Travel CPAP for Everyday Use?

  • By Clay Rollyson
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Travel CPAP vs Home CPAP

For a lot of people starting on CPAP or those that are upgrading their primary CPAP machine, the thought of a small, lightweight travel CPAP may be a serious consideration. It is true that travel CPAPs are awesome for traveling, but could they work as your one and only CPAP machine? There are some significant things to keep in mind when making this decision.

Will a Travel CPAP last over time?

In most cases when you buy a specific “travel” version of almost anything, you expect less durability. That may or may not be the case with Travel CPAPs. As with anything, you will get what you pay for in most cases. Over the years we have had many customers attempt to use Travel CPAPs as their primary device. We have had some do this with great success while others were back in 6-12 months for failures and repairs. Overall, we have noticed that the higher end travel CPAPs hold up very well, while the lower-cost versions struggle to last under that much usage. So, while the answer seems far too simple, our experience has led us to that conclusion. The high-end models work well for daily use, while the lower cost versions typically struggle.

Would a Travel CPAP benefit me?

This may actually be the most important question in this article. Travel CPAPs may seem really cool, but would it even benefit you. All travel CPAPs will have their limitations (which we discuss below), and so you should really decide why you even want one. If you are a person that travels frequently, and struggles to get everything in the carry on already, then Travel CPAP may be a great idea. If you are buying one for the one vacation that you take every year, I am not sure that I would recommend a Travel CPAP at all. In short, no need to waste money on an expensive item that may not help you much at all. Especially when you consider the limitations of Travel CPAPs compared to Home CPAPs.

What are the downsides to Travel CPAPs?

There are some limitations you should consider about Travel CPAPs. While most Travel CPAPs will offer similar or exactly the same CPAP Therapy as a Home CPAP would, there are many features a Home CPAP provides that a Travel CPAP may not. Let’s check those out one by one for a better understanding.
  • Humidification Limitations:

    Almost all Travel CPAPs have either no heated humidifier option or at least a scaled back version. For instance. the AirMini Travel CPAP uses their own Humidx HMEs for humidification, while the DreamStation Go has the option of a generic HME (Heat Moisture Exchanger) or their optional Heated Humidifier. While the DreamStation Go has a heated humidifier the settings are very limited and so is the volume of water it holds. If you have a Home CPAP currently and want to know whether a HME will work for you, then I suggest you try the HME on your Home CPAP first. Just turn off the humidifier and empty the water chamber, then try out the HME to see how you feel with it. This will give you some great insight in to how an HME will work for you. You should also consider the climate that you will be using the CPAP in. If you are headed to the Amazon Rainforest you probably won’t have as much dryness concern as if you go to Arizona.
  • Compliance reporting:

    For a lot of CPAP users Compliance and Therapy reports are not just a useful feature, but a necessity. This may be due to insurance regulations or for job requirements. Not all Travel CPAPs offer good options for that. The Transcend 3 Travel CPAP requires you to send the device back to the company for a download on a computer. While the AirMini offers Bluetooth uploading which allows your CPAP provider to access that data remotely for reporting. The best Travel CPAP options for users needing reporting would be the DreamStation Go and the AirMini. For CPAP users that do not need this option, then a lower cost alternative like the Transcend 3 or the Z2 Travel CPAP may work great.
  • Mask options:

    For almost all of the Travel CPAP options that we carry you can use most major CPAP masks. As long as the CPAP mask has the standard 22mm connection, then you will be able to use it. However, for the AirMini Travel CPAP, you must use a ResMed AirMini mask. Other masks will not connect. Additionally, the DreamStation go comes with a specific Micro tube that has connections built for the “DreamWear” line of masks. However, you can use the DreamStation go universal mask adapter or simply use a generic CPAP tube to put any mask you would like on the tubing.
  • CPAP Tubing limitations:

    For most of the Travel CPAP options you can connect a standard CPAP tube. Some like the Z2 Travel CPAP require an adapter, while others like the Transcend 3 do not require any adapter. On the other hand, the AirMini travel CPAP will only use the specific AirMini tubing designed to connect only to that CPAP. Another large consideration on the tubing front is that NONE of the travel CPAP options offer a heated tube. If you cannot do without your heated tube on your Home CPAP, then make sure to keep that in mind.
  • Long term costs:

    The Travel CPAPs do have a few parts that are important to keep up with. Many of those are similar to the home options. You will have to keep up with your intake filter, tubing, as well as your HME potentially. All of these parts are slightly to significantly more expensive than the ones used with Home CPAPs. So, maintenance will more than likely cost more over time on a travel version.
  • Can be louder:

    There are two things that make Travel CPAPs a good bit louder than home CPAPs. First is that there is much less insulation inside the CPAP. They are saving size in any way they can, so the sound abatement insulation is reduced. The second factor is usually the HME. The HME will cause more noise as the air flows through it on inhalation and exhalation. In most cases the increase in count is not significant. For CPAP users that are more “sound-sensitive” a Travel CPAP may not be the best choice.

What are the upsides to Travel CPAPs?

While they do have limitations there are huge upsides to them. There are good reasons why manufacturers created Travel CPAPs and they can be big things to consider as you mull over the thought a Travel CPAP option. Let’s check those upsides out.
  • They are significantly smaller:

    In most cases the Travel CPAP version that you are considering is going to be 3-4 times smaller than the home version. The motors are smaller, there is no heated humidifier (in most cases), and there is less insulation. This allows them to be significantly smaller, and in turn makes packing for trips much easier.
  • Very lightweight:

    Like me, you are probably always right on that 50-pound limitation every time you put your baggage on the counter at the airport. With a travel CPAP you are looking at as much as a 3–4-pound reduction versus your home unit. We also have a ton of campers and backpackers that have to consider every pound that they carry. In cases like that a Travel CPAP is a great option.
  • Can be used on airplanes:

    There is obviously no extra room anywhere when you cram yourself into that airplane seat. With a Travel CPAP plus one of our travel battery options, you can sleep on the plane without snoring in front of 200 people. Plus, you will have a much smaller item to carry when you reach your destination.
  • No distilled water to carry around:

    Travel CPAPs typically use an HME or Heat Moisture Exchanger. These will recycle your own exhaled humidity and allow you to rebreathe it, instead of blowing it off. HME integrate into the tubing of the Travel CPAP, and they are very small. This means that you do not have to worry about packing water or finding when you reach your destination. To learn more about HMEs visit our blog on them here.
  • Simple operation:

    For better or for worse Travel CPAPs do not offer a bunch of bells and whistles in most cases. No big touchscreens with tons of options. For some it is a simple as an on and off button. While you do not have a bunch of visuals and buttons, there is a great deal of simplicity that Travel CPAPs offer.

Will a Travel CPAP work for Truck Drivers?

In short yes, but you need to be careful. If you are going to use one of the Travel CPAP options and will have to follow up with the DOT in the future, then your selection is very important. The only two units that I would currently recommend for a Truck Driver would be the AirMini Travel CPAP and the DreamStation Go. Both of them offer bluetooth connectivity to a smartphone app. You do have to maintain that connection in order for the data to transmit, but it can be transmitted. This will allow your CPAP provider like us here, to access that data and to prodcue the reports that you will need. For more information on Truck Drivers and Sleep Apnea check out our blog here.