Food storage, cooking gear, dining furniture are quite important, especially if you plan to go remote. Here’s our overland cooking gear.
This is part of our Land Rover Defender Series: Episode #2 Food Storage, Cooking Gear, Dining Furniture.
How to become autonomous when traveling overland with your equipped 4wd?
These questions will quickly arise if you are traveling with your all-terrain vehicle:
- Will we really need to keep food or beverage refrigerated?
- How should we store the food?
- Should we install a fridge or a simple cooler can be enough?
- Do we need cooking gear?
- Will we need to be as comfy as at home for eating our meals?
The following information is based on our personal experience. We understand that it may not be the ideal food storage, cooking gear, or dining furniture solutions for you but we truly hope it will help you find out which food storage gear is best for you.
Which equipment to store food?
Traveling overland and planning to eat some food at some point is an obvious situation.
A few solutions exist, the easiest and often the most expensive one is to eat in restaurants. In this case, no need to worry about food storage, but this is only if you’re not too far from civilization 😉 So having an overland cooking gear is a good idea.
From the beginning of our 4×4 trips, we needed to keep some food cool. The main reason was that we were (and still are) traveling with our young kids. Thus, we absolutely had to be able to store fresh milk bottles once they were opened.
That’s why we invested in the least expensive solution: a Campingaz cooler powered by a 12volt cigarette lighter socket.
It wasn’t perfect, but it did the trick for many trips.
This accessory is very cheap and accessible. For less than a hundred francs you can find very good models with good capacity.
You can easily take it out of your car and easily place it back in when needed.
It’s easy to store in your cellar while not on the road.
It isn’t a fridge but only a cooling cooler. The walls are insulated to keep the cold but most of the time you will have to add cold packs as in a conventional cooler to keep it cool inside. Especially when the weather is very hot.
The cooling system, that actually works with a simple fan for most models, may not be enough if the temperature climbs high in the cabin of the vehicle.
The device is powered via the car cigar lighter socket which isn’t ideal. The level of false contact when the plug is a little worn is very high.
Often, the vehicle’s cigarette lighter plug is powered via the ignition battery. It will only operate when the engine is running. This means the cooler isn’t on when you need it the most, during the night and when you stop for the day.
Our experience with a cooler
We had placed the cooler in the middle of the back seat so we could keep it plugged in the cigar socket. Often the fan would get clogged with children’s stuff and, at some point, it wasn’t working 100% anymore.
I remember a trip during which we had to check all the time if the light on the cigarette lighter socket was on. That was to make sure the cooler was correctly plugged in. Bad electric connection was there on a regular basis after using it for more than 3 years.
Experiencing the disadvantages, we understood that the cooler wasn’t enough anymore for our way of traveling. We needed a more reliable device with a different electrical connecting system.
Food storage is important, nobody wants to get sick during an overland trip because of moldy food!
After abandoning the cooler we opted for a real fridge. The fridges are cooled with refrigerant gas and supplied with either 12volt or 230volt. A great overland cooking gear to go for!
A fridge won’t only keep your food cool but will also refrigerate properly while on.
Most of the good fridges have a digital display that allows you to select the desired temperature. You can also read the actual temperature of the interior of the fridge.
Some of them, like ours, can allow you to use the fridge as a freezer. This is simply by selecting a negative temperature on the display. But apart from higher-end models, you will not have a compartment for each use. It’s either a fridge, either a freezer.
A fridge does take some place in the vehicle. Often the choice of the fridge’s model will be determined by the place you have in the vehicle.
No need to choose the largest and most expensive model if it will take half of your cabin place at the cost of other accessories. Sometimes you just have to make concessions on what your planning to eat.
Just like your home fridge, if it is too full or if the outside temperature is very high, it will be more difficult to refrigerate the interior.
It does need a good fixation. Knowing it is best to have a dedicated area for it, it is also very important to have convenient access to it.
It is important to have a well thought electric connection or the option to automatically stop before the battery voltage is too low to start the ignition.
Our food storage system
In our case, we already had a dedicated space to the fridge in the design of our interior made by Aménagement 4×4. This allowed us to put a 35L WAECO fridge (the brand is now named Dometic) connected to an auxiliary battery with a switch on the dashboard. It is easily accessible and convenient because it is fixed on a sliding tray.
Our Waeco fridge also has a system that turns off the fridge automatically when the battery voltage becomes too low. It can be life-saving if the fridge is connected to the ignition battery.
We have disabled this option because the fridge is connected to a second auxiliary battery. Because of our well thought electric connection, we can keep the fridge permanently powered on when the engine is off during overnights sleeps and days out. Thus this option is useless for us because we can always start the engine with the first battery.
We mainly use the fridge to store fruits, vegetables, meat, cheese, yogurt, and milk. We don’t store any other beverage in the fridge as we often only drink water. Grocery shopping bags are used to store other types of food.
What I don’t like about the fridge (and the cooler too) is the top opening. Either you hold it open with one hand or you completely take off the lid and put it down somewhere while taking out food or storing food in it. A little inconvenience here, but good to know 🙂
Before going for a compulsive purchase this is what you have to think about concerning your overland cooking gear:
- Use: What do you really need? where and how long are you planning to go?
- Type of food: What will you need to store in your cooler or fridge?
- Space & Place: Where do you have the space and place to fix it?
- Electric Connection: On which battery and plug will you connect it to?
Some of you may not even need a cooler or a fridge at all. Depends on where you’re going and sleeping. For example, many campsites have huge fridges for the campers’ food storage. Also depends on the food you plan to eat.
If you want to buy a fridge, the choice of the space and place to fix it is important. It absolutely needs to be very accessible and convenient. Don’t do a quick setup, think about every type of situation you may be in and how you pack your car.
The reason why it is better to have a good electrical installation with a battery dedicated to accessories is to avoid any kind of electric problem. You need to be able to start your engine after a stop and you need to be able to refrigerate your food without worrying.
The choice of the electrical installation will be the subject of another article. (coming soon)
Don’t forget that a fridge generates condensation so it is important to clean the bottom during and after use. This is to keep your food away from moisture that may have accumulated on the bottom and maybe mold.
Oh, and a little of Tetris organization inside the cooler or the fridge is a necessity 😉
Cooking gear & dining furniture
It’s only recently that we bought a mini stove and portable pans. Now we can cook rice, pasta, or simple foods. Because of how we like to travel, we don’t need a gas stove with large bottles. A small stove is more than enough, and, in addition, gas refills last long enough.
We never used cooking pans on a trip before going to Australia. We mostly ate picnic types of meals, made BBQ fires, used a portable charcoal grill, or had dinner out. Now, we are upgrading little by little our way of eating while on the road for many reasons. But especially to become more and more autonomous. So having a reliable overland cooking gear is a necessity.
Having no table but only chairs, we opted for an extremely practical fixed side tray made by a Swiss brand, Rough Parts. Which allows, in addition, to serve as a support for the Maxtrax plates. This support allows you to have a flat place to put your stove and your hot pans and also serves as a work plan for cutting and cooking.
If, unlike us, you opt for the comfort of a real folding table, you have to think about where to put it away.
Also, each object, except our luggage for the trip, is permanently in the vehicle. This choice allows us to avoid unnecessary handling to load stuff we need to take when going on a trip or excursion. Even though it is my husband’s everyday car.
This said, the only practical table we have seen so far, which does not take up any space in the cabin, is at Front Runner. It slides between the space of the roof and the rack and does not monopolize a consequent space on the rack. We did not buy this table because if we did so, we had to change the Hannibal rack that we have had for years and which does the job very well.
If you are looking for good accessory ideas there is very good equipment at Front Runner.
We are perfectly satisfied with our food storage solution, with our simple overland cooking gear, and with our very minimal dining furniture. It suits our way of going out into the wild. We can easily store enough food for a few days out and about.
When we travel with our 4×4, we just need a little more comfort than if we were hiking and bivouacking with a backpack. We don’t seek to live the luxury of urban habitat. Everything is a question of point of view and will.
The keywords when looking for the best overland equipment are practical, easily accessible, and space saver.
Sometimes it’s good to do a little work on yourself and think about how you travel. Some want to have the same kind of comfort as at home. In this case, I do recommend to go for a camper or maybe a vehicle with a cell.
There we are!
I hope this post is helpful for you and that it leads you to choose the best food storage, overland cooking gear, and dining furniture solution for your use.
Would be absolutely pleased to hear from you! Reach out below to let us know your choices and your questions.
Check out our youtube video! It is part of the series dedicated to our Land Rover Defender equipment. And you will clearly see how we store our food, our cooking gear, and dining furniture for a day out, or while overland and traveling.
Here are again the links to the manufacturers we’ve talked about:
Aménagement 4×4: crafting wooden interior layouts, Campingaz: electric coolers, Waeco (Dometic): refrigerate & freeze fridges, Rough Parts: manufacturing Defender custom parts, Maxtrax: vehicle recovery device, Front Runner: vehicle adventure gear.
Talk to you soon & take care!