National Luna has been the gold standard in terms of portable battery and refrigeration technology for the camping industry, for over twenty years. Their products are pressure tested to withstand the harsh realities of Africa and beyond. Their factory in Edenvale ensures that South African hands craft these products and that at the end of the day, no matter where in the world their products end up they know that its proudly South African. Its also not uncommon to hear people talk about how they have had their National Luna for the past 10 years…

All of this sounds very romantic, but the harsh reality is that most people think with their bank balance in mind. National Luna isn’t exactly the cheapest option out there at the moment, although that is beginning to change, with brands like ARB introducing new models that are roughly twice the price of the National Luna options.

The competition fights back with lower prices, more gadgets and extras. The reality is that if you live in a country with temperate climates, never exceeding 25°C then I doubt you will see much of a valuable difference between these products and I would honestly say, buy whatever fits in your vehicle and makes your wallet happy.

But if you’re like me, and live in a country with a complicated relationship with temperature and weather… Then you will notice a severe difference between the likes of Dometic and National Luna. As the degree’s climb, you will see the one maintains composure and the other slowly begin to panic…

Last year I decided to do the “smart” thing and just buy a Dometic 50L on sale from Takealot, don’t get me wrong, I still love and have a deep relationship with my little fridge however… Our trip to Kruger last year saw her struggle in a way I should have expected. The northern parts of the park were seeing temperatures of 33°C-37°C the back of the bakkie offered little relief from the baking sun during our drives and hardly enough fresh ventilation. So let’s assume it would have gotten to over 40°C in the back of the bakkie while we were driving around viewing game in the scorching heat of the day. I would check in on the fridge and the temperature would go up… and up… until it could barely maintain a frozen state. It was struggling to maintain -3°C, not to mention it was mincing the battery faster than we could recharge it and actually had to swap it over to campsite power (thank the saints we weren’t in the middle of Namibia/Botswana/Mozambique, nowhere near reliable power)

I guess you could say it got the job done, however stressful.

The alternative experience, taking the National Luna 60L dual compartment with to The Richtersveld. The Richtersveld in an excruciatingly hot environment, we were there at a pretty perfect time of the year. In Autumn it was certainly hot, between 30°C-33°C, maybe a bit higher during the middle of day, but not near the horrific 40°C-50°C it sees in the peak of summer. I anticipated slightly high battery usage due to the dual compartments, operating a fridge and freezer simultaneously. Especially considering I wanted to use the freezer almost like a deep freeze and keep the meat at -10°C and then the fridge side nice and frosty at 3°C, I’m a big fan of an ice-cold beer at the end of the day, I also want to keep my vegetables fresh and crisp. It just seemed to be that the NL60 had a bit more of a stable power consumption it wouldnt wax and wane as much as the Dometic CF50. At night when it cooled down, The NL60 would barely use any power, it was incredible to see. I never saw the temperatures retreat even in the peak of the day. That’s not to say I didn’t nearly run out of power in my week in the Richtersveld but we were also charging laptops and cameras off the battery, something I would never have been able to do with a suffering fridge.The dual compartments were life changing and will be sorely missed!

So, it comes down to me having to buy a solar panel, just so my battery doesn’t die and then that doesn’t even fix the fact my meat would still end up defrosting in the CF50 if I was traveling up to Botswana or Namibia.

If however, you are traveling in a station wagon type vehicle like a Disco 3/4, Defender (with semi decent air conditioning and not just some flaps), Landcruiser Prado/200, Pajero or a double cab bakkie with a setup of having your fridge in the back seats… You might be able to pull off using a cheaper fridge, as the ambient temperature in the car when you’re driving in the peak heat of the day will be nice and low if you decide to wind the windows up and pop on the AC. However, for many people, your children/family/friends are far more important to put in your back seats than a fridge.

At the end of the day,

It’s a life lesson learned. I wanted to get something quick and cheap, which I’m not unhappy with and if I posted my CF50 online for sale, I would sell it in no time and get most of my money back. The next time around, I know exactly where the money will go. If you are financially capable, don’t even ask questions or skip a beat, buy the National Luna. You will never look back. If you want to ask the questions however, NL aren’t all talk and no action they have all the tests and data for you to see the quality of their products. I’m also a big supporter of Local is Lekker and if I had known more about the brand before buying my other fridge, I certainly would have thought twice.