Wattage: Max Mode 60 W; ECO Mode 45 W
  • Noise: ≤45 dB

What’s In the Box

The BougeRV vanlife fridge comes double boxed in sturdy cardboard with foam padding. Unboxing is frankly a bit strange, because there is no branding to be found anywhere except for the fridge itself. Aside from the fridge, here’s what’s included:

The BougeRV vanlife refrigerator comes in a double box and is made of sturdy cardboard and foam liner. In addition to the fridge, there are the following:

  • 12/24V DC cigarette lighter adapter
  • 120V AC power adapter
  • Attachable handle kit: parts and a t-handle allen key tool for putting the handles on the fridge
  • Instruction manual

The BougeRV comes with an interlocking handle (including tools) and is very robust with a powerful spring. Let's assume that letting the user wear the handle will save some cost and also make the shipping box a few inches smaller.

Design

We put the fridge between the front seats of the van, and in order to reach the control panel on the BougeRV, we needed to lean against the fridge all the time and turn the controls upside down. It also makes it harder to keep tabs on temperatures. This isn't necessarily a big deal, but the controls really should be on the same side as the latches for better usability (or at least latch-oriented).

The interior of the fridge contains two compartments - a 10-litre "refrigerated" compartment and a 40-litre "frozen" compartment. How you actually use the compartment depends on your temperature Settings. Set them low enough and they can both be used as refrigerators. Set it high enough, and you'll have two freezers (one colder than the other).

The BougeRV refrigerator looks like a typical 12V refrigerator, but it looks solid. The connectable handle is very strong. 

The larger compartment has a detachable basket with a bulkhead, which is standard in such refrigerators. There's also an internal LED light that lights up when the lid is opened - always helpful when you're enjoying a midnight snack.

Dimensions

Size is an important consideration when integrating a refrigerator into your van. The size and shape of the BougeRV refrigerator is different from most vanLife refrigerators we've seen. Most 12V refrigerators are slightly wider than they are tall, or at least close to the same width. BougeRV, on the other hand, is significantly higher in height than width. Here are the exact measurements:

  • Exterior dimensions: 22.75” long (26” with handles attached) x 13” wide x 21” tall

That's at least a few inches taller than other brands of similarly sized fridges -- again, they tend to be wider than height.

It all depends on personal preference and how these dimensions work with your build. The narrower/taller refrigerator will save you a little floor space. However, digging things out of the bottom of the fridge can be a bit more difficult as the food compartments are also deeper and narrower.

Features & Specs

In addition to the design and size specifications we mentioned above, there are several other features to note.

  • Max and Eco modes. Maximum mode gives you fast and powerful cooling at the expense of higher power consumption. Eco mode gives you better power consumption at the expense of some cooling performance..
  • Temp range: -4F to 50F. This means you can set your fridge to an ultra-deep freezer or keep a few bottles of wine cold.
  • Three battery protection modes. When your battery reaches a certain voltage, this shuts down the refrigerator so you don't run out of battery power. The BougeRV refrigerator comes in three modes (low/medium/high), so you can customize the in/out voltage as needed.

The BougeRV refrigerator features three battery protection Settings. The power input accepts 12/24V DC as well as an AC adapter. The 15A blade fuse is easy to access.

  • Can function at up to a 30 degree incline. Even after being knocked down on those rugged forest roads, the BougeRV fridge kept working.
  • Relatively quiet (45 decibels or less). It's quiet enough that you can barely hear it from a few feet away, and the noise can easily disappear into the background. We verified this with our own sound level meter application tests.
  • Wancool ACV25FC compressor. As far as we know, this compressor is similar in design to the Danfoss SECOP compressor, but cheaper.
  • 2-year warranty (upgradeable to 3-year). The BougeRV refrigerator comes with a standard two-year warranty, which can be upgraded to a three-year warranty if you register your refrigerator through the BougeRV Club. Not bad.

Wancool ACV25FC compressor and its internal cables. Everything looks so clean. We don't recommend opening the fridge.

How the BougeRV Fridge Performs

The BougeRV has a pretty solid set of features and specifications, especially for the price. But how does it actually perform?

We tested the BougeRV in late spring in northern New Mexico. During the testing, daytime temps ranged from the mid to upper 70s, and nighttime temps got down to the mid to upper 60s. We performed the rapid cooldown tests during the day with ambient temps in the mid 70s, but 24 hour tests saw the full range of temperatures.

The BougeRV comes with a very reliable set of features and specifications, especially in terms of price. But how well does it actually perform?We tested the BougeRV in northern New Mexico in late spring. During the test, daytime temperatures ranged from the mid-upper 70s, while nighttime temperatures dropped to the mid-upper 60s. We did rapid cooling tests during the day, with ambient temperatures in the mid-70s, but the 24-hour test saw the full temperature range.

24-hour Power Consumption

First, we tested the power consumption of the BougeRv refrigerator when it was kept at a set temperature for more than 24 hours. As far as VanLife is concerned, this is probably the most important test, as it's a good measure of the average electricity consumption of a refrigerator.

Touching the control panel takes a little getting used to, but it's easy to set the temperature and cooling mode.

We did these tests in Eco and Max mode using a full refrigerator. If you're more concerned about power consumption, you might want to run this refrigerator in Eco mode. We also basically set the temperature and let the fridge do its thing. In practical use, you'll open and close the lid as you remove food from it throughout the day, which means it takes more power to keep the set temperature. Here are the results:

  • Eco mode: 280Wh over 24 hours. This equates to an average of 0.97A per hour on a 12V system (23.2Ah total).
  • Max mode: 384Wh over 24 hours. This equates to an average of 1.33A per hour on a 12V system (32Ah total).

Rapid Cooldown Performance

Next, we tested the BougeRV's rapid cooling ability in Both Eco and Max mode with the fridge empty. Here are the results:

  • Max mode: Cooled from 72F down to 28F in 37 minutes, and used .04 kWh (40Wh, or 3.33Ah on a 12V system).
  • Eco mode: Cooled from 72F down to 30F in 51 minutes, and used .04 kWh (40 Wh, or 3.33 Ah on a 12V system).

We then conducted another test in maximum mode with a refrigerator containing a room-temperature liquid. You probably wouldn't do this type of cooling in your van, but we just wanted to see how it handles this challenge. The refrigerator cooled from 72 degrees to 30 degrees at about 2:47 and used 400kWh (about 33Ah on the 12V system).

Temperature Consistency

During temperature maintenance, the temperature fluctuates about 2-3 degrees from set temperature in Max mode and 2-5 degrees Fahrenheit from set temperature in Eco mode. For example, for a temperature set to 28F, we see a temperature range of 26F to 33F displayed in Eco mode. This is normal and helps improve efficiency - the compressor only starts when the temperature exceeds the set window.

This is the actual temperature in the refrigerator. In a fridge like this, the temperature is always lowest at the bottom of the fridge, highest at the top, and even hotter in the "fridge" compartment.

Here's what we measured when we set the refrigerator temperature to 28F (and read 26F on the display) :

  • Bottom of main compartment: hovering around 28F
  • Top of main compartment: hovering around 30F
  • Fridge compartment: hovering around 52F

This is generally fairly consistent, with the entire freezer within 2 degrees Celsius of the set temperature. Cold rooms are always warmer -- so if you use the main room as a refrigerator, be careful what you store in the "refrigerator" room, as it will be warmer than you set.

Overall, the temperature of the BougeRV refrigerator remained good (with expected fluctuations), and the internal temperature was within 2 degrees Fahrenheit of the set temperature.

Is the BougeRV 12V Portable Refrigerator Worth Getting?

The BougeRV 50L refrigerator does seem to be a quality device, and it's a cheap way to add cooling features to your van -- a huge upgrade if you've been shaking the cooler.However, the big question to answer is, do you get what you pay for? How can such a cheap refrigerator compete with more expensive brands?

Let's be real - BougeRV refrigerators are general-purpose 12V refrigerators that are mass-produced in factories in China and carry the white label of the BougeRV brand name. The truth is, BougeRV refrigerators do perform well and seem to be of good quality. At a discount, the BougeRV refrigerator is less than a third of the price of high-end products from top brands.

Conclusion

The BougeRV 12V portable refrigerator is a good choice if you are on a budget, or just frugal and don't want to spend too much money on your equipment.

If you're on a tight budget, or don't plan on using VanLife for more than a year or two, or don't want to spend more on a small refrigerator in your van than you would on a full-size home refrigerator, then you should take a close look at BougeRV.

The BougeRV refrigerator is a reliable refrigerator that includes most of the big boys features for a fraction of the cost. After all, vanlife is about getting on the road and creating your own path. It's not about buying the right brand, or spending the most money on your gear, or doing things for "grams." The BougeRV refrigerator will ease your journey (with refrigeration). In our opinion, this makes it a good choice for your equipment.

53 Quart (50L) Portable Refrigerator/Freezer

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