RV Ice Box vs Fridge Guide (Suppliers, Reviews, Vintage)

Ice boxes are not a new idea. These little coolers were the forerunners of the modern electric-powered fridge. Almost every home had one at one time or another. They are a good idea and work well with modern RVs campers who do not want the hassle of a power fridge.

The ice box may not have adjustable temperature control but it does not break down either. Nor does it need a power supply to get it running. You just have to be able to find blocks of ice for sale and that is getting harder and harder to find. An icebox is a return to a simple life.

To learn more about the battle between ice boxes and powered fridges, just continue to read our article. It has the information you want to know about so that you can make the right decision about your next RV.

What Is a Camper Icebox?


The camper icebox is like the old 19th century, early 20th-century icebox. It is designed to keep your food cool when you add the right amount of ice to it. However, the modern ice box comes with the advantages technology has created over the years and these smaller units are better than the old-fashioned counterparts.

Another name for the ice box would be a cooler as they both do the same function. Keep your food and drinks cool or frozen. The good news is that the ice you put inside the modern icebox should last 5 to 7 days depending on how often you open the door.

That longevity is due to the updated modern insulation ice box makers put inside their products. Not all iceboxes are built the same and some will not keep food cold for that length of time. Some will be shorter so you have to read the labels carefully.

One of the drawbacks to an ice box is positioning. If you position the ice or your meat wrong, then you could end up with half the meat frozen and the other half rotten. Sometimes the cool air does not circulate very well in an icebox.

How Does an RV Ice Box Work?

When an ice box is put into an RV some holes and tubes need to be connected. Since you are using a block of ice to cool your food and drinks, the melted ice has to go somewhere. usually, it goes down to the bottom of the icebox.

At the bottom, you should find a drain hole. That is where the water heads to if it is not blocked in some way. Attached to the hole is a drain tube which has the other end attached to another hole. That second hole usually allows the water to drain to the ground.

It is a simple concept but it can also be easily interrupted if you are not careful. Sometimes the drain holes get plugged or the tube ends come off the holes. When these things happen, the water ends up on your RV floor leaving you with a mess to clean up.

To keep the ice box functioning, all you have to do is find more blocks of ice. For those who like the simple or off-grid life, this is an excellent alternative to a gas or electric-powered fridge. You do not have to worry about parts breaking and taking time to find replacement parts.

Refrigerator vs Ice Box


The fridge is a modern convenience and it does a good job keeping food fresh or frozen. Its adjustable temperature controls let you stay in control of how cold the interior gets. Plus, you have up to 3 different power sources to provide that cooling temperature.

But, the main issue with a fridge is hooking it up to the right power and it has to be left on while you are driving. The next main issue is that the fridge can break down on you and your food gets spoiled. The ice box works all the time and it has no parts to break down.

Your food should remain fresh if you pack the ice properly so that the cold air gets to every corner of the box. The biggest drawback to the ice box is running out of ice. While your fridge will keep on working, with the ice box you are always looking for suppliers of blocks of ice.

This task seems to be harder and harder to do as the years go by. But the biggest positive for the ice box is that it can be purchased for 1/5th and up to 1/10th the cost of a fridge. Saving anywhere from $400 to $900 is always a good thing if you can handle searching for blocks of ice.

How To Use an RV Ice Box

Using the ice box is as simple as using a fridge. You open the door, put your food in and then close the door. The only difference between the two products is that with an ice box, you have to put the ice in as well. With the fridge, the unit takes care of the cooling for you.

The key to using an ice box is making sure the water drains correctly. Make sure the drain holes and tubes are free of obstruction and the water should go right out of your RV and onto the outside ground.

The trick to using an ice block is learning how much ice to put inside and where the best places are for the ice blocks. This takes a little practice so do not give up if some of your food products spoil. Some have and they go pay extra money for a fridge.

Once you learn how to pack an ice box and where to put the ice, these little inventions are a great asset to any RV. They don’t make noise, do not need to be powered up and they do a great job of preserving your food and drinks.

RV Ice Box Suppliers And Manufacturers


There are many different manufacturers of ice boxes or ice chests. They all have good and bad points and not all of their products are on the same level. Some are not so good while others just can’t be beat.

Some of the top and more famous brands are Yeti, Orca, Grizzley, Pelican, Igloo, and Coleman. They will have ice boxes or ice chests in different sizes, designs, and shapes. Some are 60 quarts while others may be a bit smaller.

Other brands you may not have heard about but also make very good products are: RTIC, RovR, XSpec, OtterBox, & Engel. What makes Coleman stand out is that they make ice boxes from 50 quarts all the way up to 150 and they are usually the cheapest brand to buy.

Pelican makes some up to 329 quarts, while Engel goes to 320. Coleman’s products are usually the lightest of the group except for Igloo which can beat Coleman’s lightest by 2 pounds.

As for how long the ice will last inside these ice boxes, each company’s product is different and the range goes from 2 days to 16. Your results will differ depending on the environmental conditions you are camping in. And you will pay for a longer time frame, up to $300 more in some cases.

RV Ice Box Reviews

How good or bad an ice box is in your eyes will depend on your experience. One owner complained that only half of his meat package froze while the other half-rotted. He swore off ice boxes forever because of that experience.

Others like the ice box concept as they are minimalist campers and do not want to use a lot of shore power or battery or propane resources. What most owners complained about was the lack of places selling blocks of ice.

They did not like the fact that the number of block ice suppliers is dwindling. While that is a problem, some owners like the portability of the ice box. They like the fact that they can remove it from the RV and put it in their tow vehicle when they will be gone for the day.

That is something you can’t do with a fridge. Then another owner likes the flexibility you have with an ice box. On some, you can create little shelves and place a plexiglass cover on each shelf.

When you want an item you just lift the individual plexiglass cover and get your item. The rest of the ice box remains cool because the other plexiglass covers remain in place blocking the cold air’s escape.

these items do have their positive points and the only negative would be finding one in the size you want as well as keeping it stocked with blocks of ice.

Where To Buy RV Ice Boxes


This is an easy task as just about every grocery store and department store will have these items in stock. They may not be as large as you want but those locations are a good starting point.

Then you should check all the big box stores in your area, including Home Depot and Lowes. With so many people using RVs today, this is a profitable item to sell throughout the year. Amazon and eBay are two good marketplaces to try and you may save a little money using them.

However, there are several RV parts and accessory outfits that sell these ice boxes. RV Parts Country, Big Daddy Parts, Camper Parts World, and possibly RV parts Nation are just a few places to check.

Then you can also check the different marine supply stores. They will sell ice boxes for boaters who should work in an RV or trailer. We are not sure w3hat the cost will be on any of the ice boxes sold at these outlets. Prices change especially if they are seen as a seasonal product.

Do a good internet search to find any icebox sellers in your area if you do not have any of these outlets near you.

Vintage Travel Trailer Ice Box For Sale


Ice boxes will fit into almost any type of trailer or RV you may own. They are portable, compact, in most cases, and do not need to be in a large space. There is a company called Vintage Trailer Supply but they do not have any ice boxes listed under their ice box and fridge web page.

The reason for that is that the modern ice box is compatible with just about any trailer ever made. All you have to do is find the right empty space and you can slip that ice box out of your way. The difficult part of using an ice box would be in very small trailers.

Some small trailers will have storage space to put an ice box and some may not. You will have to judge the amount of storage space you have and see if an ice box will fit or not.

Some people complained about not being able to find ice block sellers. Just check with your local gas stations to see which ones have the ice for sale. They usually have a big freezer out front of their store where they sell bags of cube ice and bags of block ice.

Some Final Words

Ice boxes may be a good solution for those people who want to save on energy. Fridges take a lot of power to run and they cost a lot. The ice box will save you money not only in cost of the box but also the cost of running a fridge.

This is an option worth thinking about and learning how to pack ice is easy.

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