It’s the fridge that can stop people from stealing your beer. Or soft drink, or Manchego, or whatever else you have stored in there. Of course, the ice-cold beer I’m mentioning is enjoyed after you find a nice camp spot and start to unwind for the night.
ARB is an Australian-born 4WD aftermarket company renowned for its efforts in innovation, and this fridge is another example of that. It's called the Elements fridge, and costs $1699. It's a big fridge, 440mm high, 820mm deep and 490mm wide. It's not light, either, tipping the scales at 32kg.
Four-wheel drive utes are, in many ways, an ideal base to build up a touring off-roader. They have a nice wheelbase and hefty payload, along with a blank canvas behind the second row that can be kitted out with storage, fridges, drawers and a host of extra gear.
The well-trodden path here is something like an ABS plastic or fibreglass canopy that goes over the tub, which can then get filled up with all sorts of stuff. However, we wanted to try something different: building a camping setup without using a canopy.
The main part of making this idea work is the Decked Drawers system we've installed in the back of our Nissan Navara. They are made from HDPE (high-density polyethylene), are waterproof, and are more than happy to live out in the weather. However, the rest of your gear will need to be happy in the elements as well. ARB’s latest endeavour of innovation is its Elements fridge, a ground-up design that looks to be the ultimate in outdoor-happy refrigeration. I say this for a few reasons:
A smart design is the buttons, some of which hide away under the lid, along with a three-button keypad for security combinations. Provided you can secure the power cable and power source away from prying hands, as well have having the fridge itself secured, uh, securely, you can leave it running without any fear of somebody emptying its contents.
Jokesters might walk past and and turn the power off, as well. Or crank it up to the coldest temperature possible. That nefarious trick equally ruins the contents of the fridge, as well as draining your battery. With this ARB fridge locked up, that's impossible.
The lid stays open
This is probably one of my favourite things about this fridge. It’s such a smart idea. It’s a specially designed strut, that holds its position wherever you stop it. Fully open, half-open, just cracked, whatever. It’s especially handy when your fridge is mounted without something like a drop slide, and you’re not having the lid bang against your head or hand. The strut is smartly built into the body of the fridge as well.
It’s built for a life outside
This isn’t an innovation for fridges; units like Engel, National Luna and Trailblaza fridges have sported a steel or aluminium casing on the outside that can handle rain, dust, sun and wind a bit better than plastic. However, it’s worth noting this fridge seems particularly well-made. It would want to be, to justify the $1700 asking price. But the quality is good enough to not have buyer's regret post-purchase.
The only carryover parts between this fridge and a ‘normal’ ARB 60-litre fridge is the Secop compressor. Everything else is a ground-up design. One small difference is the evaporator runs the full height of the compartment, which means you’ve got a more even temperature spread inside. There's an LED light inside, and a drain bung for cleaning it out when you get back home.
Aside from being a fairly hefty unit in weight and price, the only negative I have found so far is the fact that tie down straps weren't included and are an additional cost. It would be nice to have them included in the overall price. We opted for some stainless steel turnbuckles from Bunnings Warehouse to secure it down onto the drawers.
We've used the fridge so far in anger for around a week, and found it to be a painless operator. The trick gas strut was really handy, because we'd use the Navara's rear passenger wheel as a step to climb up and access the fridge. The fridge got dusty, rained on and bounced around on tracks, and didn't skip a beat. And at the end of the day, the beer was ice cold. We're expecting many years of service and hard work from it.