Last updated: January 4th, 2017
If you have sleep apnea and have ever gone a night without using your CPAP machine, then you know how much you always need it. In the past, I have thought about leaving my CPAP machine behind for a trip because I didn't want to travel with a full-sized CPAP. If you are looking for the best travel CPAP machine, you're in luck. Keep reading and you will find one of the following portable CPAP machines to be suitable for your travels.
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Traveling with a full-sized CPAP machine can be a real challenge. Some can double as a home machine that is portable enough to travel with. The Apex XT Fit comes to mind. Others are made specifically to work as an extra CPAP machine that you can take with you on a plane, boat, or camping. They are small, lightweight, and give you many of the basic functions of a regular CPAP machine.
One thing is for certain, you shouldn't be slowed down in life due to your sleep apnea. You want to get away on vacation. Sometimes you need to travel for work. Or, you simply want to sleep over at a friend's house or go camping without tugging heavy equipment with you.
With one of these travel CPAP machines, you can be as mobile as you want. If you are hesitant about buying a separate travel CPAP machine, but you're looking for an upgrade, read our review of the ResMed AirSense 10 - the best CPAP machine.
List of The Best Travel CPAP Machines
Below, I will list the best CPAP machines for traveling. I'll take price, features, and portability into account.
HDM Z1 Travel CPAP Machine
To start, I'm going to say the Z1 is the best travel CPAP machine. However, you'll have to pay the price for the best. You won’t believe the features that can be packed into a CPAP machine that is only 6.48 in. x 3.3 in. x 2.02 in. That’s as small as some electric razors.
Though it only has a single therapy pressure setting, it does have a lot of other features you would find on your at-home CPAP machine.
You get ramp pressure that allows you to set the machine to incrementally increase up to 45 minutes. That gives you a chance to fall asleep with lower air pressure. Of course, you can set it without the ramp feature if you are comfortable falling asleep with full pressure.
Z-Breathe pressure relief gives you the same reduction in pressure as you exhale that you would expect from your main CPAP unit. It can be quite claustrophobic for some to feel that struggle to breath against full pressure. For those that need it, this reduction in pressure is a welcome addition to a travel CPAP machine.
The Z-Breathe has three different settings: gentle, moderate, and aggressive relief. You may need to experiment to find which setting is most comfortable for you.
The pressure is even adjusted in case of leaks. You can sleep soundly knowing that, if your mask is not fitted properly, you will still get your prescribed pressure. If the leak is really bad, the unit will display a warning on the LCD screen saying “Reminder."
Probably the most unexpected feature for a travel CPAP machine is the ability to record your sleep performance even when you are in flight. The data includes usage time and leaks. Even on the road, you want to know that your unit is working at peak performance. If you see that adjustments need to be made, you can do that at night.
What really makes this a fantastic travel CPAP machine is that there is an optional Powershell for the battery. What this does is make a cradle that fits the battery and the unit together into one bundle. It still takes up very little space, and it keeps things nicely organized and easy to store or move around.
Automatic altitude adjustment, plus the size of the unit, make it a go-to travel CPAP machine. As with other dedicated travel CPAP machines, this probably won’t replace your at-home device since it only has a single therapy pressure setting. It does work great as a back-up unit in case there are problems with your main CPAP because it has other features not found in most travel CPAP machines.
There are a few things to note. This travel CPAP is listed as being 28 decibels. The unit definitely is quiet, but the pressure might have your mask making noises. It is not uncommon for masks to make a slight wheezing noise. The hose is narrow, and that likely is the culprit.
Also worth mentioning is that the hose is four feet long as opposed to the more common six feet. That might be fine for some, but others might want a wider or longer hose.
Apex XT Fit Travel CPAP
The XT Fit is the best travel CPAP machine for your money. If you're looking for something basic that provides the necessary CPAP pressure to treat your sleep apnea, you should buy this model. You may find yourself in a dilemma when you are happy with the at-home CPAP machine you have and need to travel. Your at-home machine is just too heavy and bulky, and it can be expensive buying another machine just for travel.
Luckily, there is the XT Fit CPAP machine that is small, lightweight, works great and, best of all, doesn’t break the bank.
For under $300, you can purchase this wonderful unit just for travel. It might not have all the bells and whistles that your at-home machine has, but it definitely will help you get the sleep you need when you are on the road.
One feature that is a nice bonus for a travel CPAP machine is the ramp feature. Though it isn’t intuitive, you can set a timer for when the full air pressure starts. The way it works is that you can have the pressure start as low as 3cmH20 up to 1cmH2O for when you want to fall asleep.
Some people have trouble falling asleep when they are breathing the full pressure. Starting out at a more comfortable pressure, it will gradually increase every five minutes for as long as you have it set for or up to 45 minutes. If you can fall asleep in that time, then you will be right up to your set therapy pressure for your apnea.
The weight is a little over two pounds plus another pound for the travel bag. The great thing about this travel unit is that the AC power supply is on the inside. There is no more big brick on the power cord that is not only heavy, but also inconvenient when traveling.
Without the optional humidifier, this travel CPAP comes in at 11 in. by 7 in. by 7 in. In other words, it will fit into most carry-on bags. If your airline won’t let you carry it on separately, you can tuck it in your checked bag.
The downside to this machine is its lack of sleep performance readings. It doesn’t record or display any compliance data, so you have to hope that, while you are traveling, it is working to help your sleep apnea.
This travel CPAP machine probably won’t replace your at-home device. It does get the job done when you are on a flight, camping, or hiking and can’t be without your CPAP machine. For the price, it goes beyond just getting the job done.
IntelliPAP 2 AutoAdjust CPAP Machine
Is the IntelliPAP a travel CPAP machine that’s good enough for home use? Or, is it a home CPAP machine that is lightweight and convenient enough for travel?
It really doesn’t matter what the answer is. The fact is, it is a great machine that has all the features you would expect from an at-home CPAP machine. Since it is compact, it is fantastic to travel with, and you won’t have to sacrifice the features that you have come to love while at home.
It is one of the quietest machines on the market. That is great news for you, your partner, and anyone seated next to you on an airplane. While most CPAP machines claim to operate at the same decibel as a whisper, the IntelliPAP is even quieter than that. At 26 decibels, it is so quiet that you will find yourself checking the mask to make sure it works.
For such a small package, it has many great features.
Comfort is a priority for most sleep apnea sufferers. The SmartFlex feature adjusts the air pressure during your exhale to keep you breathing easily. It isn’t a smart function, but it does allow for three different settings. Just find which setting is comfortable for you when exhaling.
The settings range from 1cmH2O to 3cmH2O. If you struggle to exhale against the air pressure of other machines, then it will come as a relief to have some adjustments at your fingertips.
If there are changes to your events at night, the IntelliPAP ultra sensitive snore detection will automatically adjust the pressure based on your apnea or hypopnea. If your sleep study was awhile ago, or your sleep pattern has suddenly changed, then you can at least be confident that your apnea is still being managed properly by your machine.
SmartCode gives you all the information about your sleep performance in an instant without any special software. After the very first night, it will display a shortcode on the LCD screen. In that shortcode is an Adherence score that you or your doctor can analyze to determine your compliance.
Simply go to the IntelliPAP website and enter the code in the form. A report will be generated for 1 day up to 30 days depending on your preferred settings.
For use at home is the integrated optional heated humidifier. It has heating plates in the unit itself where the chamber plugs into the body. The water gets heated making for a comfortable breathing experience with no dry mouth or nose. It is easy to remove the water chamber to refill. It only holds enough water for about eight hours of use, so it must be refilled everyday.
What makes it great for travel?
For one, it has a dual power supply. You can plug it into an AC wall outlet, a DC battery pack, or a car lighter plug. That makes it ideal for flying in case you can’t actually plug it in anywhere and need to use the battery. It is also great if you go camping as you can plug it into your car if need be.
This CPAP automatically adjusts for altitude when flying without any hiccups. It wouldn’t do you much good to fly with this machine if the altitude messed with the performance.
Then, there is the handy travel bag. It holds the unit itself. In addition, it has an expandable pocket for just about any size mask and hose. That’s wonderful for keeping everything compact and organized, a must for traveling.
It’s small and lightweight and won’t bog you down during your travels.
You won’t miss a beat when you’re on the road due to the advanced features of this travel CPAP machine. It may be a bit expensive, but it definitely rises above its class.
It weighs under a pound and is only 10.0” long x 8.5 in x 4.5 in with the bag. Without the bag, it is 6.9 in. x 3.5 in. x 3.5 in. You can throw that into a backpack or carry-on bag without any issues. Automatic altitude adjustment makes it ideal for flying.
You have some options for battery with either an overnight battery or multi-night battery. Not only is that great for traveling but also, if you are ever without power at home, you can still have access to your CPAP machine.
Get the optional solar charger and go off grid.
This unit is quiet at 29 decibels. Remember, 30 decibels is the same as somebody whispering.
The fact that it can be used with any size hose makes it ideal for people that want some flexibility with their travel CPAP machine. It comes with a handy adapter to fit any size.
Just as your home unit likely has, it comes equipped with a ramp feature. Set it up to 45 minutes to give yourself a chance to fall asleep. Also, similar your home unit, you can track your leaks and access the sleep compliance data. It comes with a USB cable to plug into your PC and tracks data up to 36 days.
Tips For Traveling With Your CPAP Machine
Travel these days can be a real chore. The extra security measures, the lack of space, and limited carryon luggage can add challenges to an already stressful experience.
Being prepared ahead of time for any eventuality is a good practice. You don’t want to take any chances that your machine isn’t allowed to travel with you or that it won’t function correctly either on the airplane or at your destination.
Here are a few things to keep in mind before while planning your trip.
Carry a note from your doctor
Many airlines will not deny you access to your CPAP machine on your flight. To be safe, it is a good idea to carry a note from your doctor. Make it clear that the CPAP is not just for you to get a comfortable night’s sleep. It is for your health and can potentially be a serious medical condition, particularly if you change altitudes.
Some seats on the airplane will be near a power source, others will not. When booking your flight, ask if there are seats available where you can plug your unit in. They should be able to accommodate you by moving somebody without a medical condition to free up a seat for you with power. If that is not an option, make sure that your unit can be plugged into a battery pack. In the reviews, I made sure to identify which units CPAP machines have battery options.
Proper adapter for international travel
Most CPAP machines, particularly those made specifically for travel, have an internal switch that will allow it to operate with a different voltage. You will still need to plug it into a different outlet overseas, however. Make sure you check what kind of adaptor your CPAP machine will need for the country you are traveling to.
These days, you can’t even take a bottle of water on board, so carrying a full water chamber for the humidifier is out of the question. Make sure your chamber is empty. You should also not have it attached to the machine in flight with water since it could potentially spill and create a problem. If you absolutely must have the humidifier, talk to the flight attendant to see if it is allowed.
In case of emergency
You never know what can come up. It could be a faulty machine or some other issue. Have a copy of the contact information for the manufacturer of your machine as well as any prescription and insurance information. Keep your doctor’s e-mail or phone number on you.
With some planning ahead and common sense, you should not have any hiccups when traveling with your CPAP machine.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will my CPAP machine be a problem getting through airport security?
Your CPAP machine is a medical device and, therefore, is allowed to be carried onto the plane. You should keep a letter from your physician handy in case there are questions about the device and its purpose. For more information, read TSA's blog post about CPAP.
Will the x-ray machines in security harm my CPAP?
No. Your CPAP won’t be harmed by the x-ray machine. Just like laptops, tablets, and phones, x-ray machines do not harm electronics.
Does the CPAP device function at high altitudes?
CPAP machines that are made for travel will have an automatic altitude adjustment. Not all machines have this. If you are bringing your home CPAP machine onto an airplane, make sure you check with the manufacturer to find out if there will be altitude problems.
Can I plug in my CPAP machine in other countries?
Most CPAP machines will switch their voltage automatically in another country. The outlet plugs are usually different, and you will need an adapter.
How do I clean it?
Depending on which travel size machine you have, CPAP wipes are the easiest way to clean it.
Final Thoughts On The Best Travel CPAP Machine
My pick for the best portable CPAP machine is the Z1 Unplugged. It is the smallest, most portable, and has a built-in battery pack. You can't get much more portable than that. If you are looking to save some money, then the XT Fit is a great choice to meet your basic sleep apnea needs.
The days of having to lug around a huge bulky CPAP machine when you travel are over. Thank goodness!
Finally, apnea sufferers have several options for travel CPAP machines that get the job done. In many ways, these travel CPAP machines are similar to what they have at home.
Life is short. Having to watch life from the sidelines because of your sleep apnea is not a good way to get the most out of life. I sincerely hope that this review of the best travel CPAP machines has given you the knowledge and the confidence to know that you don't need to slow your life down.
You can get out there and travel. Take that trip of a lifetime that you were nervous about. Go camping with your kids. Had your eye on an eco tour off the grid? Now you can even go with a solar-controlled CPAP machine. The world is indeed your oyster!