Travel at a Natural Pace; Enjoy the Journey

New gas powered refrigerator

We hope, and believe, that our refrigerator issues are solved. For the last two years we have had problems with a compressor fridge which drained the battery too quickly. It was always a worry on longer trips as our approach to slow travel means we like to spend extended periods without mains hook-up.

As a result we were having to drive three hours or more every day to top up the battery or find hook-up every three days; hardly slow travel. We normally aim to average less than two hours on the road each day, often significantly less. The compressor fridge alone was using about 40Ah or more every day and taking our large 210Ah leisure battery close to the cut-off voltage in 72 hours. It was disrupting our slow travel plans and forcing us to drive more than would want - in other cases we were forced to leave locations where we wanted to stay extra days to get to a camp site with electric hook-up. Both are in conflict with the slow travel ethos of The Winding Way.  Our vehicle was dictating what we did, when it should have been serving our needs.

Over the winter we have had a three-way (gas, 12v and230v mains) absorption refrigerator installed and our recent trip to Suffolk was our first chance to test it out. Although the campsite we were on at Iken had mains hook-up we chose not to use it to assess the fridge's effectiveness and especially  its drain on the battery. After nearly 72 hours of using the fridge on gas but with electricity from the battery for lighting, water pump and heating fan the voltage had only dropped  from 12.5-6volts to 12.2-3v: that was better than one day with the old fridge. It means we would have had capacity for possibly another week or so  without any need to recharge the leisure battery. Even better, after a short 30 minute or so drive to our next location all that three day battery charge usage had been replaced. After letting things settle further we were back up to full capacity with a voltage of 12.6v. So running the fridge on gas we would only need an hour or so on the road each week; we would expect our daily average to be rather more than that so it should not be an issue.

We now have the confidence that when we go to France for our longer summer trip of six to eight weeks we should no longer need to worry about refrigeration. We will be driving at least an hour or two every few days so keeping the battery fully charged even if we stop over at some location for several days. Gas consumption for the fridge should be less than 2kg of gas a week. With our 25l (around 14kg) fixed gas tank we hope to not even need to top up with LPG during our long trip; unless of course, we have seriously unseasonal weather and use a lot of heating. To fill up the gas will just mean a five minute visit to a service station that has an Autogas pump.

Another real benefit of the new fridge is that it is silent, unlike the previous compressor fridge. In warm weather the old fridge frequently ran for twenty minutes or more every hour and at night the compressor noise was very noticeable. As the fridge is next to the bed that was a nuisance.

According to the manual absorption fridges start to struggle in temperatures over 32C, but then so do we! As we do not use it to store frozen food and use ice only occasionally it will not be an issue for us if sometimes it is working more as a cool box rather than fully as fridge. We expect that to be very rare, judging by  our experience with a similar, but twenty years old fridge in our first campervan - which fully served our needs. Finally, because the new fridge is taller we have also lost the cutlery drawer; it's made things slightly less convenient but we've soon got used to it.

Our refrigeration needs should no longer dictate how we  travel. We appear to have eliminated the worry about maintaining sufficient charge in the battery to keep the fridge working which has marred previous trips. It will make future trips, especially in France and elsewhere on the continent, much less stressful and as intended we will now be able to travel more slowly on The Winding Way.

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