The Ergohacks Verdict
Anyone who’s ever travelled long distance by car or has spent time camping has had that moment. The quick sniff of the milk opened yesterday or the lackluster lettuce that just isn’t palatable any more. Hopefully most readers have been sensible enough to decide that that milk wasn’t up to it but particularly in the summer it’s a real problem. I’ve had coolers for a number of years and have tried the plastic disposable bags, the thicker cloth and plastic insulated ones and the plastic boxes with varying degrees of success but none of them have been brilliant. They have all been passive solutions – trying to keep cold in rather than something active that generates more cold.
The Campingaz Powerbox Plus 24l cool box takes a nicely designed solid cool box and adds a cooler to the hinged lid – plug it into your car and it will blow cold air into the cool box. Campingaz and Coleman claim it will keep the temperature of the contents around 20 degrees celsius cooler than the outside temperature. A British summer will happily go to 25 to 30 degrees so that will keep your food at around 5 to 10 degrees celsius. This is a little warmer than your average fridge but low enough to preserve food without freezing it.
If you are looking for an equivalent sized but simple cooler they can be had between £15 and £35 depending on brand and build quality and electric coolers of the same size go for between £40 and £100. As on of the better made designs on the market the Powerbox is well priced at around £50. The mains transformer adds extra flexibility for around £20 giving you a mobile fridge for £70 which is a very economic prospect if you travel a lot.
A cooler isn’t exactly the sexiest thing to write about and test but I started off this review recalling the unpleasant experience of sniff testing milk. Get the Powerbox Plus and the chances are that that won’t be in your future as I hope it’s not in mine. If you travel and camp a lot a cooler is a near essential buy and the Powerbox – particularly if paired with the mains transformer is a flexible and useful product. Recommended.
Price: ± £50 – £55
Paid extras: 240V Adaptor (Amazon)
Campingaz is a French company founded in 1943 that focused on selling mixed butane and propane in disposable cans for camping and caravaning. They expanded and became one of the biggest names in Europe. They expanded in the accessories to go with the cans – cookers, lanterns, heaters and then into other camping gear like sleeping bags. They were acquired by Coleman in 1996 and continue to be one of the largest brands on the continent.
Visually the box is a fairly nondescript grey matt plastic unit which when you pick it up feels heavier and more solid than you expect. The handle feels tough and up to lifting it even when it’s stuffed full and it clips back with a nice click. The lid of the Powerbox has a small rim around the inside that means it clips home with an audible click and doesn’t open by accident it also has a backstop so when it opens it doesn’t tip the whole thing over or fall forward again onto your fingers.
So how well does it work? I’ve not done scientific testing on it but my general impression is pretty well. I’ve tried it under two different circumstances that are likely to come up – as a passive coolbox and being actively cooled. I filled it with a variety of pre-chilled foods making sure to leave plenty of space for air to circulate and put in a layer of ice blocks in the base and the food lasted for three days. When I was able to plug it into the car and let it run for around 7 or 8 hours a day the blocks lasted four days and the food was going off from old age before it was warming up too much.
Lets talk about the electric. The Powerbox operates from the car’s 12volt DC charger and has an internal circuit that lets you leave it plugged in and will switch itself off when it detects the car’s battery is getting lower. The idea is to prevent any chance of leaving you with a flat battery and an undrivable car. So far so good. The problem is that most modern cars need a key in the ignition and turned to let you use the charger. If you’re driving this isn’t an issue at all and if you’ve parked up next to your tent at a campsite it’s probably okay but if you’re away from the car it means it’s not really useable. This isn’t the fault of the Powerbox but rather just the way cars are designed. If you’re going to be camping or parking somewhere with a mains supply the Euro Transformer lets you plug the whole unit into the mains which vastly increases it’s flexibility.
Product dimensions: 40.7 x 31.3 x 43.5 cm
Internal dimensions: 32.8 x 24.3 x 31 cm
Item Weight: 3.6kg (empty)
Colour: Grey and white
Cooling Type: Thermo-electrical cooling aggregate
Electric: 12V 4.4A, 52.8W
Cooling performance Delta: 20 degrees C
Insulation type: Pu
Warranty: Two years parts and labor warranty.
The review is based on the Campingaz Powerbox Plus 24L cool box kindly provided by Coleman. Read more about Ergohacks’ eco and access used in reviews. This article was first published on 8 July 2016 and last updated on 13 July 2017.