Tuesday, April 21, 2015

ARB Fridge/Freezer 82qt - Gear Review

ARB Fridge/Freezer 82qt P/N 10800782

My ARB 82qt Fridge Freezer unit arrived about 3 days ago and I was able to put it through some initial testing.  I had a Dutch Oven competition event out in the heat, that provided some initial "real world" testing.  My intent is to provide some initial feedback to other people that are doing research before buying.  These units, and comparable units of other brands are not cheap.  For the size I purchased (a 82qt), expect to pay over $1300 by the time you get into tax and any shipping.  This factor alone makes doing your own investigation very important.  It is a sizable investment that makes buying ice seem like a more economical alternative.

I spent most of the winter researching, reading reviews, and analyzing pros and cons.  I had narrowed it down to several brands on the market.  I really wanted a portable 3-way (110V AC-12V DC-LP).  There are a few on the market but they did not pass the review tests I looked at, nor my spec requirements.  I actually considered buying a 48 inch RV 3-way unit and building a fiberglass housing with wheels to accomplish what I wanted.

My objectives were to have a unit that was able to have a set "cold" temperature.  Also maintain that regardless of outside ambient air temperature.  There are many units out there making lots of claims, and reviews supporting some claims.  But when you start reading the specs many units aren't capable of living up to what some people claim they will do...at least not in my climate.  The simple math of their listed cooling capacity has to add up.

I also want to run this off of solar in the very near future.

I live in a desert and camp nearly all year off and on.  Often times I am traveling or camping in heat well over 100°F.  Coolers closed up in a trailer while driving down the road, or parked in a parking lot, could be sitting in 150-180°F air temps.  Or what happens if your cooler is sitting outside while you are off hiking and it ends up in the sun?  So the units that indicate they can only maintain temps 30 to 40°F below ambient temperatures were crossed off my list.  I consider these convenience "coolers" for use while on a road trip.   Honest reviews or actual personal testimonies told me not to even consider these for my use.  It doesn't do me any good to have food sitting at an internal temperature of 60°F or 70°F.... or perhaps higher temps.  It is not worth getting sick or worse.  If I have to add ice as some suggest then I might as well stick with an old fashioned ice chest.

My preference would have been for a high end LP 3-way portable.  I could not find any that met my specs.  The very few out there were not of my size requirement or complaints were many.

ARB Fridge/Freezer 82qt P/N 10800782

So I opted for several higher end 2-way 110VAC - 12VDC models.  There are only about 3 brands that met my specs.  Good reviews and a couple personal recommendations led me to go to the ARB brand.  I contemplated size for a while after that.  I ended up selecting the largest, the 82qt.  I nearly went with the next size down.  I was apprehensive the whole time waiting for it to be shipped and delivered.  When it arrived and I saw the unit up close and personal, I was very pleased with the internal capacity.  It is just what I wanted.  I consider it a semi-permanent installation since empty this unit tops 70lbs.  I intend to mount mine on a hand dolly so I can roll it up and down the rear ramp of my trailer. Full of food, two of us were able to move it around with the units end handles.  I wouldn't even attempt to lift it by my self, if full of food.

I had pre-installed weatherproof 12V cigarette type outlets in my trailer. I had intentions of using the unit as soon as it arrived.  It came a day before an important event. If you are reading this, STOP before buying outlets or wire and making several of the mistakes I did.  Read on through this article.

Standard 12V cigarette lighter type outlets, regardless of how heavy duty, are not the route to go.  Secondly I suggest you use #8 wiring that is fused at the source connection.

The cigarette lighter type outlets may or may not work.  Mine wouldn't.  Plus even if they make electrical connection they may vibrate loose if used in a moving vehicle.  The Fridge does come with a cord that has a conversion adapter plug on the end for use in the standard cigarette lighter type of outlet.  So your vehicle outlet might work.  But also check your wire gauge. 

Factory vehicle outlets are often wired with 16ga.   I suggest you use the ARB type mini 2 prong outlets, and the #8 wire. 

You can unscrew the 12V cord male plug adapter and remove the cigarette type plug.  This reveals a mini 2 prong plug.  You do need the special 2 prong outlet from ARB.  The outlet 2 prong female base is also threaded.  The Male 2 prong plug on the end of the cord has a threaded sleeve that matches up with the base inside the outlet.  Once the 2 prongs are inserted in the outlet the sleeve is screwed on to lock the plug into the outlet.  There is no way this is going to vibrate loose.

The outlets are about $9 each.  Better yet you can get a 20ft length,  two conductor, #8 wire, with fuse holder, plus the outlet...all  for about $43 for the kit.

P/N 10900028 Surface Mount Single Mini 2 prong Female Outlet $9.00

P/N 10900027 Kit with 20ft #8 wire, fuse holder & includes the Mini 2 prong Female Outlet $43.00

This all leads to a couple negatives I encountered.  My 12V standard cigarette lighter type outlets (auto parts store/non ARB) are made for a very small diameter end pin on the plug that is inserted.  The ARB plug with the standard adapter attached has a very large diameter tip as shown in the image below.  That tip bottoms out on a plastic ridge inside my female outlet.  That ridge prevents the plug and outlet from making an electrical connection on the positive+ voltage.  I can't remove the ridge of plastic because it retains the metal contact inside my outlet.

Ironically the ARB plug does work in my vans factory cigarette lighter outlet....but that is on 16 gauge wire.  This is all a mute point for me personally because I am going to now install the ARB mini 2 prong type and re-run the wiring with the #8.... and rip out the #12 wire I had installed.  Just something to consider if you wish to add outlets ahead of time.

My auto supply 12V standard cigarette type weatherproof outlets - That did NOT work with the ARB adapter plug

The second part of the negative issue is I went to the 3 ARB authorized dealers in my city (called them rather than physically driving there).  None of them stock the ARB mini 2 prong outlets, or the wire harnesses kit that come with the outlet included. 

Retailers on-line seem to be gouging on price or shipping.  I hope as this brand gets more popular the range of local availability of parts and accessories increases.  I would think in Las Vegas this would not have been an issue.  Since they don't stock accessories locally they missed out on another $200 of my business.  They didn't have the Fridge either.  So the locals lost out on a good chunk of change.  I purchased mine off Amazon.  It was at my door in 2 days.

I have to say the negative of these outlets also turned to a positive for me.  I immediately saw the potential of the standard cigarette lighter style plug vibrating out while traveling down the road.  I wondered about this before I found out all this additional info.  After contacting the ARB sales department I have some outlets with wire harness being shipped direct to me.  The person I talked to was super knowledgeable and discussed at length solar connections and solar controllers for use with the ARB fridge/freezer too.

During this call I also found there is a new device on the market for the latest generation of ARB fridge/freezers, which I have.  On the rear of the fridge there is a small connector in the plug-in cord area.  This small connector is about the size of a USB port.  I didn't look close...it may even be a USB. 

ARB is coming out with a wireless remote that displays the conditions of the Fridge/Freezer, temp, etc.  So while purchasing 3 harness/outlet kits, I also purchased the wireless remote.  That way I can monitor my fridge sitting in my trailer while I am driving down the road.  Check further down this article to see if I have updates on how the remote works.  I will be adding that info the first chance I get to see it in action.

P/N 10900026 Remote Monitor  $80.00

When the Fridge/Freezer unit arrived I plugged it into 110V AC (standard house outlet) and set the unit for 27°F.  At a little over 30 minutes the fridge was at that temp.  The outside air temp was at 80°F.  I was impressed.  I loaded it up that evening for an outdoor event the next day.  I couldn't use my 12V DC outlet in my trailer due to the outlet incompatibility issue I stated above.  So I ran it off the 12V DC port of a portable jump start unit.  My power source was a charged up Schumacher XP2260 Jumper starter unit.  These only have about 20 amp hours worth of juice.  I was blown away it powered my ARB for 6 hours while sitting under my EZ Up tent/awning in 80-85°F air temps.  The XP2260 meter read 60% at the point the ARB Fridge shut down.

This ARB fridge/freezer has 3 programmable battery monitor settings.  To cover those settings first allow me to quote some battery tech stuff for those not knowing battery specs.  This might help you wrap your brain around this info.  A fully charged 12V battery (your car battery or marine deep cycle battery ....a new/good battery....normally has a "standing" voltage reading of 13.5V DC.  "Standing" means what the voltage settles out to when there is no load drawing any current/voltage.  

With normal batteries, and most likely the type you will be using, you never want to discharge them more than half way.  Ideally not less than 60%.  Otherwise damage and a very shortened life may be the result.  Some might think 50% means half of 12 volts or half the full charge of 13.5 volts?  Putting 50% in the neighborhood of 6 volts.  That is incorrect.  A battery that is 50% discharged will have a "standing" voltage reading of about 12 volts.  60% is at about 12.2 volts.  This means discharging your battery below 12 volts will more than likely result in damage or reduced life.

What does all the battery spec info have to do with the ARB fridge/freezer monitor setting?  ARB allows 3 user programmable settings on how much energy you withdraw from your battery before it shuts off the ARB fridge/freezer.  Remember this is to protect your battery, not your food.  The factory setting is Medium

LOW       =Shuts off at 10.1 volts
MEDIUM  =Shuts off at 11.4 volts
HIGH       =Shuts off at 11.8 volts

The ARB LOW setting would run the fridge/freezer the longest.  On most battery usage charts this would discharge the battery well into the danger zone of causing damage to your source voltage battery charge.  But it will protect your food the longest.  It could be a sacrifice of battery to protect a chest full of food?

The ARB Medium setting would run the fridge/freezer for less time than the low setting.  On most battery usage charts this would discharge the battery into the marginal or caution zone of your source voltage battery charge.  Well below what I feel comfortable discharging my batteries.  But again a sacrifice might need to be made to protect your food.

The ARB HIGH setting would run the fridge/freezer for the least amount of time.  On most battery usage charts this would discharge the battery right around 50%.  To protect you battery life this is a better setting.

I intend to post more personal practical experiences after I use this unit more.  So check back often.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Recipe: Cake Cherry Bundt done in a Dutch Oven

 Recipe & Photos: Rick Beach

12 inch Dutch Oven and Bundt Cake pan that fits inside.
Hot Coals for 350°F


1   Chocolate Cake Mix (Devils Food that calls for 1/3 cup oil & 3 eggs)
Zest of 1 orange
Juice of 1 orange           Combine juice and water to equal liquid
Water                               called for on cake mix
1/3 Cup Oil  (amount of oil called for on cake mix box
3 eggs           (called for on cake mix box)
½ Can   Cherry Pie filling chopped coarsely

1 Can of your favorite icing ( or prepare your own homemade) (I use Cream cheese Vanilla)
½ Can Cherry Pie Filling – leave cherries whole

Prepare cake mix (The type that on the box it indicates 1 Cup water, 1/3 Cup Oil, and 3 eggs.  Do not use the total water indicated.  Fresh squeezed Orange Juice is used in place of some of the water.

Dump the cake mix in a mixing bowl.  Zest the orange peel into the mix.  Squeeze the juice from the orange you just grated the peel.  Squeeze the juice into a measuring cup.  Add enough water to the juice to equal 1 cup total liquid (or whatever the total liquid is on the cake mix.  Pour this into the mixing bowl with the cake mix and zest.  Add the oil and 3 eggs.

Chop ½ the can of cherry pie filling until the cherries are in course pieces.   Add the chopped cherries to the mix and using a mixer beat the cake batter per the instructions on the cake mix.

Reserve the other ½ of can of filling for topping after the cake is baked.

Spray oil the bundt cake pan, then pour in the beaten batter.

Pre-heat the Dutch Oven and lid with coals for 350°

Once the Dutch Oven is hot place the bundt pan in, cover and bake at 350°F for 30 minutes.  Gently raise the lid and test for doneness with a knife or tooth pick.  Mine normally take 35 minutes.  Bake and test every 5 minutes until tooth pick comes out clean.

Cool completely.  Ice the top and about ¼ the way down.  Spoon the remaining Cherry pie filling on top of the icing allowing it to ooze down the sides.  Serve

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Cobbler "Fort Hall Wild Apple"

Recipe and Photos submitted by Nancy Lane

12 inch Dutch Oven and lid
Hot Coals for 350°F

Crazy Crust
1 C. butter
1 1/2 c. milk
2 C. sugar
2 C. self-rising flour

1 C. Apple Pie Filling

Melt the butter and preheat the DO over the chimney starter while the briquettes are heating.

Mix the Milk, Sugar, and Flour together and dump on top of the melted butter.

Dump the pie filling in on the crust mixture and spread evenly across the top.
Bake at 350° with the appropriate amount of briquettes.  With a 12 inch oven use 15 on top, 9 on the bottom.  Rotate the Pot and Lid 30 minutes into it.

Then remove the bottom coals and place on top with the existing coals already there.  Check often until the crust browns.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

CHUCK BOX Toting your kitchen

Ever since covered wagons the Chuck Box has been a common term.  Before that, I am sure migrating people had a means to transport some of their precious spice items that were not easily obtained foraging natures surrounding supplies.

If you have camped many years you have probably changed out your own method of carrying your own staples.  Having your items with you, rather than being dependent on an inconvenient source to purchase (forage) your own items while camping.

My current method is below.  We hope people viewing our blog take the time to forward us photos of your own "tried and true" method. We want to add them to this article. So tell us a little about yours and about yourself.  Ours does not have the "coolness " factor of a handcrafted wood Chuck Box, but ours is highly functional.  The boxes have been along on multi-day canoe trips, Dutch Oven Cooking events, and regular campground camping.  We have ours loaded so we are not wanting of anything.

We use 2 Stanley Fat Max plastic tool boxes.  They have a rubber seal, and latches.  We leave them on the picnic table at all times (unless in bear country) and have never had the critters get in them.  They also sit out getting rained on at times.  When we return home the used items are replenished and kept inside so they are always ready to go for the next trip.  Dry Ingredients such as flour, pancake mix, etc is rotated when we replenish.  We dump the unused portion out on foil. Refill the used portion from new supply in the house, then dump the older ingredient now on the foil, back in on top to fill our camp container.

The cooking ingredient box has individual screw lid containers that contain flour, sugar, coffee, etc arranged in the bottom. Cheap containers found at your local dollar store.  The tool tray sits on top of those and contains all the spices.  The larger containers in the bottom have all their lids labeled with what is inside.

The utensil box holds all of our cooking tools. Knives, Sifters, Mini Cutting Board, Mixing Bowls, Whisks, Serving Spoons.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Sink in a Barrel - DIY Project

We extend a big Thank You to Lyle Guidry for sharing this DIY Project and photos appearing here.

A Galvanized Feed Pan from Tractor Supply was used for the sink.  Also look at a similar pan at auto parts stores, Walmart, and others.  Look in the auto section.  They are used for changing oil.

The Pan has to have a hole cut in the center to fit the drain basket assembly.   A hole saw works well. And make sure to use some plumber’s putty to seal the basket to the pan. 

Cut a hole in barrel end with a sabre/jig/keyhole saw for pan to fit.


Any type of faucet would work. The type depends on budget and water source.  If you have access to Hot and Cold that is one option.  A single if maybe attaching to a garden hose?  A hand pump to suction out of a tank?  You might go as far as adding a 12V battery and 12V RV water pump for pressurized water?  Connection parts will depend on your choice.  Drill holes in barrel for your faucet and mount your faucet .

Plumb your drain to how ever you plan to drain.  This could be a hose that drops into a bucket hidden in the barrel?  Do you have a clean-out pipe on your exterior wall that is conveniently located?  You may be able to screw out the plug.  Screw in an adapter and create a drain to this location.  If so be sure to incorporate a trap at location to keep sewer fumes from coming up your sink drain.

Plumb faucet to water source.

Cut out and create a hinged access door depending on the size you need.

I put a coat of marine grade polyurethane on barrel for protection

Saturday, April 4, 2015



Submitted by Denise Horn Zavat


12 inch Dutch Oven with Casserole dish that fits inside (Preformed foil type works)

3 Tbsp        Flour
1 Can          Evaporated Milk 
4                 Eggs
1 tsp           Cilantro (Dried Flakes)
Salt             to taste       
Pepper        to taste
½ Tbsp       Butter
2 Large       Cans of whole green chili’s
1 lb             Cheddar Cheese shredded
1 lb             Monterey Jack Cheese shredded


Perheat 12 inch Dutch Oven  325°

Separate Egg whites from yolks  (Keep both)
In large bowl combine Egg Yolks, Flour, Couple dashes of Salt & Pepper.  Beat Well.

In another bowl beat egg whites until stiff.  Fold egg whites into the yolk mixture.

Use butter to grease a casserole dish that fits in your Dutch Oven.  Lay out half the chili’s in the bottom of the casserole dish.  Spread the Cheddar Cheese on the chili’s.

Lay out the other half of the chili’s on top of the Cheddar Cheese layer.  Then spread the Monterey Jack Cheese on top of that second layer of Chili’s.

Pour the egg mixture on top.

Bake for 45 minutes @ 325° or until an inserted knife comes out clean.