Travel CPAP Machine Reviews
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a condition that plagues millions of Americans. Those with OSA experience apneas, or temporary breathing cessations, while they’re sleeping due to a blockage. Most frequently, these blockages are caused when tissues and muscles in the back of the throat become too relaxed and block the airway. The sleeper’s brain senses the inability to breathe and wakes the sleeper momentarily. While a person probably won’t even remember these awakenings, they can happen five to thirty times per hour, preventing OSA sufferers from getting a good night’s rest.
There is no cure for OSA, but the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine can be very effective in treating the condition. A CPAP machine utilizes positive air pressure to keep a sleeper’s airway open. Essentially, air is delivered at a specific pressure through a mask into a person’s airway. Another types of PAP therapy is bi-level positive airway pressure therapy (BiPAP), which delivers various pressures that match a person’s breathing patterns. BiPAP therapy is most often utilized for Central Sleep Apnea (CSA), a type of sleep apnea in which the brain is unable to send the right signals to muscles that control breathing. CPAP therapy works best for OSA.
Most individuals who have OSA suspect they have the condition because they experience loud snoring, choking or gasping while they sleep (or their partners report these). If you think you have OSA and want to find relief through a CPAP machine, you do need to first visit your doctor to ensure you have OSA and obtain a prescription for a CPAP machine.
CPAP therapy can provide a much-needed good night’s sleep to those with OSA. For those who travel frequently, however, carting around a traditional CPAP machine can pose a challenge. Whether you travel for business or you’re an avid camper, a travel-sized CPAP machine can be highly useful. They’re compact, lightweight and usually self-powering.
In this guide, we’ll run through how CPAP machines work, outline considerations to make when shopping for one, share our top picks for travel CPAP machines and provide some tips for traveling with one.
How Do CPAP Machines Work?
When choosing the travel CPAP machine that will work best for you, it’s helpful to understand the elements of a typical CPAP device and how they work together. In a nutshell, a CPAP machine takes in air, applies a specific pressure to it and sends the air through a hose to a mask, where it is delivered into the user’s airway. There is some variation in features among different machines, but below are the standard elements of CPAP machines along with their functions:
The airflow generator is the main element in a CPAP machine. It takes in air and pressurizes it according to the sleeper’s prescribed rate before pumping it into the connective hose.
Pressurized air is sent from the generator through the connective hose to the mask. The hose is usually a few feet in length. Those who move around while they sleep may want to opt for a longer hose to allow for more movement.
The humidifier adds moisture to the pressurized air to keep the user from experiencing a dry mouth or throat. Some machines feature a built-in humidifier while others are detachable, and some machines don’t have them at all. Many travel-size CPAP machines have convenient waterless humidifiers.
To ensure the air you breathe through your CPAP machine is clean, the filter removes dust and allergens as air enters the airflow generator. It’s usually housed at the point where air enters the machine.
Masks fit over a portion of the user’s face and deliver pressurized air into the airway. They’re sold separately from the rest of the machine, and most masks will fit with most machines. It’s important to ensure a good fit so the CPAP machine can work effectively, and there are a few different options for mask design:
- Full face: This type of mask fits around both the user’s nose and mouth and is the best fit for those who sleep with their mouths open. It’s the design most often associated with CPAP machines.
- Nasal: The nasal mask fits snugly around the nose and works for those who usually breathe through their noses while sleeping. Some sleepers also utilize a chin strap to ensure their mouths don’t fall open during sleep.
- Nasal cradle: The cradle pillow fits under the nose and delivers air into each nostril without fitting over the bridge of the nose.
- Nasal pillow: Similar to a nasal cradle, the nasal cradle delivers air into each nostril by making a seal but doesn’t come into contact with the upper nose.
How do travel CPAP machines differ from standard models?
While travel CPAP machines perform the same basic functions as standard models, there are some differences to note. Generally, travel devices are smaller and lighter. Some can be battery operated and might include a waterless or no humidifier for convenience and less weight. The table below outlines some of the main differences.
|Travel CPAP Machines||Standard CPAP Machines|
|Dimensions||6”L x 4”W x 2”H||10”L x 6”W x 6”H|
|Weight||1.5 pounds or fewer||4 to 5 pounds|
|Power Source|| AC and/or DC with integrated battery
included in some models
|AC and/or DC|
|Humidifier Capacity|| 325 mL or fewer
Some models feature waterless humidifier
Other models do not include humidifier
|325 mL to 425 mL|
|Cost||$500 to $900||$200 to $800|
While all CPAP machines perform the same basic function, there are a variety of differences among models. What you look for in a travel model might be slightly different from what you need in a standard machine. Think about how you typically travel. Are you usually on long flights and would need to use your CPAP machine on the plane? Are you an avid camper who is away from electricity for days at a time? Be sure to think about your specific needs and take the following into consideration when shopping for your travel CPAP machine.
You’ll want to choose a CPAP machine that has the specs and capabilities you’re looking for, but price is still an important factor. At between $250 and $600, travel CPAP machines are not a small investment. Some can even run as high as $900. Compare different models with similar capabilities and then see if one wins out in terms of price.
Travel CPAP machines are smaller than standard machines, but there is some size variation among brands. It’s a good idea to measure the luggage you usually use and choose a machine that will fit well in what you have. If you’re really short on space, you may want to opt for a model with a waterless humidifier or no humidifier. These machines tend to be smaller. In addition to size, consider the weight of travel CPAP machines. Most machines are very light, but especially if you’re sticking your machine in a carry on, you may want a model that’s only a few ounces.
CPAP pressure is measured in centimeters of water (cmH20), and most users need pressure somewhere between 4 and 16 cmH20. Look for a machine with a range of 4 to 20 cmH20, which is typical. You’ll want to consider your specific needs when it comes to adjustability. Some machines can be adjusted in larger increments, such as 1.0 cmH20, while others allow for smaller adjustments, down to 0.2 cmH20.
Conventional wisdom says CPAP machines are noisy, but the good news is that modern machines are much quieter than their predecessors. The sound from most travel CPAP machines is anywhere from 25 to 30 A-weighted decibels (dbA). Still, you’ll likely want to opt for a machine on the quieter side, especially if you find yourself on overnight flights where you need to sleep near others.
Many travel CPAP machines are designed to be battery operated when necessary. Battery power can be vital if you often fly overnight and need to utilize your machine on a plane. It can also be helpful if you’re camping or are otherwise staying somewhere without power. Long-lasting 12-volt batteries will keep a CPAP machine running for three nights. If you’ll need your machine to run on batteries for longer, be sure to pack some spares.
Trial and Warranty
To make sure your CPAP machine is the right fit for you, it’s important to look for a model with a trial period. Some models allow you to return the machine for a full refund within a trial period (usually 30 days or fewer). That will give you time to try out the machine and make sure it works for you. You’ll also want to ensure your machine has a warranty in case something in the machine turns out to be defective. Most travel CPAP machines come with a two- or three-year warranty, which is comparable to standard machines.
Best Travel CPAP Machines
Finding a travel CPAP machine that suits your needs can be overwhelming. That's why we've reviewed product information and combed reviews to find the top 5 best travel CPAP machines. In the table below, you'll find more details about each.
|Brand||ResMed||ResMed||Somnetics||Human Design Medical||Philips Respironics|
|Model||AirSense 10 AutoSet||AirMini AutoSet Travel CPAP||Transcend EZEX miniCPAP||Z1 Auto Travel CPAP||DreamStation Go Auto Travel CPAP|
|Dimensions||10"L x 4.6"W x 5.9"H||5.4”L x 3.3”W x 2.1”H||6.9”L x 3.5”W x 3.5”H||6.5”L x 3.3”W x 2”H||5.9”L x 5.9”W x 2.2”H|
|Weight||2.8 lbs||0.7 lbs||0.9 lbs||0.6 lbs||1.9 lbs|
|Pressure Range||4 - 20 cmH20
(0.2 cm increments)
|4 - 20 cmH20
(0.2 cm increments)
|4 - 20 cmH20
(1 cm increments)
|4 - 20 cmH20
(0.5 cm increments)
|4 - 20 cmH20|
|Battery?||No (external battery sold separately)||No||Optional battery||Optional integrated battery||Optional integrated battery|
|Ramp Time||5 - 45 minutes
(or choose “auto” and device will automatically rise to prescribed pressure)
|5-45 minutes||0-45 minutes||0-45 minutes||0-45 minutes|
|Humidifier||Integrated (removable)||Waterless||Integrated (optional)||None||None|
|Humidifier Capacity||380 mL||n/a||325 mL||n/a||n/a|
|Hose Length||6 feet||6 feet 2 inches||6 feet||6 feet||6 feet|
|Max Altitude||8,500 feet||8,500 feet||8,000 feet||8,000 feet||7,500 feet|
|Warranty Length||2 years||2 years||3 years||3 years||2 years|
(out of 5)
|Buy Now||Buy Now||Buy Now||Buy Now||Buy Now|