Are you looking for a way to keep food and drinks cold without relying upon a simple ice-filled cooler? If so, you're probably considering a thermoelectric cooler or a portable fridge/freezer (or both).
Since many of the people who purchase an ArkPak are using it to power a portable fridge or thermoelectric cooler, we decided to compare a couple of popular options on our blog. Here's a comparison of the Koolatron 52 Quart Krusader and the ARB 50 Quart Fridge/Freezer.
First, Some Essential Specs
Both the Koolatron Krusader and ARB Fridge/Freezer offer about 50 quarts of storage capacity. However, the ARB Fridge Freezer is more rectangular with a length, width, and height of 28" x 16" x 20", vs. the Koolatron's square-like 20" x 20" x 15" exterior dimensions. The Koolatron's more square shape allows for slightly more capacity - the cooler can hold 80 standard beverage cans, while the ARB Fridge/Freezer holds 72 cans - but otherwise the interior and exterior dimensions are pretty close.
In terms of weight, the ARB Fridge/Freezer weighs nearly four times as much as the Koolatron cooler (55 vs 15 lbs). This is likely because the ARB has a much more complex refrigeration system than the Koolatron's simple solid-state thermoelectric cooling system. While this weight difference is significant, most of the people who use these devices mount them in their vehicles so it's not a big concern. But if you see yourself having to carry these devices to and fro, you might appreciate the Koolatron's lower heft.
In terms of features and capabilities:
- The ARB unit is an actual refrigerator - you set a specific temperature and the ARB holds that temperature as long as it has power.
- The Koolatron, on the other hand, is a thermoelectric cooler. It does not have any temperature controls, so you have to monitor it to make sure that it's not freezing your food and drinks OR failing to cool them sufficiently (you can read more about why these coolers have limited temperature control here).
- The ARB is very energy efficient - it uses less than 1 amp of current to maintain temperature. The Koolatron cooler will use about 4.5 amps of power to reach its minimum temperature, which may or may not be as cool as you would like (again, you can read more about why the Koolatron can't reach a specific temperature here).
- Both devices run off a standard 12VDC vehicle power outlet, but the ARB Fridge/Freezer includes an 110VAC adapter as standard equipment. This will allow you to use the ARB Fridge/Freezer either in your vehicle or in your home. The Koolatron has an 110VAC adapter available, but it's not included with the standard cooler.
- The Koolatron has the ability to work as either a cooler OR a portable heater. It reaches temperatures as high as 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The ARB unit only works as a refrigerator or freezer.
- The ARB unit has a built-in drain plug, which means spills or melted ice inside an ARB fridge/freezer is no big deal. The Koolatron, on the other hand, should not be exposed to water inside or out, as it could damage the built-in thermoelectric cooling device.
- Last but not least, the Koolatron has a list price of $199. The ARB Fridge/Freezer has a list price of $1149. Both, however, are available at steep discounts if you search online. Still, the Koolatron is about 1/5th or 1/6th the cost of the ARB Fridge/Freezer.
Which Unit Is Best?
There's no easy answer to this question.
If money is no object, and if you're not interested in a cooler that doubles as a portable heater - than the ARB Fridge/Freezer is the obvious choice. It's more energy efficient, offers regulated temperature control, it's not at risk of being damaged if you have a spill, and it works at home or in your vehicle.
But if you're on a budget, it might be hard to justify the ARB's roughly $1,000 price tag. The Koolatron offers much of the ARB's capabilities at a fraction of the cost, and for that reason it must be seriously considered.
Our best advice: No matter which one you choose, make sure you have a good source of power. Both the ARB Fridge/Freezer and Koolatron Krusader can "kill" a standard vehicle battery in a matter of hours. You definitely want to plug either device into a portable power pack like the ArkPak or our battery box.