“ Manufacturer: Argos / Type: Picnic Wares - Cooler & Food Warmer / Capacity: 14 L / Operates off mains „
While preparing for our most recent camping trip I remembered that our old electric cool box had stopped working last time we went camping. This left me with a bit of a predicament, how was I to keep our milk and bacon and sausage chilled while on our holidays. I started scouring the internet for a cheap and cheerful electric cool box.
I had set myself a relatively small budget of £50, as we all know £50 does not go far, and I was adamant I would not go over. We only camp a couple of times a year and I did not want to spend a small fortune on a electric cool box that would spend most of the year sat next to the tent in the attic.
After scouring Amazon, eBay, Go Outdoors and various other camping retailers I had almost given up on staying within budget and was starting to seriously contemplate keeping the food in water tight bags in a bucket full of water. As a last resort I logged on to Argos and started typing in different variations on electric cool box, Argos' search engine is rather slow and pitiful, what I eventually typed in was food chiller, and what came up was the 14 Litre Retro Silver Portable Cooler/Food Warmer, priced at a budget breaking £67.99.
I have to admit I was very tempted as it had over a hundred reviews with an average of 4/5 stars, but once again the Constraints of my budget out me off, it was then that I noticed, in the you may also like section, the identical Cooler in a powder pink and priced at a purse friendly £34.99.
Brilliant, my little eyes lit up and I proceeded to read through the product information. The first thing I noticed was that it came with a mains AC power lead and a in-car DC adaptor, in my mind this made it portable, as suggested in the product name, the inclusion of a rather clunky handle concealed in the top also adds the Chillers portability.
I was concerned that 14 litres was quite a small capacity but the web page informed me that the Chiller can hold up to six 75cl wine bottles or 12 regular sized cans, I did try to visualise this amount before purchase and guessed that the Chiller would have the internal storage capacity of a large shoe box.
The next item of concern was the possible noise level, but at 38db I guessed it would be no louder than the fan on a PC or like having the air purifier running. I guessed right, while not notable in the day the humming noise of the Chiller is quite distinct at night, but combined with the other campsite sounds it was more than tolerable.
The energy consumption is classed at 247kWh/year, this was not something that bothered me as I had no intentions of using the Chiller in a house setting, and electricity while camping is paid for as a charge per night regardless of how much or little you use.
After reading the product details and finding them more than suitable and identical to the Silver Chiller I reserved the Chiller and pottered off to Argos to collect.
The Chiller comes in a large rectangular box that is a hot pink colour, it is also labelled up by Argos as Men's Gifts, and this could be why it was half price while the Silver Chiller was still full price.
Once home I unpacked my chiller, the first thing my Husband noted was its pinkness, I informed him that for twice the price he could have a slightly manlier chiller in silver. As you can imagine he though pink was fine for camping. Once out the box the dimensions are 42cm high, 33cm wide and 33cm deep. The chiller has rounded edges and has a silver handle on the door; the chiller is made entirely out of plastic.
Still quite dubious of my pink purchase my husband plugged the chiller in, the back of the chiller has an AC/DC switch, and you need to ensure that this is set to the right position, AC for mains power and DC for using the in-car adaptor. The chiller immediately hummed into life, I then opened the chiller door and was quite disappointed at its rather measly internal dimensions. Inside there is a small plastic shelf separating the chiller into top half and bottom half, in the door there is a tiny basket type shelf, that at that time I could see no use for and in the bottom there is a small drip tray. All these plastic items are removable. I promptly removed the shelf as all it seemed suitable for was dividing the already small internal space up into two really small spaces.
I then put a two litre carton of milk in the chiller to see if it remained palatably cold. After a couple of hours I came back the chiller and to my delight the milk remained chilled. Suitably impressed I popped the chiller back in its box till we were ready for camping.
Upon arrival at the campsite I plugged the chiller in and slid it under one of the camping tables, it fitted underneath quite neatly. I then proceeded to fit my chilled food into the chiller, this was quite a task in itself, think playing Tetris with a litre of milk, a 500g of Vitalite, a kilo of sausage, a kilo of bacon, a small jar of mayo, and a bottle of salad cream. Once I had my food stacked the door shut easily and I was impressed.
During the week we were away the chiller kept all the food perfectly chilled and fresh, the only downside is that every time you want an item out of the chiller you then play the new game chiller Jenga, where you try to pull an item out of the chiller without toppling everything else. If you are unsuccessful you are back to the first game of Tertris.
Much to my pleasure I discovered that the strange door shelf/basket was suitable for holding chocolate bars, I managed to get a 400g bar of galaxy in the door.
On to the downsides, apart from the internal size being a bit on the small side, the drip tray in the bottom of the chiller was of no use whatsoever. I assume that the drip tray is supposed to catch any condensation that runs to the bottom of the chiller, it failed at this miserably, nobody had informed the condensation that it was supposed to make its way over to the drip tray to be emptied daily by the owner, and instead the food at the bottom of the fridge sat in a small puddle of water, happily I had everything stored in plastic bags so it was not to much of a problem.
The chiller is also capable of warming items of food such as pasties, sausage rolls etc... I can not comment on this aspect as I did not use the chiller for warming. The warming facility is easily accessed via a small switch on the back of the chiller, a flick of this switch and your chiller will warm everything within up to 60 degrees. This could be a handy function, but it could also be a disastrous one if you accidentally flick the switch.
The chiller brings food down to 20 degrees below the ambient temperature around it, I think the lowest it will go is 5 degrees, the chiller gets down to temperature within a couple of hours of plugging it in and stocking it up. I did notice that the fan inside never turns off, I feel the chiller did an excellent job of keeping the food fresh considering how warm the inside of a tent can become in the middle of the day.
As previously mentioned the chiller comes with an in-car adaptor, we chose not to use this as our car only has one cigarette lighter and we use that for the Tom Tom. I believe there are adaptors available to turn one cigarette lighter into two, but I would not want to put the battery under excess strain by having two things plugged in at once.
The lead on the in-car adaptor is quite short, if the chiller was plugged in at the front somebody on the back seat would have to sit with there legs up in the air as there is no way the lead would reach into the boot, the lead on the AC power cable was of a good length and easily reached to the camping extension lead.
The handle on the door is quite sturdy and despite my initial worries that it could be a design weakness we never had any trouble with it, the door opened and sealed easily each and every time. I never had the opportunity to carry the chiller around by its handle on the top apart from lifting it out of its box and placing it back in. The inclusion of a carry handle is not necessary in my opinion but it is welcome as it aids packing and unpacking.
In conclusion I think that the chiller was a good purchase at the price of £34.99, I would not of been impressed if I had of paid the full price. Despite the fact that it is very small internally and the drip tray is of no use whatsoever I find all other aspects of its build quality to be of a high standard so I happily give it 4/5 stars.
Thank you for reading.
When I went to university, I decided that I wanted a little fridge in my room, just to keep milk and stuff in. I had no idea how much such things would cost, but I went down to Argos to see what they had available.
I was surprised at the wide range of small/portable coolers they had. The Retro Portable Cooler/Warmer stood out to me immediately. I really liked the design, plus it was on offer for £29.99. I wasn't really looking for a warmer, but I guessed that it would come in useful at some point.
The cooler comes in a typical cardboard box, with a picture of the appliance on the front. Along with the cooler, you get the AC lead, for plugging it into a normal plug and a DC lead for use in the car. You also get instructions on how to use the product. The design of the fridge is great. It's essentially a mini version of those retro American style fridges we are used to seeing in the movies. It's rounded at the corners, grey in colour with a silver handle to open the door as well as a handle for carrying, it's also available in pink. The inside is white with a shelf that can be removed. There is also a removable plastic compartment on the door, similar to a standard fridge. On the back of the cooler there is a fan, as well as a switch. On the switch the middle position turns the cooler off, the far left is the cooler function and the far right is the warmer function. When cooling a green light comes on, when warming a red light comes on.
It is claimed that it will cool up to 18-22 degrees C below room temperature. I was actually surprised by how well it worked. After letting it cool down for a few hours, I put some milk in to give it a trail run. I left the milk inside for 5 hours; on returning I found that it was as cold as it would've been if I'd had put it in a standard fridge. In terms of size, the cooler is 42cm in height, 33cm in width and 33cm in depth, with a 14-litre capacity. It claims to be able to hold 6 wine bottles or 12 regular size cans. I haven't tested the wine bottle claim, but have fit at least 8or9 440ml beer cans in there with room to spare. It can also fit two standard 4-pint milk bottles inside, again with room to spare. You can genuinely fit a lot of stuff in there, the trick is piling it up, but making sure it's stable so it doesn't fall all over the floor when you open the door.
I must admit that I never really used the warmer function much, mainly because it was normally full of stuff I needed to keep cold. It claims to heat up to around 60 degrees C. I've used it to keep hot drinks warm as well as things like sausage rolls. It does work really well, but bare in mind this isn't a cooker. I did once make the mistake of putting the warmer on instead of the cooler, needless to say the cheese didn't hold up well.
There is a slight humming noise when the cooler is running, similar to air con or a dehumidifier, it's a bit disturbing at first but you get used to it after a while. As far as using it in the car goes, I've only done this once. My call is small so the fridge would've been a bit bulky to fit in, but luckily the DC lead, which plugs into the cigarette lighter slot, is pretty long so I managed to stretch it through to the boot.
The cooler/warmer is on sale from Argos at the moment for £43.99. Although I didn't pay this much, I would still recommend buying this product. It works well, is easy to move about and most of all looks really good.