ARB Classic II Fridge Freezer Review
Getting the Best Features and Options when Shopping for Portable Fridges
ARB has recently made several improvements to its Classic series of Fridge Freezer portable off-road overlanding refrigerators with the release of the Classic II. Most notably, the fridge now supports wireless display and monitoring from any smartphone via the new FridgeConnect app. We outfitted the Ultimate International with one of ARB's 50-quart Classic II Fridge Freezers and then lived out of the 4x4 for a week of off-roading and overlanding during Ultimate Adventure to check out the new features for ourselves. We were pleased with the added features and convenience of the ARB Classic II Fridge Freezer, and being able to check the status of the fridge without looking at it was a nice touch that we appreciated, especially since the power plug in the Scout can get knocked around while off-roading and inadvertently get disconnected. The Classic II was a definitely upgrade over the decade-old fridge we had been using that was on its last legs. Best of all, we didn't buy a single bag of ice, always had cold beverages, and never had to deal with a soggy sandwich or floating grapes.
Off Road Fridge History and Development
Though the popularity of overlanding may have brought awareness of portable 12-volt refrigerators to the masses, they've actually been around for decades. Though we're not sure how long the technology has been around, it was a couple of Australian companies that began developing products geared toward outdoorsmen and off-roaders. ARB was one of the first companies to bring these products to the United States, and sales have been on a steady incline ever since. These days there are nearly a dozen different companies marketing 12-volt fridges, so there are a wide range of sizes and features to choose from. Though we often describe owning a portable fridge as life-changing to fellow off-roaders, they also represent a significant financial investment. As such, it be difficult to pick out which brand or model offers the best bang for the buck.
ARB from Australia There Since the Beginning
ARB has been in the portable fridge / freezer game for a long time and as one of the original companies to offer portable refrigerators with the ability to go keep contents from just cool to completely frozen, continues to lead the industry with a wide range of different models. ARB initially offered its durable Fridge Freezers with vibration-resistant motors and automotive or household voltage capability in sturdy steel shelled casings. These Freezer Fridges served the off-road and overlanding communities well and you can still find steel-bodied ARB Fridge Freezers happily chugging away in campsites across the world today. Next, came the Classic, which was one of ARB's most popular lines of Fridge Freezers among off-road enthusiasts. The Classic featured a rugged injection-molded exterior for lighter weight and dent resistance and upped the amenities with a simple LED display, and push-button controls, an internal LED light for easy nighttime visibility inside the Fridge Freezer, and sturdy handles with which the ARB Fridge Freezer Classic could be mounted inside a vehicle using ARB's tie down system.
ARB's Updated Classic II Fridge Freezer Overview
The exterior of the ARB Classic II Fridge Freezer is much like the previous version other than the colors, which we think do a better job of hiding dust and mud. The Classic II is available in 37, 50, 63, and 82 quart sizes, but we've found that the 50 quart version is the best size for a good balance between capacity and portability. It's not much bigger than a medium-sized cooler and fits well in the back of most 4x4s. When comparing to a regular cooler, remember that there's no ice taking up interior room, so a 50-quart Fridge Freezer can hold the same amount of food and drinks as a much larger cooler.
One of the options we highly recommend is ARB's Transit Bag, which is soft shell that adds an extra layer of insulation to the Freezer Fridge. This helps the fridge operate more efficiently because it keeps the exterior casing out of the sun, and it also helps protect the fridge from scratches and damage from other gear. We like the material of the new transit bag, as it seems much more rugged than the previous versions from ARB. The transit also includes a zippered side pouch and a bottle opener for your sodas.
Like almost all portable fridges, the ARB Classic II Freezer Fridge can be run on AC or DC power, and it includes cords for both. The DC power function is self-explanatory, but we actually find ourselves using the AC power fairly often. We often plug the fridge into AC power the night before a trip to get everything inside cold, and it's also handy for home parties as well as around our motorhome when we're hooked up to shore power.
There is an interior basket included with the ARB Classic II Freezer Fridge that's handy for all kinds of things. We've pre-loaded it in the house and just dropped the basket in the ARB Classic II Freezer Fridge when we're ready to leave, and we've also used it to quickly remove contents in the event of an interior spill. It's also good for finding that small item that's made its way to the bottom. The center divider is especially handy for keeping food and drinks segregated.
At first glance the interior of the ARB Classic II Freezer Fridge seems small until you start filling it up. Since there's no ice taking up interior volume, you can actually pack an impressive amount of stuff in a 50-quart ARB Classic II Freezer Fridge. We especially love the shallow compartment off to one side and segregated from the main body of the fridge, as this is something our previous fridge didn't have. This area is great for more fragile items like eggs or anything else you don't want to get crushed by cans and bottles.
The control panel of the ARB Classic II Freezer Fridge is simple and easy to use, displaying the interior temperature of the fridge any time it is plugged in. You can adjust the thermostat and also the fridge's built-in battery-saving feature, where the ARB Classic II Freezer Fridge will shut off should the battery reach a certain voltage to prevent dead batteries. There are all kinds of current usage studies on fridges, but we've found that if everything inside the fridge is already cold and the fridge itself is in the shade, the vehicle needs to be run a minimum of about 20-30 minutes in a 24-hour period to keep the battery charged. This assumes the battery and alternator are in good shape, of course.
Another big upgrade over our previous fridge was the interior LED light on the ARB Classic II Freezer Fridge, which comes on automatically any time the lid is opened. Before we had to fumble around in the dark for what we were looking for, or turn on a flashlight and temporarily ruin our night vision. There's just enough light to find what you need without blinding you when its dark.
New with the ARB Classic II Freezer Fridge is the Linx system, which is a compact transmitter that attaches to the exterior of the fridge. This transmitter uses Bluetooth technology to communicate with any smartphone running the FridgeConnect app. We had a little trouble getting the Linx to sync with our phone at first, but it was nice to be able to check the status of the ARB Classic II Freezer Fridge while standing nearby (like at the campfire) without actually looking at it. The Linx system can only be paired with one device at a time.
One of the reasons that the ARB Classic II Freezer Fridge is so popular among off-roaders is that its relatively compact size makes it easy to accommodate in an average-sized cargo area. The ARB Classic II Freezer Fridge also has recessed handles, which is a huge improvement over our old design. This means valuable storage space isn't wasted with clunky handles that stick out, while the handles themselves are a convenient way to keep the ARB Classic II Freezer Fridge secured. ARB's optional tie-down system works great for keeping the fridge tied down.
Last but not least, we've always admired the design of the ARB Classic II Freezer Fridge lid latch. It's just a simple latch you pull up on to release the lid, both functions of which can be operated with one hand. Most other fridges have multiple latches that stick out or require additional room to swing away far enough to open the lid. The ARB Classic II Freezer Fridge lid itself is also easy to release; you simply open the lid partway and pull towards you to release it from the hinge. The only way the design could get any better is if ARB could figure out how the lid could open from the side or the end.