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What to Look for When Choosing a Portable or Travel CPAP Machine

Understanding the benefits of a travel CPAP machine and how to choose the best option for your needs.

Standard CPAP machines are lighter and more compact than ever. 

But they’re still not the most portable items around due to their weight and multiple components. 

Whether you’re travelling for work or leisure, your sleep apnea symptoms won’t just pause because you won’t be at home near your machine.

Leaving your CPAP machine at home might seem more convenient but could leave you feeling sluggish, irritable, and sleep-deprived.

So what can you do?

Travel CPAP machines are an excellent way to enjoy the benefits of PAP therapy while away from home. 

In this guide, we’ll cover what makes these machines worth considering and what to look for when buying a travel CPAP machine.

Travel CPAP Benefits

Before we dive into what to look for, it’s important to consider why you might choose a portable model if you have a traditional CPAP machine already at home

Size Matters: Portable, Powerful CPAP Machines

The smaller size is one of the most obvious benefits of portable CPAP machines (sometimes called travel CPAP machines.)

Some machines are small enough to almost slip in your pocket while others are closer to the size of a small plate. 

But even the largest travel CPAP machines are noticeably smaller than their traditional CPAP counterparts.

With the reduced size, also comes reduced weight. 

So you don’t have to worry about weighing down your luggage or taking up precious bag space when travelling. 

Most models weigh 450g or less, making them barely noticeable — even for more active travel and outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, or boating!

Keeping Things Simple to Promote Portability

While we wouldn’t call a traditional CPAP machine cumbersome, all the parts involved can make them less than ideal for tossing into your bag and setting up in a hotel room later.

There’s also the risk of damaging your CPAP parts and accessories during travel.

Portable CPAP machines simplify the entire CPAP setup, often doing away with humification tanks, bulky power cords, and thick tubing.

Instead, they opt for compact travel hoses and attempt to integrate as many of the features as possible directly into the unit.

For example, most travel CPAP machines with humidifiers simply use the moisture in your own breath to keep things comfortable instead of relying on a separate tank or reservoir. You also won’t have to worry about toting distilled water around with you during your travels.

Powering Up! Battery Packs, Solar, and More

If you can’t easily power your CPAP machine while travelling, it won’t do you much good.

While you can adjust your surroundings at home to account for your CPAP machine’s power needs, rearranging a hotel room or finding electrical outlets at a campsite is much less convenient.

To help with this, many travel CPAP machines feature an external or internal battery pack

While you’ll still need to be able to charge your batteries periodically, the ability to bring spares or charge your batteries while going about your day adds undeniable convenience.

Some models even offer USB charging or solar charging for added flexibility.

If you’re going to be travelling for an extended period — such as by train, plane, or boat — battery-powered CPAP machines can allow you to rest fully during the hours between your destinations. 

Just make sure the model you have is approved by the company you’re travelling with for use while on the move to avoid any surprises! For example, many airlines require an internal battery for you to use your CPAP while in flight. External batteries are often not allowed.

Keeping Things Accountable

If your PAP therapy requires logging sleep data and proving that you’re using your machine regularly, many travel CPAP machines allow you to log information to a MicroSD card or synchronize your machine with a mobile app to keep your doctor informed and optimize your therapy — even while on the go!

Portable CPAP Pitfalls

While there is a lot to love about portable CPAP machines, there are a few things to keep in mind before committing to one as well. 

Before you buy, consider the following points as well to make sure you won’t end up overspending or are left disappointed.

Less Size, Less Pressure

If you have a CPAP prescription with a pressure level higher than 20cm H20, you might find that many travel CPAP machine models won’t be able to meet your pressure requirements.

If your prescription is at or near 20cm H20, take the time to dial in the fit of your mask to create an excellent seal and inspect all tubing to confirm that it is in top condition. 

This will help to ensure that you’re getting every bit of pressure needed.

Extra Accessories and Compatibility Concerns

Even if you already have spare CPAP masks, tubing, or other accessories for the machine you use at home, there’s a chance you’ll need to purchase new ones for use with your travel CPAP machine.

If your travel CPAP machine supports your existing tubing, mask, or filters, you might still need to use an adapter. 

So be sure to check instructions and manufacturer recommendations to avoid any surprises.

As you might also find it harder to source CPAP supplies on the go, we also recommend buying extra supplies for your travel CPAP machine where possible. 

While this will add to the overall cost of setting up a portable CPAP machine, it means you’ll never need to worry about suddenly losing access to your PAP therapy!

Insurance Uncertainty

Most insurance plans and government programs won’t cover a travel CPAP machine as they’re not always considered a necessary item. 

As such, you could be responsible for the full cost of the travel CPAP machine (and any needed supplies and accessories!)

However, by using reputable sources and comparing prices, you can likely buy a travel CPAP machine online at a significant discount from retail prices. Just keep in mind that you’ll still need a prescription to purchase one even if you’re not using insurance coverage to do so!

An Additional Machine, Not a Replacement

In most cases, a travel machine can’t replace the CPAP machine you have at home full time. 

While the quality of most travel CPAP machines is great, many of the compromises made to help make them an exceptional choice for travel means that they don’t stand up to the rigours of full-time, long-term use well. 

So don’t get rid of your main machine or attempt to replace it with your travel CPAP machine. 

Just consider the travel machine a convenient complement to your existing hardware!

Smaller Size, Bigger Noise

Finally, another impact of reducing the size of the CPAP machine is that much of the sound insulation used to keep CPAP machines designed for home use is missing.

As such, most travel CPAP machines run 3 to 5 decibels louder than their full-sized counterparts. Most machines will list their noise levels while operating in their specs to provide an idea of what to expect.

Choosing a Travel CPAP Machine

As manufacturers release more travel CPAP machine options, choosing which one is best for you gets more complex. 

However, by considering the following factors, you should be able to limit your options to a few ideal models or brands.

  • Cost: Since most people will pay for a travel CPAP machine out of pocket, the cost is likely to be one of the biggest factors to consider. Be sure to consider the additional costs of any required tubing, masks, batteries, or filters as well so that there are no surprises.
  • Weight & Size: These are likely to run hand in hand, so we’re listing them together. Depending on how often you travel, your typical use cases, and the specifics of your PAP therapy prescription, you’ll want to find an optimal balance of size, power, features, and weight for you.
  • Power Requirements: If you’re looking for a CPAP machine for camping and other off-the-grid adventures — or for use while on a plane, train, or bus — you’re going to want a model with a battery pack. Better still, a CPAP machine with an external battery pack will allow you to keep multiple charged batteries on hand and swap them as needed so you can spend more time focusing on the reason why you’re travelling and less time micromanaging your charge levels.
  • Pressure Range: PAP therapy isn’t as effective if you’re not receiving the optimal pressure to eliminate your apnea symptoms. If you have a low-pressure prescription, most travel CPAP machines are more than capable. But for prescriptions above 20cm H20, you’ll want to look at machine specifications and features to ensure they will meet your needs.
  • Humidity Requirements: If you’re accustomed to using a humidifier on your CPAP machine at home, you’re very likely to notice the missing moisture if you try to use a travel CPAP machine without humidification. If you’d like to lighten your travelling load, many units offer tankless or waterless humidification, using the moisture in your own breath to keep things comfortable.
  • Data Tracking: If your PAP therapy requires regular reporting to your doctor or sleep specialist, a travel CPAP machine with data logging or a portable CPAP machine with a mobile app is a must.
  • Automatic Altitude Adjustment: The settings on your CPAP machine are personalized. But many of those settings can be set once and left alone. Travel CPAP machines with automatic altitude adjustment help to account for one of the most overlooked settings on your machine, ensuring accurate pressure levels and smooth operation in a wide variety of locations.

Not Sure Where to Start?

As we’ve discussed in this guide on choosing a portable or travel CPAP machine, there is a lot to consider. As such, the perfect machine for one person might not work well for another. 

If you’re looking for some reliable options to start your considerations, the following receive excellent reviews and are well known for their reasonable prices and reliable performance.

  • HDM Z2 Travel Auto CPAP Machine: As one of the smallest travel CPAP machines available, the HDM Z2 is whisper quiet, features a built-in battery, and takes advantage of waterless humidification to keep things comfortable. Better still, the auto-adjusting pressure levels and broad mask compatibility make it a solid option for a range of prescriptions and preferences.
  • ResMed AirMini Travel APAP Machine: With an optional battery, near-silent operation, waterless humidification, and a smartphone app to help track your data, the ResMed AirMini is one of the most advanced travel CPAP machines available. It even supports CPAP or APAP therapies. However, mask compatibility isn’t as good as other models.

Key Takeaways

  • Travel CPAP machines (also known as portable CPAP machines) offer a more compact, convenient way of enjoying the benefits of PAP therapy while away from home.
  • Most portable CPAP machines feature simplified designs to reduce the number of parts you need to connect, maintain, and keep track of while you’re travelling.
  • Battery power, solar charging, USB charging, and other power configurations provide a level of flexibility you won’t typically find with traditional CPAP machines.
  • Mobile app integration and SD card support are often available to help track sleep metrics and provide CPAP usage data to your medical care provider when you’re not able to use your primary CPAP machine.
  • While convenient, many portable CPAP machines aren’t ideal for pressure ratings over 20cm H20.
  • You might need to buy separate masks, filters, and other accessories for your travel CPAP machine, increasing the overall cost to use one.
  • Since most insurance plans and government programs consider travel CPAP machines unnecessary, you’ll likely need to pay the full cost when purchasing one.
  • You should not use a travel CPAP machine in place of your standard CPAP machine as their compact size makes them less suitable for long-term use.
  • When choosing a CPAP machine, consider the cost, weight, size, power requirements, pressure output range, data tracking, and altitude adjustment capabilities to find the right option for you.

CPAP Supply is Canada’s online leader in customer satisfaction. Our selection of travel CPAP machines, traditional CPAP machines, and CPAP machine supplies and accessories make it easy to source everything you need to make the most of your PAP therapy and keep your equipment running smoothly. Browse our product catalogue or contact us today to discover how we can help you rest better!

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