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1 old templateThe ExPix crew have been massively busy over the last few months; travelling over 8000 miles, the team have covered, 16 events, 2 major road trips, Europe and Scotland and countless shoots and all in the space of just 19 weeks, and that’s not to mention the huge amount of editing, writing etc, etc, etc, talk about crazy!

So back in April and faced with such a chaotic schedule ahead of us, you’d be surprise to learn that we were very, no VERY pleased when we received a delivery from Dometic of a WAECO CoolMatic CR 80 fridge just 2 days before setting off on our European trip.

When you’ve got little down time to visit the shops to restock, a proper fridge can make all the difference to a working trip, especially when it’s a big one. With an 80 litre capacity, including a 7.9 litre freezer box, having the WAECO CoolMatic CR80 on board meant we could stock up on essentials and didn’t need to worry about where the nearest shops were when we went off the beaten track. And it keeps the beers cold ;-)

But with only two days left before setting off to the South of France, it meant big changes had to be made in the van to enable us to fit the fridge in. We don’t have the biggest van; with only a LWB Toyota HiAce, it’s taken a fair bit of thinking to get the conversion how we need it. And the way round the space issue for us has been to make modular units, most of which are dual purpose. The wardrobe, which runs the length of the bulk head, doubles as a waterproof seat, the seating area at the side of the van pulls out to form a small double bed with storage underneath for bedding and the electrics, the work tops lift up to reveal hidden sinks or storage for pots, pans and food and the door on the cupboard opposite the side entrance lifted to make a table that would seat 4 at a push.

Our old cooler was housed in a unit which ran alongside the sliding door, opposite the table but with so little time it was sod’s law that the gap wasn’t wide enough to fit the new fridge. So after some head scratching the old cupboard / table unit was removed, the wardrobe unit was cut down in size and a brand new (temporary) unit was made to house the new fridge. Running vertical from floor to ceiling, the fridge sat at the bottom of the unit with two cupboards above.

Once this was made the next job was to move the electrics from where it they were stored under the bed to a new unit nearer the bulkhead. Doing this allowed us to claw back some much needed storage under the bed as we’d lost a considerable amount when the wardrobe was reduced in size. But despite gaining this extra space we were conscious that we’d lost the table and the cupboard and were just a tad worried how we’d manage in a 3m x2m space for 7.5 weeks with camera kit, wetsuits, bikes, kayaks etc etc … basically enough stuff for an expedition!

Fortunately the bike rack and the roof box took care of some of the items and did provide extra storage. And we gained some additional space in the form of the old cooler unit. But with no time to shelve the unit or put a door on it, it turned out to be a little impractical to use as things had to be stacked on top of each other.

When all the alterations were ready, thankfully fitting the fridge in was the easy part; just connect the wires to the battery with an inline fuse and that was basically it.

Due to the new layout we made the decision to remove 2 of our leisure batteries, leaving just one in the van which in hindsight turned out to be a BIG mistake. As we found out the hard way, the inverter has quite a draw and that coupled with some ongoing electrical issues, resulted in some power consumption between the main van batteries and the leisure unit. The 2000w invertor does have some consumption by itself but the biggest problem for us is the laptop. Having to deal with a high volume of images, the laptop has the power of a small desktop and is guilty of using a high amount of energy; even charging it up puts a massive strain on the power. With only one leisure battery in place we found that we were running the engine quite a bit to keep the battery to a reasonable level. Fortunately we also carry a power pack so was able to jump start the van when the battery drain got too much which tended to happen when we’d been parked up for any length of time.

Back to the fridge and whilst the van was being driven every day the fridge worked fine; food in the freezer unit remained frozen and inside the fridge was really cold, so much so that we had to alter the temperature.  But after an extended stop, over two days without running the engine, we noticed that the fridge was having issues cooling. This however is in no way due to the fridge, but due entirely to our own power issues.

Powered only by battery (unless you get a convertor) and with a 1.8 amp power consumption the fridge is very efficient and we’ve found that we can power the fridge on its own for approximately 3 days from a 110 leisure battery without any recharging. If though, like us, you’re going to be using other electrical products, then you’ll probably need some additional power. Powered correctly and the WAECO CoolMatic fridge works perfectly.

The size of the fridge is fantastic; inside you have two adjustable shelves together with a vegetable crisper. On the inside of the door there’s a rack, which can store large bottles, with a nifty little adjustable stopper, perfect for stopping the bottles from rattling around. There is also a smaller covered compartment at the top of the inside of the door.

Our van conversion was originally made with a template that was only ever meant to be temporary. 8 years on and we’re finally getting round to doing the conversion properly! So over the next few months all the units will be ripped out, including the new fridge unit and we’ll be replacing them with a bespoke design.

Whilst it was a last minute job, the new layout to fit the Dometic fridge has given us something to think about as we plan the makeover. We’ll certainly be looking at installing split relays systems to isolate the main vehicle batteries from the leisure circuit and adding a power unit for charging via hook ups, solar panels or generators would be invaluable too.

Whatever happens or however we do the makeover, one thing’s for sure, the WAECO CoolMatic fridge is here to stay. It’s got to be one of the handiest pieces of kit that you can add to your van; after all you can never underestimate a cold beer!

Ellis Brigham
Live. Breathe. Outdoor.
Caledondian MacBrayne
Ferries to the Islands
Tek Tanks
Water Storage Solutions
The Hebridean Guest House
Accomodation in Stornaway
Harris Hotel
Accomodation in Tarbett Harris
Alpha Batteries
Auto and Leisure Power
Plyline UK Ply Lining for vans
All makes models and panels
The Roof Box Company
Boxes, bars, bike racks & more

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