12V Microwaves for Camping

Frank Ross
WaveBox 12V Microwave

When you're spending time in the great outdoors, convenience and simplicity of meal preparation are two important elements of being a happy camper. When 12-volt (12V) microwaves were introduced in 2008, they looked like a great option for speeding up meals when camping, especially in a location that doesn't have an easy source of electrical power. However, the concept did not catch on. While a few different options have been available over the years, there is only one model still on the market - the WaveBox.

Wave Box 12V Microwave

The WaveBox is a portable 12V microwave oven. It is available in a 12V only model, as well as in an AC/DC version. With the AC/DC model, you don't have to stress your battery if you're at a camping spot with electricity, but you can still enjoy the convenience of microwave when power is not available.

The WaveBox has a capacity 0.7 cubic feet and provides 660 watts of power. The exterior is made out of reinforced ABS plastic and rubber, making it rugged enough to handle the rigors of car camping.

If you're like most campers you never seem to have enough cooler space, so an included bonus feature makes the WaveBox attractive. It comes in a CoolBag which keeps your food cool until you're ready to eat.

Performance

Customer reviews indicate a variety of complaints about this product and Cabela's, Amazon and Walmart.com have all stopped carrying it. Knowing that, if you're still set on trying this product in the field, consider the available reviews before investing your money.

Walmart.com customer reviews, from when the product could be ordered, are very negative. While they are somewhat less negative on Amazon, the dominant rating there is a single star. Customers complain of excessive run times to heat food and beverages, as well as size limitations.

Another concern for this item would be repairs and parts availability. It is made in China and there are no parts available in the U.S.

Pricing

Roadtrucker.com offers the unit in a DC only version for around $300 and an AC/DC version for $335.

Benefits

  • Convenience: Portable microwave ovens that don't require electricity promise convenience when you are traveling or camping. They make it possible to produce non-perishable microwavable goods, such as popcorn, soup, or instant meals fairly easy.
  • Compact size: The WaveBox is small enough to fit in the center console of larger cars or just about anywhere in larger vehicles.
  • Emergency usage: This type of microwave could come in handy for unexpected power outages and other emergency situations which turn your normal routine into an impromptu camping event.

Realistic Expectations

If you decide to move ahead with purchasing this type of microwave, be sure that your expectations are realistic.

Battery Drain

You can expect a 12V microwave to drain your automotive battery quickly, so be cautious not to run your battery down to the point that you can't get your vehicle started. It would be a good idea to have your vehicle's battery load tested before leaving civilization on a camping expedition to have a better understanding of its ability to endure heavy use and recover. You may have to start your vehicle occasionally to recharge the battery if you use the oven frequently.

Capacity

For a single camper of a couple with limited menus this microwave might be worth the money, but if it doesn't significantly speed up meal preparation why bother? Isn't cooking by the campfire a major part of the appeal in going outdoors?

Other Options

While inverters are available that allow you to operate some types of devices that require electricity using your car's battery, using one with a microwave really isn't viable. The power demands of a standard microwave are excessive for even the most generous power inverters.

It's even challenging to operate a traditional microwave using a generator. This is due to the microwave's power surge requirements, which also require a more robust battery and heavier cables, which is why manufacturers took a shot a coming up with 12V units.

However, it is power that produces speed. While a 12V microwave might work in a pinch, you might be better served by leaving microwave cooking for home or RV camping.

12V Microwaves for Camping