An important part of every boondocker or overlander’s gear is a cooler. If you’re going to be driving miles into the wilderness for days at a time, chances are that you will have some food items that you want to keep cool.
If you’re operating on a budget, the simplest solution is just to get a styrofoam cooler and fill it with ice. But if you’re going to be boondocking regularly and for longer periods, a cooler full of ice can get a little impractical.
What do you do when all the ice melts? Hope that you have consumed all of the temperature-sensitive items? Sure you could just choose to pack food that doesn’t require refrigeration like you would if you were backpacking.
But if you’re like me and want to spend multiple weeks living on the road, chances are you will want to bring some fresh food along with you. I wanted to live out of my truck camper for 2-months at a time. So I started looking at electric coolers.
Current Options on the Market
There are a lot of options for electric coolers currently on the market. The brand that I felt was most well-known was Dometic*. However, Dometic coolers are a more premium brand and have higher pricing. For a 35 L cooler (which was roughly the size I was looking for) prices were in the $800 + range. And that was for a single-zone cooler. The smallest dual zone cooler that Dometic had on their website was a 74-liter capacity, which was a little too big for me.
After I had ruled out Dometic, I started looking at other brands. Common brands I saw good reviews for included Ecoflow, BougeRV, ICECO, and Bodega.
Ultimately, after searching the available options, I decided that for my upcoming Alaska adventure, I wanted a budget cooler with dual zones. The dual-zone feature would be helpful in case I needed to freeze any small items. So I chose the BougeRV Dual Zone 35L Fridge/Freezer. I ordered the cooler and an insulated cover from Amazon and took it on both my 2-month road trip to Alaska and my 30-day road trip to Maine and Nova Scotia.
And now, after 3 months on the road, I’m ready to share an honest product review.
*I am an Amazon affiliate and after using the BougeRV cooler, also applied to be an affiliate for Bouge RV. This means that if you click on some of the links in this blog post and then purchase an item, I may earn a percentage of that sale. Affiliate income helps support this blog, but I strive to be as unbiased as possible in my reviews and to share honest feedback.
About Bouge RV
Bouge RV is a company that sells portable refrigerators (electric coolers), solar panels, and power stations.
BougeRV was founded by a group of outdoor mobile adventurers.https://www.bougerv.com/pages/about-us
Bouge comes from the French verb bouger which means to move.
Freedom of movement embodies the outdoor spirit of BougeRV.
I spent some time researching online and didn’t find any bad reviews. Not all of the reviews were specifically about BougeRV’s Dual Zone cooler, but several did compare a BougeRV cooler with other brands. And for the price, it compared well. Just check out this article from Car and Driver that includes a nice graph of how fast the coolers cooled off and then returned to room temperature.
There are a lot of different electric coolers available through BougeRv. As I mentioned above, I was very interested in the dual-zone models. There are 3 sizes of the dual-zone coolers: 35L, 45L, and 55L.
I wanted a cooler that was small and lightweight but would still hold a half gallon of milk or a container of coffee creamer. The 35L was tall enough to hold a half gallon of milk, so I went with that size.
I ordered it from Amazon and it arrived quickly.
BougeRV CR35 37 Quart (35L) Portable Fridge Freezer
The CR35 is a Dual Zone portable refrigerator with wheels. It utilizes compressor refrigeration and has both an Eco and Max cooling mode. It is reported to be able to keep an interior temperature of -4°F to 68°F. The cooler comes with plugs for a 12-volt outlet, a wall plug-in, or a solar plug-in. You can also purchase a battery to power the cooler when you do not have access to another power source.
I run my cooler off of the outlet in the bed of my Toyota Tacoma or from my Jackery 1000. In Alaska, when keeping the cooler at around 30°F, the Jackery 1000 Explorer would power the cooler for 2-4 days (if only powering the cooler).
The cooler weighs 42.1 lbs and is approximately 28 inches deep, 18 inches wide, and 17.5 inches tall.
There are several great features on this cooler. For example, it has a handle and wheels, so you can roll it like a rolling suitcase after you lift it out of your vehicle. With a 42 lb + cooler, this is a great feature!
The cooler also has a basket for each compartment, so it is very easy to lift everything out and sort through it if needed. Also, there is a cutting board that fits in the lid of the cooler that’s easy to take out and use when needed. Plus there’s both a bottle opener and a charging port on this cooler.
*All of the photos below were taken after our multi-month road trip, so please excuse any scratches/blemishes. The cooler arrived without these.
The lid is also reversible so you can have it open to whatever side is most convenient for you. However, if you purchase the insulated protective cover* that BougeRV sells with this cooler, that jacket is not reversible. It only opens to the left if you are looking at the display of the cooler.
The insulated protective cover is only really worth it if you want to protect the surface of your cooler. I was hoping it would help with insulation, but in a quick test at home, the cooler returned to room temperature equally fast whether it was wearing the insulated cover or not.
The horizontal axis isn’t labeled but this graph covers the span of 140 minutes (2 hours and 20 minutes). The readings were taken with an electric meat thermometer with the cooler empty and the probe inside the larger compartment (L). The electronic reader was outside of the cooler so I could see it.
The meat thermometer consistently read 4-5°F warmer than the cooler display while cooling down, but I had the cooler turned off while it warmed up.
The cooler also comes with a removable cutting board that nests into the lid of the cooler. And one of my favorite features, are the two baskets (one for each compartment) that allow you to fill and take everything out of the cooler easily and quickly.
This cooler has two compartments with independent temperature control. The larger compartment is 25L in capacity, the smaller is 10 L.
The temperatures of both compartments are controlled via the display panel near the handle of the cooler. The instructions to work the temperature settings are easy to follow and you can easily set the two sides to different temperatures or turn only one side off if you don’t need both compartments.
The larger compartment is labeled L and the smaller is labeled R.
For my 2 month road trip to Alaska, I used both compartments as a refrigerator. This worked great until the smaller compartment stopped working. I contacted BougeRV support and it turned out I had accidentally turned that compartment off (oops!). Once I turned that compartment back on, it worked wonderfully again.
My only complaint with the smaller compartment is that it has trouble cooling below around 20°F. On a subsequent 1 month trip, I tried to keep some ice cream in the smaller compartment. The cooler worked hard to decrease the temperature in the small compartment, but the compressor area started to heat up and blow hot air out of the vents. Since the smaller compartment sits right over the compressor, it seemed like the warm air warmed the compartment, making the cooler work even harder to cool it. The ice cream stayed cool, but not frozen. I have emailed customer service about this and am waiting to hear if there is a solution.
Warranty and Customer Service
Speaking of customer service, there is a 2-year warranty for the compressor and all other accessories. And BougeRV offers top-notch customer service.
I have had to use it a couple of times now. The first time was when I accidentally shut off the smaller compartment. In that same exchange, I asked about obtaining a new plug for the large compartment.
When I was driving the Dalton Highway in Alaska, my milk jug had burst in the cooler and I had to drain it. I forgot to put the plug back in and left it on a picnic table in Marion Creek Campground.
BougeRV was great about this and sent me a new plug for free!
Another nice feature of the BougeRV cooler is that it can Bluetooth connect to your phone so you can monitor and adjust temperatures from your phone. I did try out this app and it works great. But for me, it’s easier to just manage the cooler from the display on the cooler itself.
As I mentioned above, this cooler made it on an 8,000+ mile road trip in the back of a pick-up truck over some very rough roads. So it’s pretty durable.
I do wish the handle folded down a little smaller, as it does take up extra room with the handle. But the handle is very nice when pulling it outside of the truck. But although it takes up a fair amount of floor space in my small truck bed, it doubles as a nice seat or footrest. And the dogs are happy to sleep on it. It can also double as a food preparation surface in a pinch.
The cooler kept all of my food nice and cool on my road trips, but I did have to set the temperature a little lower than I would have had to in a normal fridge. After testing the temperature at home, this is probably because the display reads a little cooler than a thermometer in the cooler does. So I recommend setting the temperature about 5°F lower than you normally would.
The cooler doesn’t have the greatest insulation, but it does cool down quickly. And if you have more food items in the cooler, it will maintain its temperature longer. But with an empty cooler, when I tested it, the cooler cooled both compartments from room temp (65°F) to ~40°F (which the cooler thought was 35°F) within 30 minutes on Eco Mode. On Max mode, it made it from 59°F to 40°F in 15 minutes.
On Max mode, I attempted to also cool it to 0°F to see how long that took. But I was unsuccessfully in getting below 23°F during that test.
Then I left the cooler to warm up both with and without the cover, and you can see in the graph below that it warmed up at about the same rate regardless of the protective cover. It returned to room temperature within about 2.5 hours.
Customer service is great and very responsive. So if you have a problem make sure to reach out. I will update this blog post with their resolution for the problems I’m having getting the cooler to cool below 20°F. Again it worked great when I purchased the cooler in June of 2023, but hasn’t been able to freeze anything since October 2023. I just reached out to BougeRV about the problem in January 2024.
In the meantime, if the freezer feature isn’t that important to you. This BougeRv cooler has proven to be a durable and reliable portable electric cooler for long-distance road trips. And if the black and yellow color isn’t your favorite (which it isn’t for me), BougeRV just came out with some fun color options for a single zone option. Just check out the pink, purple, and teal in the 23-quart size!
If you have any questions for me about the cooler, leave a comment below!
Happy Travels Everyone!