They say an army travels on its stomach. Not literally, of course (duh), at least most of the time, but if an army isn’t properly nourished it can’t do its job.
The same holds true for a traveler. It’s more difficult to eat properly when traveling, because you typically don’t have access to a reliable source of healthy food in healthy portion sizes. Restaurants commonly have HUGE portions (and charge commensurate prices), or they serve less-than-healthy choices, or both. Taking a cooler with you is always an option, of course, but this requires that you have access to a replenishable supply of ice. (It also means that your food is likely to be swimming a lot of the time, which might not be so good for some foods or their containers.)
Since I’m planning an “expedition” for July and part of August, I decided to look for a way to keep my perishable food cold without having to drain a cooler every few days and put fresh ice in it. I subscribe to a couple of four-wheel-drive magazines, and in one of those I found a review of a “fridge-freezer” made by ARB. ARB is an Australian company that knows a thing or three about long-term four-wheeling and its demands, and they have a line of cooler-size refrigerator-freezers. No, it’s not like your home fridge; you don’t have *both* a refrigerator and a freezer unless you buy two of them. But this unit *will* cool the interior down below freezing, with a maximum ambient-to-controlled temperature differential of 50 degrees Celsius [122 degrees F]. This means it can get down to its minimum internal temperature of -18 C / 0 F even if it’s 32 C / 109 F outside. You can get the details here: http://store.arbusa.com/ARB-Fridge-Freezer-63Qt-10800602-P21328.aspx
It ain’t cheap, and it ain’t small. I got the next-to-largest size (63 quarts); the largest is 82 quarts. But this is an honest-to-goodness refrigerator (it uses R-134a refrigerant) that will fit (sort of) in your vehicle, and it runs on 120v AC or 12/24v DC. That’s right. You plug it into your car’s power port and it will cool merrily away. And it won’t run your battery down overnight, either! At least, that’s what I read…
Do I absolutely *need* this for my July trip? No. Will I need it for future trips? Yes, because I’ll be traveling for extended periods of time where there are no bags of ice to be found. As long as I have a good 12-volt battery in my vehicle, I’ll have a place to keep my healthy perishables cold.
Another benefit to this unit is that all of its internal space is available for food. You don’t have to worry about saving space for the ice, because there is no ice. A side benefit to an ice-free cooler is that there’s no ice to fall to the bottom every time you pull something out, so there’s no hassle about replacing whatever it was (like a gallon of milk or water or a 2-liter soda bottle). I think I’m gonna like this!