If you have been shopping for a new 12V portable fridge/freezer lately, you may have noticed you have an increasing number of options. SnoMaster of South Africa, now distributed out of Austin, Texas, is just one of those new players. As we are prone to do, we didn’t waste any time getting our hands on a test sample to see how it stacks up. Available in a variety of sizes, we elected to test the 42 liter stainless steel Traveler as it represents a size favored by many overlanders.
Pulling the SnoMaster from the box it was impossible to ignore its striking resemblance to another South African fridge, the National Luna Weekender. At a quick glance the two are nearly identical with the placement of the control panel the only immediately distinguishing feature. It’s a tricky game to play, mimicking the pinnacle product in the segment, but we hoped the SnoMaster wasn’t punching above its weight and trying to get by on its good looks.
Like the National Luna, the SnoMaster is constructed of stainless steel with all-metal hinges and hardware. Even the folding handles are a dead ringer for those used on the previous generation Weekender units, but there are considerable differences as well. Whereas the Weekender uses the proven Danfoss compressor, the SnoMaster utilizes a proprietary component. We’ve been told it is similar to the Danfoss. Even the external and internal dimensions are within fractions of an inch of each other. Because we have carefully tested the performance of the National Luna multiple times over the span of ten years, we knew the SnoMaster would be hard pressed to best the Weekender––which after several days of testing it proved it couldn’t do.
To its credit, it did come darn close.
As we do for all of our fridge tests, we set up three carefully controlled scenarios to measure cool-down time and power draw, as well as the energy required to maintain a specific internal temperature. With the unit placed in a thermally controlled room at an ambient temperature of 68ºF, we then loaded it with 24 cans of beer, also at 68ºF. We set the SnoMaster’s thermostat to the FDA food-safe setting of 40ºF and measured the time and power required to cool the contents to that thermal target. After comparing the SnoMaster’s score to half a dozen other leading units, we were pleasantly surprised. In fact, it’s safe to say we were more than a little impressed.
In the cool-down test, the SnoMaster was only a wee bit slower than two other fridges, the National Luna Weekender one of them. Maintaining a temp of 40ºF was not difficult for the SnoMaster, requiring no more or less power than the competitors we tested. If it showed a weakness it was with the warmup phase. Despite its thick walls and seemingly well insulated construction, the Traveler didn’t keep its cool as well as we expected. Not to say it performed poorly––far from it––it just didn’t quite demonstrate the same insulation performance as other units.
Suffice it to say, by the objective tests, the SnoMaster did exceptionally well, but as I have said many times before, there’s more to a product evaluation than numeric scores. In the field the SnoMaster proved it was thoughtfully designed and easy to use. The control panel is positioned low on the front of the unit and has a bright and easy to read display with large, tactile buttons. The 12V battery charge indicator is impossible to mis-read and ensures your power supply doesn’t slip away unnoticed. Setting the target temperature is straight forward as is selecting one of the three low-voltage shutoff levels.
Like other units we’ve used, the front opening lid can be removed quickly to facilitate easier loading and unloading. The all-metal hinges are robust and solid, but returning the lid to those pivots does require a little extra fiddling. I’m not sure what my personal preference is, but some may have issues with the crisper placement at the front of the interior. It can make for a long reach into the main compartment when accessing the unit from the front. On the upside, the crisper section does have its own removable basket and the interior light has proven sufficiently bright.
One of the things that won me over was the quality of the included transit cover as well as the solar-charged wireless remote/display. The Traveler even came with a bottle opener mounted to the front of the fridge body. Overall, it’s exceptionally well designed.
If there is one particular attribute that stands out as a winner, it has to be the price. I’ll concede that $1,000 is still a lot of cash to plunk down on a 12V icebox, but considering what you get in return, I’d say it is an outstanding value.
Since we’ve only had our test sample for a few months––there is still one unknown. Only time will tell if the SnoMaster is as reliable and efficient as it needs to be. I don’t have any reasons to believe it won’t be and judging by SnoMaster USA’s impeccable customer service and better than average 5-year warranty, doubt we’ll have any issues.
At the end of these tests I have to ultimately decide if the product warrants my recommendation. As it relates to the SnoMaster BD/C-42SS, I can say with confidence it is worthy of purchase. – CN
All metal construction
Excellent control panel features
Super fast cool down and efficient power draw to maintain temp
High quality transit bag, included
Included solar-charged remote/display
Removable lid with locking latch
Very accurate digital temperature readout
Insulation value didn’t score as well as we thought it would
Difficult to re-attach the lid to the hinges
The 12V cord would be better positioned to wrap around the short end of the unit