Let’s Go Camping!
If you’re planning a camping trip, but worry about taking your CPAP therapy into the great outdoors, this article is for you. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover:
- Choosing a Powered Campsite
- How to Take Your Therapy Off-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, we’re 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 really boils down to two options when using a 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!
Option 1: Get a Campsite with Power
Powered campsites have the advantage of providing all the electricity you need for your therapy, and you won’t have to make as many compromises when it comes to your equipment. If you do a little digging, you’ll notice that there are campsites with electricity everywhere, from KOA campgrounds to State Parks. Being able to plug in is a huge advantage to anyone who needs a CPAP for one big reason– you can use 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, dramatically reducing therapy runtime. By plugging in, you can avoid this issue, and get the full benefit of your therapy.
Benefits: Many people like powered campsites because they’re usually clean and well-maintained. Many times they come with extra benefits 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 all be booked on popular weekends or times. 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.
Option 2: Take Your Therapy Off-Grid
CPAP batteries allow you to go farther away from civilization, but you’ll be limited in how long you can be gone. Most CPAP battery packs will be good for 1 – 2 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 therapy 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. Most are in the $200 – $400 price range. Finally, depending on your machine and settings you could run out of juice faster than expected– especially if needing to use a power inverter.
For more information, we’ve written a comprehensive article about batteries, including how to use a battery as a backup:
Two Ways to Power Your CPAP Off-Grid
There are two different ways you can power your CPAP while camping off-grid:
- Using a Car Battery
- Using a CPAP Battery
Option 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:
- Get a DC Adapter Cable and connect using your machine’s DC cable
- Use an Inverter
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 and 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” or else you could risk damage to 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 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 which 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.1
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.
Option 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 a 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 batteries that work well with them:
- AirMini – Medistrom Pilot-24
- DreamStation Auto – Respironics Travel Battery or Freedom Travel Battery
- DreamStation Go – DreamStation Go Overnight Battery
- AirSense 10 – Medistrom Pilot-24 or Freedom Travel Battery
Want to know what battery works best with your machine? Give us a call at 1-800-356-5221, and one of our CPAP experts can connect you to the best CPAP battery for you.
In the next section we’ll discuss pro tips on bringing your CPAP camping.
Pro Tip: 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 as 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 travel battery works just fine.
For more information on travel CPAP machines, please see our comprehensive article:
Or, browse our selection of mini CPAP machines, where you can find the latest models on the market today.
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!
Pro Tip: Try to 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 too. 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 require an AC power source, requiring a battery 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.
Pro Tip: Consider Charging Your Battery with Solar
Solar Panels are available with one of our more popular batteries: the Freedom Travel Battery. The Freedom Travel Battery can work with many different CPAP machines, and is one of the most popular batteries on the market today. The manufacturer of this device, BPS, has come out with a Solar Charger that works specifically with the Freedom.
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!
1. TSA “Travel Tips Tuesday: Safely Packing Batteries for Your Trip” Published on the TSA’s Official Website. Accessed on Mar. 7, 2019
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.