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When it comes to testing a product, there are two ways to do it: Either you take it for a week(end) and check the performance, or you tackle a long-term test on multiple trips over a couple of months.

Our office has a Waeco CFX 65 fridge/freezer which we have been using since early 2013. Of course, Waeco has since been rebranded as Dometic, in line with the Swedish company’s brandconsolidation exercise.

So, it’s been four years, and our trusty Waeco has been great to us – and its retirement is nowhere in sight!

Whether it’s working at max capacity in 40 degree heat or sitting turned on in an office for months at a time, the old beast has its work cut out. And it hasn’t missed a beat.

As Grant Spolander put it in his 2013 review of this very same fridge in SA4x4 magazine: “There’s more to a fridge than just degrees, amps and insulation.” He’s right. A fridge must also be well laid out, easy to operate, have a large interior, a small exterior, and be tough as hell.

In many respects, the Waeco (Dometic) has succeeded beyond expectation, most especially when it comes to toughness. Unlike many fridges with stylish and shiny metal exteriors, the CFX 65 features a tough, thick, textured plastic shell – negating the need for a cover. The unit really has stood the test of time, even though it’s never been permanently mounted in the safety of a fridge slide, and has tackled a multitude of camping and 4×4 trips. A few scuffs and scrapes are evident on the outside, but there are no dents or cracks, despite its being knocked around in the back of an uncovered bakkie on many occasions.

The compartments are split into three sections, with two baskets and a removable divider. The main compartment also has a drain plug and rounded edges for easy cleaning. Only the freezer compartment has visible cooling elements, but with the dividers in place, even when the freezer is below -10, your milk and beers shouldn’t go solid in the second compartment.

The third, smallest compartment for butter, eggs or fruit is positioned above the compressor itself. The two wire baskets for the primary compartments have taken some strain from repeated use; they’re slightly bent, no more.

Fridge ergonomics are often overlooked, but are high on the list of important features. In this case, the CFX 65 shines − thanks to massive foldable grab handles (which make handy tie-down points), and controls that are mounted on the top leading edge, which means that you can change settings and check temperatures even when your stuff is packed up around the fridge. And the fridge’s lid is reversible, making it easy to pack the way you want to.

Another simple but logical design feature is the breathing vents for the compressor, which are located on the same side as the control panel – it makes sense, as you’re unlikely to pack around the control panel and limit access as well as air flow.

Inside, not everyone will be a fan of the fact that only the freezer section of the inner case has cooling elements and that the removable twopart divider is just 4cm wide, but when weighed up against its sterling performance, there are no complaints. Its ability to freeze one section while the rest of the fridge stays slightly warmer, or to chill the entire interior to a set temperature by removing the dividing panel, gives one the best of both worlds.

In a typical field test, we found the Waeco took just over an hour to get from 17 degrees ambient to zero – enough to keep frozen stuff frozen. It then took another two hours and 15 minutes to pull down to minus 17 degrees. Not bad at all.

The power draw of the CFX is rated at 1.9Ah/h on 12V at -15° at 32° ambient. An added feature is the batteryprotection meter which can be set to three levels: high, medium or low − at 11.8, 11.2 or 10.1 volts respectively.

While our Waeco is still ready for many adventures, the company that built the CFX has already developed a replacement. The Dometic CFX 65DZ (Dual Zone) offers a very similar design, but adds features such as more soft-touch material in the shell, and stronger hinges and handles.

The “65 W” model offers Bluetooth connectivity to your smartphone for temperature control and battery monitoring, and a USB charging outlet.

All the new units seem to represent an improvement in every way. They are certainly on our test list.

[ FRIDGE SPECS ] WAECO CFX 65

Weight 23.2kg

Length with handles 725mm

Length 661mm

Height 561mm

Width 455mm

Total capacity 61 litres

Fridge volume 42 litres

Freezer volume 19 litres

Insulation thickness 50.1– 56.1mm

Lid insulation thickness 39mm

Cooling capacity +10 to -22°

Power source 12v/24v DC or 240v AC

Average consumption 1.9Ah/h on -15°freezer @ 32° ambient temperature

Price then: R8500

Price now: R9446

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