REVIEW: Dometic CFX3 45 Fridge

Photo By: Josh Ashcroft

Quick take: Dometic’s CFX3 45, despite its name, is actually a 46-liter fridge. Having lived with it for many months over several overland expeditions, I can say I absolutely adore it. It won me over with its compact size compared to its large interior volume, awesome user interface and features, and its efficiency build quality. Though Dometic fridges aren’t the most affordable options on the market, like most good overland equipment, they fall into the ‘buy once, cry once’ category, and deserve to be atop every overlander’s shopping list.

Intro

The Dometic CFX3 45 isn’t my first overland fridge. Heck, it’s not even my first Dometic. That title goes to the CFX3 55IM that lived in the backseat of my Gladiator.

Since the 55, I dabbled in other brands, which shall remain nameless here, with finickier lids, worse energy efficiency, less friendly user interfaces, and lower build quality.

Photo by Josh Ashcroft

Despite these fridges being larger and less expensive than comparable Dometic units, I found my way — perhaps not surprisingly — to the Dometic brand and to the CFX3 45. I chose the 45 because it’s the only fridge that will fit in Goose Gear’s Ultimate Kitchen, which we included in our Ultimate Overland Vehicle 2023 and I installed in my 2023 Ford Bronco Black Diamond (seen here in these images).

I’ve lived with the Dometic CFX3 45 in the back of my Bronco for a few months now and I’ve finalized my thoughts. Before we get there, let’s talk about the basics of the unit first.

The details

The Dometic CFX3 45 shares its footprint with the CFX3 35, but benefits from 2.75 inches of additional height. Despite its name, the CFX3 45 is actually a 46-liter fridge. Consider this a bonus liter, or at least I do, which is big enough to hold a whopping 67 12-ounce cans.

The CFX3 45 can be powered by AC (110-240), DC (12 volt / 24 volt), or solar. It is capable of temperatures as low as -7 degrees Fahrenheit. And it can do this while using less power than a 60-Watt light bulb, according to Dometic. It measures 18.74” tall, 15.67” wide, and 24.80” deep. It weighs 41.23 pounds.

Photo by Josh Ashcroft

At the front of the unit, it features a little LED screen and relatively intuitive interface. The best way to interact with the 45 is through the dedicated Bluetooth app, which I’ll discuss below. Beneath the screen is a USB port. At first, I found this unnecessary. But I eventually used it to charge a headlamp with a dead battery. So, it proved its usefulness pretty quickly.

Keeping cool

I’ve been running my CFX3 45 in the back of my Bronco nonstop since I plugged it in. I run it at 36 degrees F with some snacks and sparkling waters inside it at all times — it’s probably 25% full on any given day.

I drive the Bronco every few days, but there are long stretches when I don’t. I’ve left the CFX3 45 running for as many as eight days in my driveway in direct sunlight between firing up the engine and recharging my auxiliary battery, and it never dipped the battery below 66% charge. 

READ MORE: Editors’ Choice: Overlanding Fridges & Freezers

This impressive number could be a testament to the lithium-ion battery I have, sure. But it’s also indicative of how efficient the CFX3 45 is. When Dometic says the fridge draws as much as a 60W light bulb, I believe it.

With the standard basket organizers that split the fridge interior into thirds, it’s really easy to keep foodstuffs from bumping into each other. I keep my lighter, more fragile items in the further back and smaller compartment, like yogurt cups. I store larger, heftier items, like a bottle of ketchup, in the tall front section.

Photo by Josh Ashcroft

Photo by Josh Ashcroft

Photo by Josh Ashcroft

I’ve not suffered any leaks or breakages due to food flying around on the trail. Designers found a nice mix of divider versus space; no space was unnecessarily wasted for storage dividing. This is not something I can say for other fridges from competitive brands.

Using it

Although I know full well that the CFX3 45 will be running whenever I get into the Bronco. I often find myself opening the smartphone app just to make sure. I keep the fridge set to 36 or so, but I often find it’s running even cooler, showing 34 degrees. I love the ability to check and set fridge operation from the driver’s seat, camp chair in front of the fire many meters away, or from my rooftop tent, as I go to bed.

If I have one qualm with the CFX3 45 it is with its lid latch. The latch releases easily enough, which not all fridge latches do, but closing it isn’t seamless. The lid is light enough that it doesn’t close on its own, if you just drop the lid. So, I commonly have to punch the top after I close it, to ensure it latches properly.

Photo by Josh Ashcroft

Is this a big problem? Certainly not. Do I wish I didn’t have to spend a split second every time I open the fridge to ensure it’s fully closed? You bet. Am I perhaps being a bit too persnickety? Also, probably yes.

Conclusion

After months of usage — both on and off road — I can say unequivocally that I adore my CFX3 45. I actually use it daily. It makes workout cooldowns even more pleasurable, as I can enjoy a cold sparkling water while I drive home from the gym.

Moreover, I often forget to restock my home fridge with sparkling water and beer. So, I find myself wandering out to the driveway on almost a daily basis to crack the CFX3 45 open for a cold beverage.

Photo by Josh Ashcroft

Photo by Josh Ashcroft

I do wish the CFX3 45 were bigger. It’s big enough to support 2 people for perhaps four nights and five days on the trail, but not much more. This isn’t a knock on the 46-liter CFX3 45, though. My hand was forced, though, because that’s the largest Dometic that the Goose Gear Ultimate Kitchen can accommodate. But you can’t win them all.

Having now lived with a CFX3 55IM and now a CFX3 45, I can proudly say that I am a Dometic fridge devotee. I won’t muck about with any others. Sure, the Dometic units might be more expensive than others, but you get what you pay for. Like a lot of things in overlanding, you just have to buy once and cry once. With the CFX3 series, you’ll be glad you did.


What to know:

  • Volume: 46 liters
  • Volume: 12.15 gallons
  • Can Count (12oz): 67
  • Zones: Single
  • Dimensions (LxWxH): 27.32 x 15.67 x 18.74
  • Weight: 41.23 pounds
  • Temp Range: -7F to +50F (-21.7C to 10C)
  • DC Power: One 12/24-volt DC outlet
  • AC Power: One 120-volt AC outlet
  • Average Hourly Draw: 0.80 amps
  • Lid: Removable 1-way
  • MSRP: $949.99

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