IT’S one of the mysteries of male Australia, the relationship between men and their Engel camping fridge. You don’t own an Engel? You don’t own an Engel! The Engel man will become a little breathless as he urges you to get one, to forget about the price, as he reassures you that it will never let you down, not even in the desert.
His is in the back of the fourbie right now, chilling a few drinks just to keep it ticking over, and you wouldn’t know it was on. Had it 15 years and hasn’t missed a beat. Been out the back of Tamworth with it once. Best thing he ever bought. If this fellow has a slider for his Engel in the fourbie he’ll be bursting to show you how the fridge slides out over the opened tailgate. A slider is like another stripe for Engel men.
Engel men have been bailing me up all my adult life and all my adult life I’ve been wondering what the fuss was about. It is just a camping fridge, I’d think, and 40 litres of fridge space is barely enough for a night’s beer, and what happens when the battery is drained? Dual battery system in the four wheeler, the Engel man would state po faced as he fought to suppress a grin of triumph. Another stripe.
But I could never get it, I could never understand why someone would want to pay $1000 or more, and now $1500 and more, for a tiny space with a top lid that could drain a car battery overnight and leave the outdoors man without both refrigeration and mobility. Unless he had a second battery, of course, in which case he could start the fourbie and drive into town for ice.
So, many years ago after my family lost our meat supply again when it slipped into the water in the bottom of the esky we bought a Chescold three-way fridge, which set off a new barrage from Engel men. But your Engel won’t work on gas, I’d tell them, and I truly could not get past the advantage of a fridge that could survive three weeks on a bottle of gas rather than a day or two on a car battery. And cost half the money! But your three-way, they’d retort, barely works on 12 volt. (The two fridges have different refrigeration systems.) And I’d shrug. I mean, who cares! Three-way fridge people have a three-way fridge, and Engel men seem to have something more than a fridge. Maybe it’s membership of the club of Engel men, men who wear stubbies and anklets and who go camping primarily to give the Engel a run.
For a long time Engels, and Engel men, were up there alone, but in recent years a challenger has added a new note of desperation to their obsession. There have been a number of challengers that have fallen short, sometimes well short, but the Waeco camping fridge is now right up there. And we have Waeco men too, even if they’re not as in your face. It’s the new Holden-Ford thing, the rivalry that for decades divided men when there wasn’t much else to divide them.
Now, I am neither Engel nor Waeco, and I don’t have a clue as to which is best, but at the weekend when my wife and I came across a camping store owner who was the full bottle on tents I thought I’d see how he went on the fridges. We were there to check out the options for an instant campsite, and after realising that the 30-second Oztent would have to be close enough I asked Kevin whether we should get an Engel or Waeco fridge. Not even I was prepared for the onslaught of amps, amphours, ambient temperatures and a unit for measuring how far a fridge can go below the ambient temperature and whose name I’ve forgotten.
I wasn’t to get him wrong, Kevin warned me, he’d had an Engel for many years and he loved it, but there was now only one sensible choice, a Waeco! And off he went again with facts, figures and comparisons, mainly to do with how long each would work on batteries of the same capacity.
And I see, I told him, that the Waeco is $500 cheaper too.
Oh no no, he admonished me, I should never consider price when choosing a camping fridge!
An Engel man never gets over it.
Are you an Engel man? Does loyalty to any brand mean more in your life than it should?