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How Long Will an RV Fridge Stay Cold Without Power?

On the road? There’s nothing better than some adventure in your RV. So long as you have food and water, you can go almost any place and experience all that traveling has to offer. You can really even live in your RV if you want for some time.

One challenge faced by some RV enthusiasts is keeping food and drinks safe while out and about. You may find yourself away from places where you can purchase food and not have enough prep time to grow anything. Other situations include not wanting to use the power needed to run your fridge.

Your fridge should be able to retain the cold needed for your food items for 6 – 8 hours while turned off. There are certainly some variables here and things you should be aware of – we will discuss below

How do I keep food cold for 6 – 8 hours?

The first thing you are going to want to check is to make sure the seal works on your fridge. You can tell by examining the exterior of your fridge while it’s on. Put your hands around the edges to see if you feel any cold air coming out. 

If your fridge is currently leaking air, you might also notice it running more often than normal. This is because cold air is leaking out of the fridge.

Keep in mind that most refrigerators can run between about 33 degrees and 40 degrees. Refrigerators that are in good shape don’t leak cold air especially quickly so long as you don’t open the door. 

One strong suggestion is to get a external thermometer for your fridge. This will tell you the temperature inside the fridge without needing to open it. People also aren’t great at telling if the fridge is cold enough for food, and a couple degrees difference is significant. 

The thermometer is the best way to get any real assurance that your fridge temperature is fine. 40 degrees starts to get too high, and meats can unintentionally thaw and degrade the quality of milk and other perishables.

Run it really cold first

Part of the answer depends on how cold you make your fridge. Start with making your fridge as cold as possible. Here is a general step by step

  1. Open the fridge
  2. Attempt to locate the dial inside that controls the temperature. This is generally in the back or the side. You may have to food items to see it.
  3. Set the fridge to the coldest temperature possible. Many dials in fridges have “coldest, cold, least cold” settings or a temperature range. Set it to the coldest you can get.
  4. Take the food you need out now to avoid opening the door later.
  5. Leave it at that setting overnight while the fridge catches up.
  6. Without an external thermometer, you won’t likely know the internal temperature of the fridge. If you have a thermometer, wait until it reaches a low temperature for a while.
  7. Turn off the power source, whatever it is. 
  8. Keeping the fridge cold for a long period will require you not open the fridge door. 

The above is one of the better methods for keeping your fridge cold longer. Start at the lowest point and it’ll take a while before you reach a temperature where your food risks spoilage.

Since a fridge only loses a degree per hour, you might buy more time. 

Adding Ice Packs

Add frozen ice packs and other frozen times to your fridge to make the cold last longer. You don’t necessarily need to apply ice packs to frozen items, just place them next to items you want to keep cold. 

Ice packs are the best because they can simply be refrozen over and over again. Using just ice is also not a great idea as it will likely melt eventually and leave you with a pool in your fridge.

Also, don’t use other frozen foods to keep items cold. This could be part of your thawing process, but ice packs tend to fare better in transmitting cold.

These ice packs will need to be frozen in a freezer. A ice pack that is the same temperature as the fridge isn’t as useful.

You could also add a battery powered fan to your fridge in addition to ice packs to circulate the cold better. This could allow for extra hours without having a main source of power. While primarily used for fridges, they can also be useful for your RV when the air conditioner alone isn’t enough.

Lasting longer: Don’t open

It’s been said before, but put a sign on the fridge and communicate that the fridge should not be opened yet. Someone reaching for a snack might open it and undo all the effort you put into making your food safe. Get a lock if you have to, especially if your fellow travelers are young, inattentive, or can’t read yet. 

You don’t want your cold air replaced with room temperature air because it doesn’t help keep cold! 


Having food and drinks stay cold is pretty important during travel. Keeping food cold for a few hours while traveling might be essential to those on a budget, as well as not near a place where they can get more food. 

Our advice should help you at least roughly know how much time you have. You also get good indicators about when your food could be in trouble. Our most basic suggestion of 6-8 hours is a good baseline for a fridge with no troubles and no particular changes to the food or equipment in the fridge.

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