If you’re planning a camping trip, but are worrying about taking your CPAP therapy into the great outdoors, then this article is for you. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover:
- Tips for Choosing a Powered Campsite
- How to Take Your Therapy Off-the-Grid
- Using a CPAP Battery Pack
- Using a Car or Boat Deep Cycle Battery
- Travel CPAP Machines
- Helpful Tips
How to Power Your CPAP Machine While Camping
Not only is it possible to go camping with sleep apnea, but we’re also going to show you how you can get the most out of your experience and make your next trip a truly enjoyable one! Planning your camping trip boils down to two options when using your CPAP. You can either:
- Only Camp Where There’s an Electrical Outlet
- Take Your Therapy Off-Grid with a CPAP Battery
There are benefits and drawbacks to each, and we’ll discuss both in greater detail in the coming paragraphs. Let’s get started!
Visit a Campsite With Power
Powered campsites have the advantage of providing all the electricity you need for your therapy without as many equipment compromises. If you do a little digging, you’ll notice that there are campsites like KOA campgrounds and State Parks with electricity throughout. Being able to plug-in is a huge advantage to anyone who needs one major piece of CPAP equipment—humidification.
When powering your CPAP machine using battery power, you’ll find that doing so while using a heated humidifier will drain the battery at a much faster rate than it would otherwise, which dramatically reduces therapy runtime. By plugging in, you can avoid this issue and get your full therapy benefits.
Benefits: Many people like powered campsites because they’re usually clean and well-maintained. Many times they come with extra perks like bathrooms, showers, and WiFi.
Drawbacks: There are some drawbacks to powered campsites. Sometimes you’ll have to change your plans entirely because they’ll be all booked on popular weekends. They also attract a lot of people, so you won’t truly be far away from civilization, and it can get noisy at certain times. If the joy of camping for you is getting far away from other people or spending the night in a rugged environment with beautiful scenery, then a campsite with electricity may not be for you. In that case, you’ll want to explore CPAP batteries.
Take Your Therapy Off-Grid
CPAP batteries allow you to go farther away from civilization, but you will be limited in how long you can be gone. Most CPAP battery packs will be good for one to two nights of power before needing to be recharged. If you plan on trekking or hiking deep into the woods or up a mountain, consider getting multiple batteries. By having two or three on hand, you can extend the time you’re away from home.
Don’t fall into the temptation to skip your therapy while you’re gone. Doing so may leave you with little energy, and your trip may be less enjoyable. Pausing your treatment can also open you up to greater health risks. We wouldn’t recommend it.
Benefits: Many camping enthusiasts see off-grid camping as the best way to go camping, and the only way to do that is with a battery. Batteries make it possible to go anywhere. Most are also FAA approved for in-flight use and will work well with popular CPAP and APAP brands.
Drawbacks: Some Lithium-ion batteries can’t handle extreme heat; it can affect chemicals found inside the battery and can cause an accident. Also, batteries are very helpful, but some can be quite expensive, costing as much as $700. However, most are in the $200 to $400 price range. Finally, depending on your machine and settings, you could run out of juice faster than expected—especially if you’re needing to use a power inverter.
Two Ways to Power Your CPAP Off-the-Grid
There are two different ways you can power your CPAP while camping off-the-grid:
- Use a Car Battery
- Use a CPAP Battery
1: Using a Deep Cycle Car or Marine Battery
Yep, you heard right. You can use a car battery to power some CPAP machines. Car batteries are not sold by CPAP.com but can be found locally at auto parts stores or some large retail stores. Car batteries are lead-acid deep cycle batteries that have much larger capacities than a lithium-ion battery. Car batteries can provide juice for days.
To make it work, you’ll need to do one of two things:
We’ll go over these points in greater detail below.
Using a DC Adapter Cable
A DC Adapter Cable uses alligator clips to connect to the positive and negative terminals of the deep-cycle battery. It then outputs the power to a cigarette lighter plug. From there, you can plug in your machine’s DC cable into the cigarette lighter plug and power your machine that way. Some deep-cycle batteries have the cigarette lighter plug built-in to the battery itself, allowing you to plug in without needing the adapter.
Using an Inverter
An inverter converts the DC power provided by the battery to AC power so your machine can use it. A few machine models require a special kind called a Pure Sine Wave Inverter. If you don’t use this inverter, you could risk damaging your machine. To make your inverter work with a car battery, you’ll need to make sure it has alligator clips that you can connect to the deep cycle battery. From there, it would convert it to AC power, and you’d plug it in as you would at home.
There are some drawbacks to using a car battery for your CPAP:
- Car Batteries Can Be Heavy: If you’ve ever replaced your car battery for your vehicle, you’d know how heavy a car battery can be. Lugging one in a backpack over long distances can be rough. Lithium-ion batteries are a lot lighter and are much easier to take with you on a long camping trip.
- Deep Cycle Batteries Are Not FAA Approved: Because deep-cycle lead-acid batteries contain toxic chemicals that can be unstable, they’re not permitted to be used on a flight or placed in checked baggage. This means you won’t be able to bring one with you while you travel by air to your destination. They also can be hard to recharge. For those that can overcome these limitations, a deep cycle battery can be a great source of power for any traveler, trekker, or camper.
2: Using a CPAP Battery Pack
Today, CPAP batteries are lighter and less expensive than they’ve ever been, and that’s a big reason why they’re becoming more popular. When it comes to batteries, one important thing to remember is that no battery is truly universal. Many batteries have DC inputs for specific machines, but if there’s no DC input, you’ll have to use an inverter. CPAP.com makes it easy to know what power needs your particular machine has. We include this information on our product pages under the tab labeled “power.” Here’s an example. It’s far better to connect to a battery designed to work with your specific machine than it is to pick your favorite battery and find a way to make it work.
Here’s a list of some of the most popular machines today and portable camping batteries that work well with them:
- DreamStation Auto:
- DreamStation Go:
- AirSense 10:
Related Reading: How To Choose The Best CPAP Battery Backup
3 Tips for Bringing Your CPAP Camping
Tip 1: Consider Using a Travel CPAP Machine
If you want to go camping, it helps to have a travel-sized CPAP machine that can fit into small spaces (like a backpack) and is light enough to not add too much extra weight. This will help make it more portable, allowing you to pack more equipment than you would if you used a home unit.
Most travel CPAPs have a few distinct advantages over home units:
- You’ll Have a Machine for Home and the Road
- Travel Machines are Packed With Advanced Features Older Machines May Not Have
- You’ll Find it Easier to Use Your Machine in a Car or on a Plane
While there’s no CPAP currently available that has a built-in battery, many people find that the combination of a travel machine and a travel battery works just fine.
You can also compare different machines by viewing our Travel Machine Comparison Chart. Just pick the machines you want to see side-by-side and go from there!
Related Reading: The Best Travel Machines Reviewed and Compared
Tip 2: Avoid Using Power Inverters
Why is using an inverter such a bad thing? Inverters rely on using battery power to do the conversion to AC. So not only is the machine drawing power from the battery, the inverter is drawing power from the battery as well. This can drain the battery twice as fast as it would if you didn’t use one. Sometimes using an inverter is unavoidable. Some machines are not DC capable, and therefore will need an AC power source, requiring a battery to be converted to AC power.
The best strategy is to find a battery that’s designed specifically for your exact machine. For example, the Pilot-24 Lite was designed with the AirMini and other 24-volt machines in mind, so it has a cable that makes a direct connection. In doing so, it doesn’t need a power inverter, and you will get a longer-lasting charge from the battery.
Tip 3: Consider Charging Your Battery With Solar
While solar charging isn’t ideal for everyone, it can be an absolute game-changer for people that often find themselves outdoors and off the grid. While there isn’t a surplus of options these days, the Expion 360 Solar Charger for Expion batteries is one of the better products available. Granted, it can be difficult to find solar charging options and they’re usually battery-specific, not universal.
Solar panels can do the work of charging the battery while you’re hiking and enjoying the great outdoors, and when you come back to camp at night, the battery will be ready for another night of therapy. Solar panels can extend your range, and help you stay in the wilderness longer.
We also have a comprehensive resource covering using solar power with CPAP batteries that may provide some helpful information you can use going forward.
As you can see, there are lots of unique ways to enjoy the great outdoors while still using your CPAP therapy. We hope you’ve learned some strategies and tricks to help make your next camping adventure a success!
David Repasky has been using CPAP treatment since 2017 and has first-hand experience with what it’s like to live with Sleep Apnea. He brings the patient’s perspective to the CPAP.com blog and has received formal training in CPAP machines, masks, and equipment.