TESTED: Dometic CFX3 45

At the 2019 SEMA show, Dometic released their CFX3 line of electric coolers, which are the latest generation of the CFX series that I’ve reviewed in the past HERE.  Everything from the compressor to the control app was updated for this complete product line refresh, and after spending some time checking out the new coolers at the show, I left Dometic’s booth eager to put one to the test in the real world.  We all know that seeing something at an industry show is one thing, and spending months with that same product while traveling thousands of miles off-road in the real world is another – so rather than create just one more short term review of a product, I figured I would push this one out to over a year of use – to see just what living with the CFX3 is like well after the honeymoon phase of ownership.

At first glance, a CFX3 electric cooler may look similar to the old CFX series, but look closer and you’ll begin to see just how much has changed.  Construction wise, everything from the handles to the compressor unit to the controls have been revised.  The handles are now all aluminum, so there’s no need to worry about cracking a handle if something smashes into the cooler or if your buddy goes full hulk mode using a ratchet strap around a handle to secure the cooler in your vehicle.  We can’t see the compressor unit, but know that it’s an entirely new unit that is more efficient, consumes less power, and creates less noise than it’s predecessor.  This means that the CFX3 coolers are easier on your battery system when you’re parked, and they’re even easier to sleep near.  Dometic has also moved the compressor to the opposite end of the cooler from the lid opening, so now when you open the lid the deep end is closest to you.

On the control side of things, the CFX3 series steps into the modern age with a high resolution display that is a welcome change over the old LCD display on the older coolers.  No longer will you have to reference your manual to remember how to make a settings change, or figure out what the display is trying to tell you.  With the CFX3 display you can clearly read, adjust, and understand all of the settings with just a few button presses.  The whole process is very intuitive, and folks who have never seen the manual can make any adjustment needed without issue.  When the display isn’t in use, a little snowflake icon on the display lets you know the unit is powered up, so parasitic draw is less than the bright LEDs used by other brands of coolers.  Next to the display, you’ll also find a USB port that’s been upgraded to provide 2 Amps of power at 5V, which is a welcome upgrade over the 500 milli-amp outlet on the old CFX units.  This increase in current means that the CFX3 can actually charge modern power-hungry devices, and the port is in a great location to power a speaker or other device while you’re in camp.

Speaking of devices, Dometic has also improved the companion app for the CFX3 series. The app uses a Bluetooth connection that sips power, and now you can plot your cooler’s energy consumption in addition to fully controlling the cooler from your phone.  In use, I’ve noticed absolutely no hiccups using the app on Android devices, and being able to know how much power your cooler is currently consuming and how much power it has been consuming is powerful information when it coming to determining just how long you can go before needing to charge your battery system.  The CFX3 series coolers do come with a configurable low voltage cutoff, so you can protect your battery system from over discharging.  As they say knowledge is power, and it’s super easy to pop open the app and see where your battery system is at, rather than having to guess at your state of charge. 

Inside the CFX3 45, things will start to look like familiar Dometic territory, and it’s here where you’ll find the versatile system of baskets and dividers that allow you to organize your cooler loadout.  There is a basket for the shallow section of the cooler, and a basket for the deep section that be divided in half vertically with a removable insert.  Volume wise, the CFX3 45 measures in at 46 liters of storage, and this works out to a deep basket that can hold 16 sleeved standard size soda cans per layer with ease.  Drive off-road long enough and the simple action of cans rubbing against each other as you bounce down a trail can wear a hole in an aluminum can.  Pro tip: This is why you can never have too many foam beer koozies.  Should a can have a hole worn in it, or something else in your cooler decide to leak, there’s still a drain plug that’s easy to use at the bottom of the cooler.

Getting in and out of the CFX3 45 is where I noticed about the only issue that I’ve been able to find in my extended time with the cooler.  That issue is that the lid doesn’t always latch unless you give it a firm press to close it.  I would like the lid to work like a car door, in the respect that it’s easy to close and that it seals well, yet with the CFX3 lid, even dropping it closed isn’t enough to do the trick.  The best practice is to gently close the lid and then give it a press to engage the latch.  This is by no means a deal breaker, but I’ve seen other CFX3 coolers suffer the same ailment, and there may have been one case where a cooler in the back of a truck was closed but not latched, and spirited driving resulted in lunch being put out early – but the point is, just check that the lid is latched and you’re good to go.  Other than the lid, every CFX3 cooler I’ve encountered in the wild has worked flawlessly.

The 100 year old hotel and the 100 day old CFX3 45.

If you’re reading this and thinking to yourself that yeah, an electric cooler would be rad, but that’s a lot of money to spend on a camping gadget – remember this:  Dometic also provides an AC power adapter so that you can run your cooler when you’re at home or anywhere else you have access to AC power.  This means that your electric cooler can pull double duty and be of value at home and on the road.  Need a drink cooler in the shop?  Need a place to store additional food so that you don’t have to go to the grocery store as often?  Staying in a hotel for long term work? Don’t think of an electric cooler as a camping only tool – they are devices which can provide value every day of the year, or whenever you need them. 

In a nod to Dometic’s longevity, one of our American Adventurist staff has been running the same Dometic electric cooler for more than seven years now, and thanks to the solar panel on his roof, it’s been on 24/7.

The CFX3 45 Cooler that I’ve been testing for the last year hasn’t been phased by anything that I’ve thrown at it.  To give you a quick idea of what It’s been through, the cooler has:  Frozen in the winter in Idaho, baked in a hot car in the middle of summer in Phoenix, and logged nearly 35,000 miles of travel.  Several thousand of these miles were off-road, doing everything from Go-Fast Dirt to rock-donkey rock crawling.  The cooler may or may not have logged a little bit of flight time, and it’s spent plenty of time packed next to everything from other pelican boxes to recovery gear while bouncing around all over the Western US.  It may have a few scuffs and scrapes and dust that will never come out, but the unit works just as well as it did on day one.

The Dometic CFX3 45 has been an awesome electric cooler.  I have to give Dometic props for looking at their old CFX series of coolers (which are solid units) and figuring out how to make them better.  With the CFX3, the compressor is more efficient and quiet.  The user interface is so much easier to use.  And other little details like the revised USB port all add up to make a cooler that has been a joy to use.  The bottom line is this:  If you want an electric cooler that you just plug in and know that it’s going to work, you can’t go wrong with a CFX3.  No matter where your adventure is going to take you, know that the CFX3 will stand up to what you throw at it, and keep everything you throw in it cool.  When the road finally sees you back home, know that an electric cooler can be utilized around the house – so don’t think that an electric cooler is a travel-only toy.  Electric coolers have never been easier to use, or more useful – so if you’ve been on the fence about ditching ice, know that with a CFX3 cooler you’ll never look back.

Full Disclosure: Dometic provided a sample CFX3 45 electric cooler free of charge to the author for the purposes of this review.

TESTED: Lightforce Lights HTX2 Twin Pack

For the last ten years, I’ve had a pair of Lightforce Blitz lights on the front of my Tacoma – and they’ve been awesome lights.  Ten years is a long time to have any product, and it’s even more impressive when you consider that these lights have been outside for that entire time.  These lights have baked in the Arizona sun, and frozen in the Colorado winter.  They’ve held up to more than 150,000 miles of driving, and have continued to light my way every time I’ve hit the switch.  So it’s safe to say that Lightforce knows how to make a solid light.  Now however, I’ve got a pair of Lightforce’s new HTX2 lights to play with, and based on my old Lightforce lights, these HTX2s have a lot to live up to. 

Bombproof reversible mounts

The HTX2 is Lightforce’s latest and greatest driving light, and it packs a very unique feature set into a very well-made bombproof housing.  By combining HID and LED technology, Lightforce has essentially created one light that can do it all.  A single HID bulb can throw a Lux of light well over a mile, and 20 LEDs cast a wide arc of light that gives you flood coverage to compliment the distance of the HID.  Both the HID and LEDs are tied to their own circuits, so you can run the HID and LEDs together, or each circuit individually to match your needs.  All of this light is packed into an aluminum housing that’s a work of manufacturing art, and sealed to exceed IP68 and IP69K levels.  Just picking a single HTX 2 up lets you know that these lights are the real deal.  They’re heavy, and they feel so well made that you could use one as a wheel chock – but I’ll leave that sort of test to the YouTubers who are known for such torture testing.  The point is, your vehicle will break before these lights do.

Included with a pair of HTX2 lights is a wiring harness that is well made to the point that it’s actually something you’re going to want to use.  All of the conductors are high quality, and little details like adhesive heat shrink, braided PET sheathing and split loom all add up to make a harness that will last for years in any operating environment.  The included harness is designed to work with a switch controller like an sPOD, which makes the wiring process incredibly simple.  All you have to do is plug the harness into each light, and then terminate the two hots for the two lighting circuits and a ground to the sPOD. 

If your vehicle doesn’t have a switch controller, Lightforce also makes a wiring harness that comes complete with relays and switches.  This harness can also be integrated into the vehicle’s factory high beam wiring if desired.  Like the included harness, this optional harness is very well made, and takes all the work out of pinning out relays and fuses and the other elements needed to properly wire in a set of lights, so know that it’s an option if you need it.

Once everything is wired up, take a couple of minutes to look at the other useful stuff that comes in the box while you’re waiting for it to get dark out.  The pair of HTX2s comes with black out filters which are great if you live where such things are required when you’re driving on road.  There’s also a set of clear filters included with the kit and I have to say that I really like having filters on these lights as they’re a perfect for protecting your expensive lights from flying rocks and other road debris.  Lightforce has been doing cool things with filters for years, and I have to point out that I’ve really enjoyed their combo filters on my old Blitz lights.  The combo filter gives you a flood and spot pattern out of each light, which really gives you the best of both worlds.  You get some spot coverage for distance lighting, and you get some flood coverage for seeing what’s hiding in the trees just off the road, or what’s coming around the bend.  Combo filters do exist for the HTX2, but I haven’t played with them. 

Factory Low Beams.
Factory Low Beams. HTX2 LEDs.
Factory Low Beams. HTX2 LEDs. HTX2 HIDs.

Thankfully, the two circuits on the HTX2 mean that you can cover spot (distance) and flood (fog) lighting just by turning on both circuits.  The LED circuit comes to life instantly and bathes the area in front of your vehicle in a wide swath of light that’s great for cornering or seeing what’s in the woodwork lining the road at night.  Whether you’re trying to avoid hitting those deer you keep seeing in the trees, or pick your way thought a bit of technical trail, the LEDs to a great job of keeping things bathed in light close to your vehicle.  The output of modern LEDs is quite impressive, and Lightforce as you would expect, has sourced quality diodes.  At a 5000K color temperature, they’re close enough to sunlight that color reproduction isn’t an issue – In other words, things look very close to how they would during the daytime.

HIDs casting light from one cinder cone to another.

Likewise, the HID circuit also puts out light at 5000k, and boy can these HID bulbs cover some distance.  It wasn’t long ago that HID lights were are cool as it got for off-road lighting, so it’s been a fun rediscovery getting to use HID off-road lights again.  Know that even in 2020, HIDs are still a very relevant lighting technology.  The HIDs on the HTX2s will take a couple of seconds to come up to full power, but once they’re on you know it.  Lightforce claims a lux of light at 1811 yards, which is over a mile, and the DOT C2 reflective tape agrees with the advertised spec in my testing.  If you’re wondering what a lux is, it’s the unit of measure for how much light is actually making onto a given surface.  Many light manufactures rate their lights in lumens, which is a measurement of light output at the light, and it’s important to remember that said output could be going anywhere – up into space or other places where it’s not providing any value included.  Lux lets us know how much light is actually making to the surface we want to shed light on, and it’s a measurement I wish more manufactures would spec.  And it is here where I need to point out something with the HID’s on the HTX2.

The HID X Pattern. Full Disclosure: Lights were aimed down and a few degrees away from one another to show what the X pattern looks like up close. When aimed for driving this effect is reduced.

I intentionally didn’t convert my 240s to HID because I didn’t want to give up my nice even halogen light output for the X pattern that Lightforce HIDs made, so I’m bummed to see that the X pattern is still a thing on the HIDs in the HTX2.  In a world where most folks are going to be familiar with carefully shaped beams of light from their factory lights or from LEDs which produce even output, the HID X pattern just falls short.  Now make no mistake, the HIDs can send light a long way into the night, and I’ll take a X pattern on a deer way down the road, over no light on the deer any day of the week – its just surprising to see that this hasn’t changed.  However, I would have to expect that using the combo filters on the HTX2 would solve this problem quite nicely, and render that X pattern into a much more uniform beam pattern.  Lightforce claims a Lux at 1205 yards on the HTX2 when using a combo filter, and more than half a mile of range is still quite awesome.

Getting light where you need it hundreds of yards down the road is something that takes time spent carefully aiming your lights to fully benefit, so be prepared to spend time aiming these lights.  Changes to how much weight your vehicle is carrying will also change where your HIDs are shining their lights, so be prepared to nudge your HTX2s, just as you would have to adjust any other long range light for best results.  Lightforce specs a pair of super beefy 10mm hex cap screws to secure the tilt or pitch axis of the lights and with a carefully set torque, you can adjust the lights by hand and not have them move around on you while driving at night – no matter how bad the washboards get.


In use – the HTX2s are an outstanding option for a quiver of one light.  Other lights on the market only allow you to run the flood circuit or the spot – not both.  Yet with the HTX2s, you can have all your light any time you need it, and that is exactly what makes it such a great option for vehicles that will only get a couple additional lights.  When you need flood coverage – you have it with the HTX2.  When you want to see what is way out there in front of you – you can with the HTX2.  All of this functionality is packed into a light housing that I would fully expect to last longer than the vehicle these lights are installed on.  Lighting is absolutely a product where you get what you pay for, so do it right the first time and buy something quality that will last, and most importantly that will light your way every time you hit the switch.

Look closely and you can see the HIDs illuminating hills way down the road!

Lightforce’s HTX2s have proven to be worthy successors to the Blitz lights that I’ve run for years.  The HTX2s bring additional light output and control (thanks to their two circuits) to the front of my vehicle to make a more than worth it lighting upgrade.   With just two lights, I have all the confidence in the world to drive as fast as I want at night without worry of outrunning my light, or having wildlife sneak up on me – and that confidence can’t be overstated.  Lightforce has only improved on the formula of quality and performance that made the Blitz such awesome lights and carried that forward into the HTX2.  If you’re looking for a one light solution that will make a night and day difference in your lighting system, the HTX2s are going to be hard to beat.  One light can do a really good job of doing it all – and I have no reason to doubt that the Lightforce HTX2 lights will work flawlessly for years and years to come.

FULL DISCLOSURE: Lightforce Lights provided a set of HTX2 Lights to the author free of charge for the purposes of this review.