Backpacking with Sleep Apnea

man in sleeping bag wearing CPAP

There’s something very therapeutic about unplugging and hiking through nature. The 2017 American Camper Report found that 40.5 million Americans go camping at least once a year. And of those Americans, they camped an average of 14.5 days per person.

But getting outdoors can be difficult for people who suffer from sleep apnea. The American Sleep Apnea Association found that 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea. And 80% of those cases are diagnosed with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea.

camping with sleep apnea

Many outdoor adventurers who go backpacking with sleep apnea would skip treatment and disrupt camp with loud snoring and restless sleep. Sleep apnea sufferers often sacrifice a good night’s sleep and relaxation to enjoy the outdoors.

Fortunately, as portable CPAP technology improves, people can go backpacking with sleep apnea without skipping treatment. Backpackers and campers suffering from sleep apnea need to get the right equipment and learn how to find power. By following our tips for backpacking with sleep apnea, the next time you camp you’ll rest easy under the stars.

Essential accessories for backpacking with sleep apnea

Before your camping or backpacking trip, make sure to pack the right equipment. Many companies offer lightweight, easy to use, portable CPAP machines. These mini CPAP machines often come with a six-foot hose, mask adapter, AC power supply source, and masks. Some of the more popular portable CPAP machines include:

These portable CPAP machines make camping and hiking a breeze without sacrificing sleep quality. If your portable CPAP machine doesn’t come with a mask or if you prefer to use your regular mask, make sure it is soft and lightweight.

How to pack your sleep apnea equipment

Most CPAP machines come with a carrying case. Empty the humidifier chamber before packing your machine into its case. 

Then you’ll want to pack all the proper adapters, a hose, a mask, extra mask cushions, and a power source like a CPAP portable battery. You may want to rent or bring a backup power source if you are going camping for several days.

How do I use my CPAP without electricity?

Nowadays, many campsites come with electrical outlets, so if you bring an extension cord, you’ll be able to plug in your CPAP machine easily. But when you go off-grid, you’ll need another power source for your CPAP machine.  

CPAP backup power supply options include CPAP batteries, portable power stations, and car batteries. These will keep your machine running no matter where you camp for the night.

CPAP batteries

cpap camping battery

Now that CPAP batteries are lighter and more affordable, hauling your CPAP battery pack up the mountain is no longer so strenuous or impractical. Here are some popular CPAP battery packs for camping:

Using a CPAP portable battery pack is your best option, purely because they are specifically designed to power CPAP machines.

Portable power stations

Another option is to use a portable power station. Many of the new power stations are equipped to power a CPAP machine all night. You can easily take these in your tent and set up with your machine. Some great options for portable power stations include:

Keep in mind, some of these power generators are bulky and may not be a great choice if you’re backpacking off the grid. These are better suited for around established campgrounds.

Car battery

You can also use a car battery to power your CPAP machine. Because car batteries are lead-acid deep cycle, the battery can power your CPAP for days. You can purchase a car battery from an auto parts store. Then you’ll need either a DC adapter cable or an inverter.

To connect your CPAP using a DC adapter cable or the inverter, place the positive and negative alligator clips on the car battery’s correct terminals. Then plug your CPAP into the DC adapter or the inverter’s outlet.

Hauling a car battery is not the best idea when backpacking with sleep apnea. This is better suited for camping in a campground where you don’t have to hike very far to the campsite.

How do I keep my CPAP machine and accessories clean while camping?

To ensure your machine stays clean, don’t pull out your machine until your tent is set up. Then make sure you set up your machine in a low traffic area inside your tent. If the machine or mask gets dirty, use CPAP Mask wipes to clean your equipment. 

If your CPAP machine smells like smoke from the campfire, you can rinse your mask using vinegar and water. Using a 1:3 ratio of vinegar to water, thoroughly rinse your mask, then rinse with water. Remember to change your CPAP filters too.

Quick tips for backpacking with sleep apnea

camping with sleep apnea

When backpacking with sleep apnea, here are a few handy CPAP camping solutions to make the adventure more enjoyable.

Don’t use a power inverter if you can help it

In some instances, a power inverter may be your only option. But try to avoid using a power inverter when you go camping because it can also drain the life of your battery (because they use the battery power to convert to AC). This is not ideal if you are camping for multiple days.

Use a travel CPAP machine

If you’re driving into a campground, you can take your CPAP machine, but you run the risk of damage or getting dirty. They can also be bulky, large, and weigh more. Travel CPAP machines are designed to be lightweight, easy to clean, and convenient.

Use a solar battery for long backpacking trips

There are a few CPAP batteries, like the Freedom CPAP Battery Standard Kit, that have a solar power mode for charging. This allows you to charge your CPAP battery every day so you can go deep into the backcountry without losing sleep.

If you’re opting to use a portable power station, the EF ECOFLOW EFDELATA Portable Solar Generator is an excellent solar charger for CPAP machines.

Don’t sleep with a humidifier

If you usually use a humidifier with your CPAP machine, try to leave it behind when you go camping. A humidifier will put extra strain on your battery pack and shorten its life.

Your CPAP machine can blow up your air mattress

While not its intended use, many campers use their CPAP Machine to blow up their air mattresses. Harness the air power of your machine to make your tent more comfortable.

If you absolutely can’t bring your CPAP machine

Try sleeping with a hammock. Sleeping upright has shown to be an effective alternative treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. Sleeping with a hammock positions you slightly upright, elevating the head to help prevent the tongue from blocking your airways.

Images courtesy of Visual Hunt.

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