The Dometic CFX3 25 sits at the bottom of Dometic's 'active cooler’ line, which has a series of size-related stops on it’s way to the 100l behemoth at the top of the range. The Dometic CFX3 25 has a mere quarter of that capacity, at 25l. Because it's an active cooler, you'll need to plug it in for it to work, but once you have, it'll provide reliable and constant cooling as long as you need it to. So how does it compare to the rest of today's best camping coolers? Read on for our full Dometic CFX3 25 review.
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DOMETIC CFX3 25 cooler review: design and build
At first sight, the DOMETIC CFX3 25 camping cooler impresses with a black/white/silver palette, and enormously beefy aluminum alloy handles that feel hugely over-engineered. That robustness continues into the rest of the cooler, which Dometic claims is ‘heavy-duty yet lightweight ExoFrame construction with fender frame protected edges’. Whatever the niceties, the overall package feels built to last.
A top-loader lid clicks neatly into place under its own weight, but is still rigid and robust enough to sit on, while inside a full-depth wire basket takes up the bulk of the space, with a small higher shelf designed for things like 330ml cans of your choice.
A small TFT screen and 4 soft-touch buttons give you immediate control over matters, as well as flag up the elephant in the room - this isn’t a standard coolbox. It’s a mini fridge/freezer of considerable potency. Two ports at the hinge end allow either mains connection via a standard kettle lead, or a DC 12V/24V car/van hookup, the latter vital for camping maneuvers. There’s even a USB port around front for charging phones and the like.
The DOMETIC CFX3 25 camping cooler’s tech doesn’t stop there though, also sporting Wi-fi and Bluetooth connectivity, and a companion CFX3 app for good measure. The app gives you control over the temperature settings, as well as enabling a temperature alarm to be set. Finally, it logs the performance history, although we’re not sure how useful that is really as it’ll change if you’re opening the cooler a lot, or moving it around.
DOMETIC CFX3 25 cooler review: performance
The best and worst bit about the DOMETIC CFX3 25 camping cooler is the temperature range, without a doubt. It’ll keep your beers cold like a normal fridge, or your fresh milk unturned on a camping trip, but there’s more. The compressor built in can drop temperatures to a whopping –22 °C, which is about the same as a good quality home freezer unit. With the dynamic battery protection system that prevents the cooler draining your car battery, this makes it perfectly doable to drive around with a proper freezer in your boot or back seat - handy for anything from the weekly shop to an expedition. The compressor unit is much more efficient than a thermo-electric fridge, and means the unit runs for short bursts to keep temperatures low, rather than all the time, preventing your car battery from being drained. Thermo-electric units tend to be much cheaper than compressor models, and can’t reach the same low temps.
That said, in testing we found a few foibles when using the DOMETIC CFX3 25 camping cooler while actually camping. The biggest challenge is that the cooler runs pretty cold, usually a benefit, but if anything touches the sides it can get frozen solid - not unlike a standard home fridge. The internal basket is intended to prevent this, but with mixed items inside it’s quite a packing jigsaw to prevent any awkward small or thin items sneaking out and freezing themselves.
Bottles and cartons tend to behave themselves, but something like a mesh basket would help make the Dometic CFX3 25 better for general fridge use, rather than specifically as a drinks fridge. The designer’s intention is for the smaller top shelf to be used as a fridge, and the basket as a freezer, but that’s probably not the preferred setup for most camping trips, where you want lots of things cool, but ready to eat/cook/drink, as opposed to being frozen solid.
The promised ‘dynamic battery protection system’ - which stops the cooler draining your car battery - does indeed work as advertised, the small screen providing updates on the voltage available. Over 12 volts is fine, much less and performance will suffer, until eventually a warning will show and the cooler will switch off. The battery protection levels can be set to low, medium and high, depending on your appetite for calling the AA for a jumpstart.
The unit does warm up much faster than a heavily-insulated passive cooler once switched off, which is something to bear in mind when transporting it. It’ll also contribute to warming the inside of your vehicle too, unless ventilated.
DOMETIC CFX3 25 cooler review: verdict
The DOMETIC CFX3 25 camping cooler offers serious coldness firepower in a compact package - barely larger than a standard insulated cooler. In hot weather it’s impressively useful to have a spare drinks fridge on hand wherever needed - as a beer-chilling device around the home, it’s great, and as a car-camping tool it adds a new dimension to trips with family or friends. Careful packing is required for foodstuffs you don’t want frozen, though.
Easy to use in manual or app-powered mode, the only reason not to have a DOMETIC CFX3 25 camping cooler is its position at the relatively spendy end of the market, but what price would you pay for an ice cold beer on a baking hot day? The DOMETIC CFX3 25 camping cooler is a summer classic that’ll get used at home nearly as much as away camping - a sound investment.