Keeping Cool: the Dometic CFX 35W

Keeping Cool: the Dometic CFX 35W

When I first began driving a car places to ride my bicycle, that is, loading up my bike, clothing, helmet, usually my shoes, having a great ride and then returning to my car. So long as I didn’t forget my shoes (or helmet—actually, there was one time I forgot my jersey), I would have a great time. It took a few years before I realized that I was doing myself a disservice by showing up unprepared. Actually, it took years before I even realized I was unprepared. It took years before I realized that one could pack a host of items that would make my return to my car pleasant. This, despite my history as a Boy Scout, despite, “Be prepared.” I just hadn’t figured out what preparation was. Taking the gear you needed to ride wasn’t preparation.

My idea of preparation grew to include a change of clothes, a Sport Kilt for discreet changing, a floor pump, some basic tools, a bottle with a recovery drink, some food, even baby wipes to actually clean up. A thermos with a hot drink for cold days, a mat to stand on while I change, I keep refining, even now.

It was a coffee-hot soda sitting in my bag last summer that made me think that there had to be something better than either cold packs or filling an ice chest with ice. Ice isn’t expensive, is it? But I hate having to drive to the store the night before an event to buy ice. It takes time away from the family which isn’t good if I’m about to be away all day.

But how about something I load out of the garage just before I grab my gear bag and bike? Now you’re talking.

Based on recent my recent camping and evacuation experiences (I can recommend the former, the latter not so much), the Dometic CFX 35W can hold enough food to get two people through about three days, two if you include kids.

According to Dometic’s marketing copy the CFX 35W can cool to a positively arctic -7 degrees Fahrenheit (-22C). That’s cold enough to freeze a can of soda in less than a half hour. I can’t report that I actually set the unit that cold; to do so seemed more of a stunt than a use.

The CFX 35W comes with two power cables, one so that you can plug it into a car lighter and one for a standard 120V wall outlet. I tend to use the cable for the wall outlet when cooling the unit prior to use and if I arrive somewhere, like a motel room, where I can plug it back in to stay cool. In car camping, I’ve found myself turning on the car every few hours to keep the contents frozen.

Normally, if a piece of gear has a highfalutin feature, I’m all over it. The CFX 35W has its own smartphone app. The app uses a wifi connection to allow you to check and control the unit’s temperature. Call me a Doubting Thomas; if I’m concerned about the temperature of the contents and I’m close enough for the app to work, then I’m inclined to just go and check the unit and stick my hand in. The more I use it, the less need I have to double check. However, the USB outlet is pretty great for charging phones.

That the refrigerator has a light means that I can read labels without the need for a flashlight and the basket gives me the opportunity to load and unload without individual trips from my fridge to the Dometic, back and forth.

At $599, this is a significant investment in recreation, but I’ve used it three times this fall and I’ll be using it again over the holidays. It’s now an automatic part of my event checklist, meaning I’ll pack it for most Bike Monkey events and all of the Grasshoppers next season. One of my favorite features of the Dometic is that it is far more space-efficient than my ice chest. I can pack 50 percent more food into the same amount of space, and because I drive a wagon, space is always at a premium.

Final thought: It will hold two growlers of Pliny the Elder.


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  1. Tominalbany

    I still remember finding Pliny on tap at a bar in Philadelphia. Well, I sorta remember….

    Padraig, When you’re not trying to freeze the crap out of stuff, how long will it’s charge last when you’re just trying to keep your stuff cool enough to preserve without freezing?

    1. Author

      There isn’t a battery that it operates off. It is either on or off. When I have stuff I don’t want to freeze in there, I’ll chill it to 33 and the contents, once chilled to that temperature, will stay cool for a three to five hours; it really depends on how much you have in there. More contents means it stays cold longer, right?

  2. DavidB

    My ancient Vanagon has a spare battery just to operate mine. In 90 degree weather it will keep things at 40F for about four days before needing to start the car to charge the dedicated battery, and it has a protection circuit to avoid hurting the battery. (unless you are transporting transplant organs and override the safeguard)

    Note that these are real compressor type refrigerators. Not the Peltier effect toys.

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