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TESTED: Outback Travel Mate 28L Fridge

POSSIBLY more than most groups that enjoy the outdoors, fishos require the need to keep a number of perishable items, drinks and often their catch cool, on the water and off. Having a reliable cooler is invaluable especially for extended trips in remote areas. While the ever popular ice box is readily available in many forms these days, the downside is the requirement of blocks or pre-bagged ice to keep everything cold and any potential pongs from spoiling your trip.   

Portable powered fridges represent the upmarket version of the ice box and offer many advantages over the basic ice box. Not too long ago portable fridges seemed to be only offered by a small number of manufacturers locally. A reasonably new player on the Australian portable fridge/freezer market is the Outback Travel Mate marketed by Queensland based Downunder Ice Boxes, suppliers of those popular brightly coloured Tropical ice boxes and other cooling products.

The Outback Travel Mate is available in a range that encompasses the 28 litre model featured here and includes 45,55 and 70 litre models, and the largest in the range featuring a generous 80 litre capacity. Boat Fishing recently had the opportunity to trial the NCC-28 model over a month.

On first observation the 18kg unit appears to be very well put together and made to last. It features a DC compressor that operates via either a 12/24-volt DC or 230/240v AC power supply. The AC supply integrates with the DC by simply plugging the two plugs together.

My initial testing of the unit involved some weekend road trips. Transporting the fridge to the car or boat is via durable looking foldaway handles either side. The unit fitted neatly, albeit a little on the tall side, on the driver’s side of the rear cargo section of my Subaru Forester. Handily the car comes standard with a 12v power outlet making connecting the fridge a simple job.

With the car running, or ignition on accessories, power is available to the fridge. More on that later. The fridge is turned on or off via a power switch with an inbuilt red LED to indicate operation. Temperature setting of the unit can be manually adjusted up or down to suit cabinet temperature requirements. With a minimum setting of minus 19 degrees C freezing capability is available. With only some smallgoods, fruit, groceries and drinks to keep cold for a few days there was no need to try out the freeze option. Dialling in 4 degrees C on the LED readout seemed a good option for what was to be stored inside. The unit features a removable basket which can make loading up the fridge an in house or in car possibility. The 28 litre capacity cabinet looks moderately sized but surprisingly swallowed up a good amount of food and beverages – enough for a couple’s weekend away.

The unit came packaged with a tough fabric cover to protect the outer case. The cover’s top section is zippered so accessing the lid requires undoing the zipper first. After doing this quite a few times over a few days I opted to leave the side furthest away unzipped for faster lid access. The lid features sturdy alloy latches for ensuring cabinet sealing.    

On the road the unit proved amazingly quiet, especially while travelling.

One concern I had was with the unit not running when stopping overnight. As it turned out the seal on the cabinet kept things cold enough to avoid any problems. Mind you we had reasonably cool conditions and the height of summer may have been another story.   

To further test out the little fridge it was hooked up to a 240v supply for a few days in the Fishing World office. The unit’s AC adaptor powerpack connects into the 12v lead and outlet on the side of the case. When the fridge was initially turned on the LED temp registered 27 degrees C as the unit hadn’t been running and had spent a day in the back of the car. I tweaked the thermostat button down to around 4 degrees C. Not to waste power the 28 litre’s beer holding capacity was tested – it was Friday after all – 15 tall stubbies,  including two cardboard case six-packs, were easily swallowed up by the 28L fridge and later by a number of work colleagues. Noticable again was just how quiet the fridge was while operating in an office environment. Despite being parked close to my desk I found myself turning around often to check if the fridge was actually running.

Anyone in the market for a portable fridge/freezer should check out the Travel Mate range. The 28L model is perfect for weekends away or shorter trips where huge capacity isn’t required and is available for $649 RRP. Those after added cooling capacity should check out the complete line-up. Warranty is two years on the cabinet, compressor and electrics, 12 months on the 240v transformer and 12v lead.

For more information contact (07) 5437 8477; www.downundericeboxes.com  

By Mick Fletoridis

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