Interested in picking up a Bushman fridge for your next outdoor adventure, but not sure whether they are worth the hefty price tag?
In this Bushman fridge review, I will take you through their pros & cons, key features and specs, plus how they stack up against the competition!
By the end of this article, you will know the ins and outs of these fridges and more importantly, whether they are the right option for you or not!
Let’s get started!
Pros & Cons
With all of this in mind, let’s now take a look at the fridges themselves.
Both of these fridges are housed in crisp, powder coated steel bodies, which makes them very tough but also easy on the eyes.
The 15L Roadie unit is entirely black and designed to fit snugly in the centre console of most vehicles. It even comes with two cup/can holder slots on the top. The thermostat is easily accessible via a large central knob on the top of the unit.
The Original 35-52L unit is a very interesting beast. Unlike all other portable fridges, it doesn’t have a fixed volume. Rather, you can adjust the internal volume by adding or removing an extension collar and a dome lid.
This allows you to choose from one of the four possible volumes - 35L, 42L, 45L or 52L. If you are tight on space in your car, you can shrink the volume down to free up some space. This will also help the fridge run more efficiently, as you won’t get as much warm air entering the fridge each time you open it.
For longer trips, this can be very useful. As you slowly eat your way through your supplies over the course of your trip, you can progressively shrink the fridge volume to make it more efficient and reduce power consumption. This is very helpful when you are trying to make the most of your remaining battery power!
There’s more detail in the manual provided by Bushman Fridges.
Both fridges are tall enough to fit wine bottles or 1.25L soft drinks bottles upright.
Unlike most other units, these Bushman fridges both come with transit covers, which help insulate the fridge (good for saving power) and protect it from bumps and scrapes while out on the road.
The 15L unit also comes with a tie-down kit (good for stopping it from tipping over while driving) as well as a shoulder carry strap.
Keep in mind that these units don’t come with some of the features that are becoming more common on newer models, such as USB charging ports and Bluetooth app control.
The Bushman fridges are definitely designed for reliability and core functionality over fancy features.
Both of these units can be set at temperatures ranging from 10°C to -18°C. This is a pretty standard range for portable camping fridges.
Note that both of them are single zone units, so they can only be run as either fridges or freezers, not both.
However, thanks to the unique internal design of the 35-52L unit, you can segment your food into different baskets and take advantage of the fact that fridges tend to be cooler at the bottom than the top. You can stack your food accordingly to keep your meat very cold and your fruit and veg a little warmer.
For the 15L Roadie, the temperature is controlled via a knob on the top of the unit. For the 35-52L unit, the temperature is controlled via a digital LCD display.
The 15L fridge can be run off 12V power only, while the 35-52L fridge can be run off both 12V and 240V power.
For this reason, you can run the 35-52L unit at home as a backup fridge in the garage or wherever you can run 240V power, whereas the 15L unit is really only suitable for use in the car or when you have a 12V dual battery setup.
Note that neither of these fridges can run off 24V power.
One of the great things about the Bushman fridges is just how efficient they are. Based on testing done at 25°C ambient temperature and the unit set at 4°C, the 15L fridge only consumes about 0.58 Ah/hour, which is nice and low.
At an ambient temperature of 25°C and a set temperature of -4°C, the 35-52L fridge consumes about 0.67 Ah/hour, which is also quite low compared to the competition.
The various fridge manufacturers tend to test their units at different ambient and set temperatures, which makes comparing apples to apples fairly difficult, but I can say that these Bushman fridges do seem to be very efficient.
While in operation, both units draw anywhere from 2 to 4.5A.
While both fridges do have low voltage battery protection systems, they are only single state systems, unlike almost all other brands which have three stage systems.
The benefit of multi-stage systems is that you can tweak the low voltage cut-out point based on whether you are using your car battery or a dedicated second battery. Whereas a high cut-out point is good when running the fridge off a car battery (you really don’t want a flat car battery!) a lower cut-out point is fine for a standalone battery (you don’t really mind if it goes flat).
However, with the Bushman fridges, the cut-out point is 9.6V for the 15L unit and 10.4V for the 35-52L unit.
One of the most popular accessories for portable camping fridges are the protective transit covers. Most manufacturers charge an additional $100 or so for their transit covers, but Bushman Fridges include these in the purchase price of their 15L and 35-52L units.
These covers are great and they serve two main purposes.
Firstly, they add some insulation around the fridge, which helps keep it cooler for longer, reducing the load and cycling of the compressor, which in turn extends the life of your batteries, meaning that they don’t need charging so often.
Secondly, the covers protect the fridge from the inevitable knocks, bumps and scrapes which occur when the fridge is seeing some action on a trip.
The transit covers come with mesh panels to allow the ventilation system to work properly.
Reaching deep into your boot to pull out your fully-loaded fridge is a pain in the neck (and literally a pain in the lower back if you do it enough times!). A fridge slide allows you to slide your fridge in and out of your boot easily.
The 15L comes with tie-down straps already, so the slide is only necessary for the 35-52L unit.
When it comes to powering your fridge while out on a trip, you typically have two options. Run it off your car battery, or get a dedicated second 12V battery.
While your car is running, it’s perfectly fine to run your fridge off the car battery. However, if you keep the fridge running off your car battery overnight, the fridge may cut-out once the car battery voltage reaches the cut-out point.
For an overnight or short trip, this may be fine, but for a longer trip, this can leave you with questionably refrigerated food and drink.
If you do enjoy longer trips, you may wish to get a second battery to power your fridge when the car isn’t running.
For this kind of duty, the Dometic CoolPower RAPS battery is a great option. It holds 44Ah of charge and is designed for the kind of rough and tumble you normally see on a camping trip.
If you have access to mains power overnight while camping or only go on weekend trips, the CoolPower RAPS battery will be enough to see you through until you get back home.
For extended trips away from mains power, you will want to invest in some solar panels that can keep your battery topped up and your fridge running.
The Dometic portable solar panels tend to be my recommendation. They are foldable, have adjustable feet (to set the right angle on them) and they come in two sizes - 120W and 180W.
Have a look at them if you are thinking about doing any extended trips where you may be away from the grid.
Build Quality & Warranty
One area where the Bushman fridges really excel is in their build quality. They have a very good reputation as being a manufacturer of incredibly reliable fridges that stand the test of time.
Their fridges are all Australian made and are designed to give you many, many years of service. The 35-52L unit in particular has been around for over 20 years and it is highly regarded as one of the best fridges out there.
I haven’t heard of anyone having any issues with these units before. They always receive a good rap on camping forums and message boards.
The 15L Roadie unit comes with a 3 year warranty.
The 35-52L unit comes with a 5 year warranty, which is rare to see on camping fridges, especially when you consider the wear and tear they get under normal usage.
These long warranty periods show how confident Bushman are in their products.
I haven’t actually heard from anyone who has had to go through their warranty claim process, so I can’t comment on how well they honour their warranties.
However, their customer service generally seems quite good, so I doubt that they would try to fight customers on a genuine warranty claim.
Conclusion - Bushman Fridge Review
Unfortunately, they are fairly expensive, only have single stage battery protection, and are only single zone units.
However, if these aren’t deal-breakers for you, I think that both of these fridges are great choices when it comes to portable refrigeration.
Anyway, I hope that this Bushman fridge review has helped you make up your mind about whether these are the right units for you or not! If not, check out my article on the best camping fridges Australia to see what else is out there!
If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below!
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Note that while every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the information on this page, there may sometimes be errors. Check all specifications with the manufacturer before purchasing any product.