One luxury and one necessity. A fridge and a power inverter. We've done long overland trips with a cooler full of warm beer and thawing meat, willing to trade the shirts off our backs for a bag of clean ice and a cold one. This time we figured a fridge would be the one item worth spending a little extra on. Here's hoping it pays off.
We knew from the start we'd need a power inverter. Our ability to work while traveling depends on having charged laptop and mobile phone batteries in just about any condition. This one was a no brainer.
We spent a good deal of time looking for a fridge, reading reviews and scouring forums for first hand experiences. Kobus built a half dozen cardboard mock ups of different fridge sizes to see how they would fit in Ol' Blue. We wanted something accessible from inside and out, with room for the lid to open and basket to be removed, without blocking any vents or panels on the fridge.
We almost resigned to spending $900+ on a fridge from Engel or ARB that would have been under 32 quarts and would not have fit well. Almost. Then I stumbled across this monstrous forum post on expeditionportal.com and found the answer to our problems. A $450 43 quarter fridge that not only cost half what we expected to spend, but would fit in Blue's driver-side rear seat perfectly.
After a few more days of researching, and reading first-hand reviews on expeditionportal.com we decided to spring for the EdgeStar FP-430. It arrived from Compact Appliance a few days later, double boxed, without a scratch.
We had two choices to make when it came to picking the right power inverter. What wattage would we need? And should should the inverter produce modified sine wave or true sine wave power?
Modified sine wave inverters are standard, they are the cheap kind, and produce a power wave output that is squared. This puts more strain on DC adapters, and can affect sensitive equipment. Pure sine wave inverters produce rounded power waves, the same as a wall plug does at home. We went with the cheaper option after consulting several experts who said it would not affect our cell phones or laptops.
Choosing the correct wattage was a matter of adding up all of the electronics we'd need to charge at the same time. Three laptops @ 130W, a cell phone @ 30W and a camera @ 20W. This gave us a total of around 450W. A good rule of thumb is to double, or at least add 50% to account for power consumption spikes. This put us at between 600 and 900 watts.
We decided on a highly-rated and cheap 800W inverter made by Cobra that was ordered from Amazon.
Both the fridge and power inverter will be mounted behind the drivers seat. For everything to fit we had to remove the rear left seat and build a platform using the mounting points for the removed seat.
Kobus made two angled brackets from flat metal bars that attach to the front seat mounting points. The inverter and fridge wires have been run from the auxiliary battery and sit on the floor, awaiting their connections.
Next, I built a board to give the fridge a flat surface to mount to using 3/4" birch plywood. It rests on the angled metal brackets that Kobus made and attaches to the lock box through the rear seat mounts. Jessica applied the finishing touches with a top coat of carpeting.
You can also see the four mounting points for the fridge, bolts with teflon spacers that will attach to metal strips threaded through the fridge's adjustable feet.
The fridge in its final resting place. To wire the fridge to our auxiliary battery Kobus and I took off the access panel, removed the standard DC plug and spliced on longer wires which were fed through a grommet-lined hole drilled into the side of the panel. We used 30A power pole connectors to terminate both sets of wires. The fridge doesn't have an off button, so this will allow us to easily disconnect it from the battery if needed.