Words Dean Mellor
The portable fridge has got to be one of the best devices ever invented when it comes to making four-wheel drive touring easier and a hell of a lot more fun. Being able to keep perishable foods fresh and drinks icy cold, no matter where you are in Australia and how hot the weather is, will keep you fed, hydrated healthy and happy, no matter how far you are from civilisation.
Of course, choosing the right-size fridge will depend on how much space you have in your vehicle and how much food and drinks you’ll need to keep cool on your trips into the bush. Other important considerations include the shape of the fridge and how its lid opens, whether it’s hinged on one end or on one side – if it’s hinged on one end you’ll need more roof space to open it, and if it’s hinged on one side you’ll need to mount it where you can access the cabinet.
No matter what size or design your fridge is, you’re going to have to reach into your vehicle to access a coldy… unless, of course, you mount it on a fridge slide.
There are several different fridge slides on the market designed to suit a wide variety of portable fridge/freezers and various mounting locations. Here’s a run-down on some of your options…
Basic fridge slides are designed to do exactly as their title suggests: allow you to slide your fridge out far enough to aid access to its contents. The fridge slide is hard-mounted into the vehicle and the base slides out on drawer slides.
Most basic fridge slides are manufactured from steel, although there are also lightweight aluminium models on the market. The fridge will sit on top of the slide and be secured via straps that run through holes in the slide’s base and the handles in the fridge. In some cases, the fridge can also be permanently mounted on the slide with bolts through the base and into threads in the underside of the fridge.
Fridge slides come in several sizes and are usually labelled to suit different capacity frodges, such as 40L, 60L or 80L. But if you have a 60L fridge, for example, don’yt assume that it will fit on any 60L fridge slide; always check the external dimensions of your fridge to ensure it will fit on to the fridge slide.
Features to look for when choosing a basic fridge slide include its dimensions, its weight, it’s carrying capacity, the type and quality of the sliders, ease of use of the opening mechanism, how it locks into place when closed, and how (or if) it locks into place when open. The latter is important as you’ll want to be able to lock the fridge slide in the open position when the vehicle is parked on uneven ground.
Another thing to consider is whether you want a standard fridge slide, on which the fridge is mounted longitudinally, or a sideways fridge slide, which might better suit a fridge with a side-hinged lid… so long as you have the space to mount such a set-up in your vehicle. Sideways slides can also be a handy option when mounted in a trailer or the tray of a cab-chassis ute.
Drawer System Slide
If you’re going to install a drawer system into the back of your wagon or ute, and you want to sit a fridge on top of it, then a set-up with a built-in fridge slide can be a good money-saving option.
Things to consider with such a set-up include the weight capacity of the built-in fridge slide, whether your fridge will physically fit on it, how the fridge is secured to it, how it locks into place when closed and whether it locks into place when opened.
One of the drawbacks of many built-in drawer system fridge slides is they double as the lid of the drawer, so when extended the contents of the drawer is exposed. This means various items in the back of the vehicle can fall into the drawer or behind the fridge when it’s extended, preventing the slide from closing again. Of course, the solution here is to fit a fridge barrier.
Another downside with built-in slides is the fridge will up a lot higher than if it were mounted to the floor of your vehicle, making access to items difficult, especially for shorties and/or when the vehicle has raised suspension. Some drawer systems will incorporate a lower height drawer for this very reason, while other set-ups will have the fridge slide down low with cargo drawers to the side or even on top of the fridge. There are plenty of options on the market, and if you can’t find the ideal set-up to suit your vehicle, your fridge or your requirements, many manufacturers will be able to produce a customised set-up.
The best way to resolve any fridge access issues is by fitting a fridge slide that either drops down to a more accessible height or tilts the fridge opening towards you.
The first and undoubtedly one of the best fridge slides on the market is the MSA 4x4 Drop Slide. This slide allows the fridge to be pulled out from its stowed position and lowered by 30cm in one easy motion, and it’s designed in such a way that the fridge always remains level. Incredibly, loaded fridge weights of up to 200kg can be easily returned to their stowed position with minimal physical effort thanks to clever design and the aid of gas struts.
The Drop Slide is manufactured from stainless steel with a blue anodised handle and face plate, and there are several models that cater to fridges ranging in size from 40L up to 95L. There are also different models for standard or sideways mounting of fridges. The Drop Slide can be locked in or out, it comes with all tie-down straps and fixings, it has pre-drilled holes to accept most popular fridges, it can be key locked in the stowed position and it’s compatible with MSA 4x4 fridge barriers.
Another design to make accessing fridge contents more convenient is the Dunn & Watson Slide & Tilt fridge slide, available in 50L and under, 60L and over, and 80L and over models. This aluminium fridge slide simply tilts forwards once it’s been fully extended, making it easy to see what’s in the fridge and, of course, to grab stuff out or pack stuff away. There are struts to assist the tilt function for effortless return of the fridge to the stowed position, and it automatically locks once pushed back into the stowed position. If you opt for this slide, bear in mind that fridge contents can move around as the fridge is tilted with the slide.
Fridge barriers, or cages, are a fantastic accompaniment to any fridge slide as the prevent luggage and other items from falling in behind the fridge when the drawer is extended.
Fridge barriers also ensure there’s plenty of space around the fridge’s compressor and condenser for ventilation, and they allow you to pack gear right up to the side of the barrier without fear of it interfering with the fridge. You can even load stuff on top.