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How to Keep an RV Fridge Cold While Driving (4 Chilly Tips)

Hitting the road with a full fridge? Here’s how to keep your RV fridge cold while driving. You’ll learn how to keep your food cold, even if you don’t run the fridge while traveling. Because spoiled food isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time.

Keeping your food cold can be as easy as moving some items around, pre-freezing items to help keep the temperature down, and simply not opening your fridge while the RV is in motion. These ways to keep the fridge’s temperature in your RV cold while driving are simple and efficient.

How to Keep an RV Fridge Cold While Driving

It might be tempting to keep your RV fridge running while you’re driving. Maybe you’re going a short distance, and surely nothing can go wrong in that amount of time.

Or, maybe you have some tasty treats and cold beverages you want to keep fresh for when you arrive.

But don’t worry, with these tips, there’s no reason to run your fridge. Read on for everything you need to know about keeping your RV fridge cold while you’re driving.

Learn more about RV water heater operation and how long to keep it running.

Tips for Efficiently Keeping an RV Fridge Cold While Driving

No matter what kind of RV fridge you use, be it propane or 12V, or even one of the three-way ones that are AC, propane, and 12V battery-powered, you probably won’t run it while you’re driving.

It might sound tempting, but there’s just no reason to do it. Let’s dive right into how you can keep it cold inside your fridge.

1. Planning Ahead (Drop the Temp)

One of the easiest ways to keep your fridge at a lower temperature while driving your RV is to plan ahead. Consider when you are going to depart on your RV adventure.

A few hours before you leave, adjust your fridge to the lowest possible temperature. Some fridges might require a full day’s worth of chilling out.

It is important to have a pretty solid idea of how much time you will need to run your fridge at its lowest level because doing so for too long can cause it to freeze over, but not long enough won’t do anything.

While you’re in the planning stages of your trip, consider how your fridge cools when it’s operating at full capacity so that you can factor this into your trip prep.

How long will your fridge stay cool? A 12v RV fridge that has been running in an RV can typically stay generally cool for up to twelve hours, but running it as low as possible before shutting it off can add quite a bit more lasting, cold air inside.

Keep RV Fridge Cold While Driving

Here’s more about how your RV fridge works.

2. Frozen Items Are Your Friends

Another great way to keep your RV fridge cold while driving is by adding frozen drinks and ice packs.

If you have any open space in your fridge, filling any holes with frozen items is a great way to preserve the cold in your fridge.

The frozen items will keep the other items that they are next to cold while providing more cold in the fridge.

Just using ice is not the best idea, because a bunch of loose ice rolling around in your fridge will likely turn into water, which may soil some of the items in the fridge.

Frozen water bottles and sealed ice packs are the best things to use if you choose to fill the open space in your fridge.

Here are a few things that you can freeze to help keep your fridge cold. These will stay frozen for quite a while, they’re small enough that you can easily fit them in your RV fridge, and they’re also ideal to have on hand when they’re thawed:

  • Applesauce pouches: these are so great for camping, especially if there are kids on the trip. Any kind of snack pouches will stay frozen as long as they’re in the insulated fridge, but they thaw quickly once removed.
  • Bottled water: small bottles are perfect for fridges that don’t have a lot of room, although regular-sized bottles are great, too. Reusable metal water bottles are also great for this purpose and stay frozen for a long time.
  • Condiment packets: keep these in a baggie just in case they leak; these also save you from having to take up space with big bottles of condiments.
  • Hot dogs: what’s an RV adventure without cooking hot dogs on a campfire? Hot dogs are easy to freeze, and once you arrive you can leave them out to thaw so they’ll be ready for dinner.

Caution: A note of caution about freezing water in a stainless steel water bottle. Don’t completely fill the bottle with water before freezing – it will overflow. And it might break the bottle. I like to fill and freeze half the volume, then top it up to freeze the rest. Probably don’t fill over 80% to avoid overflow.

3. Hands off the Fridge

This might seem like an obvious tip, but it’s one that’s all too often forgotten. This is also an important tip to share with everyone traveling in your RV. It might even be a good idea to put a sign on the fridge as a gentle reminder.

Every time you open a refrigerator, especially if it is not plugged in, it releases some of the cold air inside it. The more you do this, the more cold air you lose. Since the fridge isn’t running, you won’t recover any of the lost coldness.

Make sure to keep your RV fridge door closed while driving. You can secure the fridge with a bungee cord if you’re worried about it popping open. Even using a rope to keep the doors closed is a viable option.

If you’re really concerned about the fridge door opening and letting the cold air out, some models come with a lock and key option, or you can purchase an individual lock.

If you are going on a long trip or want to have access to some cold beverages or foods, it might be a good idea to pack a cooler that can hold what you need, rather than storing those things in the fridge and having to open the door every time you want something.

Learn more about propane: Can Propane Freeze? 6 Things to Know

4. RV Battery

In some cases, your 12v RV refrigerator would be able to function regularly while driving with a specific switch designed to use the RV’s battery for power in motion.

This isn’t the most efficient way to keep your fridge cold and it can dramatically drain the battery – especially of you have your truck engine off for longer than 30 minutes.

It’s a good idea to disconnect the plug (or hit the switch) to your fridge if you stop for an extended lunch – otherwise, you might not have enough juice to start your engine. Once you’re stopped, you can switch to propane to keep running your fridge.

Of course, depending on how long you stop, you might not need to switch to propane. With your fridge, all closed up and full of ice packs it might hold temperature fine until you get on the road again.

I recommend trying some of the other options above  – even if you plan to run your fridge with 12V power. It will take the load off your battery and make it easier to keep your food chilled and safe.

Here’s an explanation of how to run your campers fridge with an inverter.

Traveling without a fridge? Here’s how to keep your food cold while camping.

Safety Concerns of RV Fridge Operation

Obviously, you’ll want to avoid any methods that might be unsafe.

If your fridge is propane powered, it isn’t recommended to run it while driving. And some states have laws prohibiting their operation while in tunnels and at gas stations. Flames, gas fumes, and enclosed spaces are a recipe for a bad day.

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keep rv fridge cold

Keep reading: How to keep mice out of your RV camper

Your Turn

With a little careful planning and clever use of some regular household items, you’ll be able to keep your fridge cold. These tips will let you sit back and enjoy the ride, without having to worry about food spoiling.

How do you keep your fridge cold while traveling? Let me know how it worked for you.

How’s your water? Here’s how to sanitize your RV fresh water tank in 8 simple steps.

Judy Brown

Thursday 8th of July 2021

Thanks for the suggestions. For peace of mind, we also have Indoor Outdoor Thermometer with 3 Wireless Sensors. We Keep two sensors in the fridge (one high one low), one in the camper, And the base unit in our car while we're driving. That way we can monitor the temperature in the fridge during our trip. If it's getting higher than we like we can stop and take some action to fix that. We bought Oria brand via Amazon, and other than having to replace the batteries once a year all is good. I'm sure there are plenty of similar models.

Bryan Haines

Tuesday 13th of July 2021

Thanks for the suggestion Judy!

Ray Clark

Tuesday 6th of July 2021

Since you need to run the generator about an hour each month and most campsites don't allow it. This would be a good time to run it for an hour with the fridge set on 110v

Tex Hooper

Thursday 25th of March 2021

I like your refrigeration tips. I need to get a new trailer. I need it to cool food.