It's the time of year again when many people are making travel plans. Whether you're tent camping in a national park, or jet setting to Italy for a few weeks, you need your CPAP machine while you're away.
Below you'll find a checklist that's useful no matter what your travel plans may be.
#1 - Determine What Type of CPAP Machine You Have
There are two things you want to know about your CPAP machine.
1. Does it have a universal power supply supporting a voltage range of 100V to 240V?
2. Does it have a direct 12V DC input (i.e. is it a 12V machine)?
If it has a universal power supply - and almost all new CPAP machines do - then you can use your CPAP machine just about anywhere in the world, as long as you can fit your power cord plug into a wall outlet. Check the electrical specification sticker on the machine, or check the specs in your owner's manual. If either indicates 100V - 240V, then you know you have a universal power supply. Note that some really old CPAP machines have a switch for manually changing from 120V to 240V.
If it has a direct 12V DC input jack - and many new CPAP machines do - then you're an inexpensive 12V cord away from powering your CPAP machine from any free-standing 12V battery. Look for a round input often labeled DC IN on the back of the CPAP machine. Some CPAP machines, like the Philips Respironics REMstar series are 12V units, and there's just one input jack on the back of the CPAP machine. Machines like this generally will have a brick transformer in the power cord, because the transformer is required to change 110V (or 100V or 240V or whatever) to 12V. Other machines, like the DeVilbiss IntelliPAP series have a separate DC IN jack on the back of the machine. Since the power cord on a machine like the IntelliPAP isn't plugged into a DC input jack, a brick transformer in the power cord isn't necessary. Most travelers prefer avoiding the big transformers in their power cords. The smaller, simpler and lighter, the better.
#2 - Determine Your Power Source - Will You Need Plug Adapters or a 12V Cord?
This should be pretty easy. Are you going to be in North America using 110V, in Europe using 220V, in Japan using 100V, or somewhere else using a voltage between 100V and 240V? Or are you going to be using a battery?
#2A - Plug Adapters
If you'll have access to a permanent power source then you just need to make sure you'll be able to plug your CPAP machine into the wall outlet. If you have a plug adapter kit, you'll be covered pretty much wherever you go. If you know specifically which types of wall outlets you'll be using in your travels, just take the appropriate plug adapters with you, and leave the rest at home. For example, if you're traveling through Europe you may need three plug adapters - one for Great Britain, one for northern Europe, and one for southern Europe. You can leave the adapter for Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and China at home.
#2B - 12V Battery and Cable
If you're off the grid using a battery, then you'll need two things: the battery, and a cable to connect your CPAP machine to the battery. 12V batteries come in all shapes, sizes and capacities. Check out lithium ion batteries. If you don't have a 12V machine then you have two options:
Option 1. Buy a 12V CPAP machine - you'll be able to connect the new machine to a battery with a 12V cord designed for the machine
Option 2. Use an inverter - an inverter is an inefficient way to use a battery, but it's cheap and convenient. You might discover you want to plug all sorts of electronic equipment into an inverter. Just watch the battery meter.
You should test your battery with your CPAP well in advance of traveling with it so that you know exactly how the battery will perform for you. You don't want to go tent camping in Yellowstone for a week only to find out your battery only lasts two nights. Also determine if you'll have a chance to recharge your battery during the day, either by plugging it into electricity, charging it whle driving around in your car, or by using solar panels you've brought along.
#3 - Consider Surge Protection
It's not a bad idea to use a surge protector with your CPAP machine even at home. In places where travelers joke around saying things like, "110V here means anywhere between 100V and 500V" you should definitely take a travel surge protector with you. You can't expect to use your 110V surge protector from home if you're going to a place that has 240V power - at least not without starting a small fire and ruining your equipment. So you may need a 220V to 240V surge protector, like the EuroSurge from Voltage Valet. Whatever type of device you use, you'll sleep even better knowing your CPAP machine is protected.
#4 - Consider a Voltage Converter
Perhaps you have an old CPAP machine that doesn't work on anything but 110V. If you're traveling to a destination that has a power source other than 110V, then you have two options:
Option 1. Buy a new CPAP machine that has a universal power supply
Option 2. Use a voltage converter with your CPAP machine
If you opt for the voltage converter just make sure it's wattage rating is high enough for your CPAP machine. Not all voltage converters are alike. The following types of voltage converters are common:
Low power of 0 to 25 Watts (for things like electric shavers, curling irons, etc.)
Medium power of 85 Watts (for things like cell phones, camcorders, radios, game systems, etc.)
High power up to 1875 Watts (for things like hair dryers)
A voltage converter is super convenient for other electronic devices like Nintendo DSi game systems. If the kids have games and they're traveling with you, take a voltage converter. Voltage Valet's 85 Watt converter is about $20.
#5 - Be Prepared with Spare Parts
If you'll only be away from home for a couple of days, a spare mask or spare tube may not be a necessity. If you're traveling out of the country for a month, you might want to have a couple of spare parts on hand in case of equipment failure. It's generally not practical to carry a spare machine, but a spare mask and tube can make the difference between a restful journey and a miserable one. If you don't have a spare tube, you can get one before you leave (we sell them for as little as $12) or you could take a bit of duct tape with you.
#6 - Anticipate Hard-to-Reach Outlets
Your destination may have outlets located precisely six inches beyond the reach of your CPAP machine power cord. One CPAP user emailed me just today and recommended taking a compact 12-foot extension cord if outlet location may be an issue.
#7 - Remember H2O
If you're one of the approximately 75% of CPAP users who use a humidifier with your CPAP machine, and if you're planning on traveling with your humidifier, don't forget about the water. Tap water is fine in a pinch, but ideally you'll be filling your humidifier with distilled water. Think about it.
Many CPAP users choose to leave their humidifier at home while traveling to simplify packing and because they know finding distilled water will be an inconvenience at best. At first glance it may appear that your "integrated" humidifier is a permanent part of your CPAP machine. But almost all newer CPAP machines with so-called integrated humidifiers allow for the removal of the humidifier unit. If you would like to remove your humidifier and don't know how (this is an issue especially for REMstar M Series users), consult your owner's manual, or give us a call.
#8 - Take Your Prescription
If you've got a copy of your prescription, take it with you. If your machine breaks down and you need to buy a replacement - either online or locally - you'll be glad you brought your CPAP prescription with you. It can help at security checkpoints in airports, too, or in getting permission to use the CPAP machine on an airplane. (Click here to read my article that contains more information on using a CPAP machine on an airplane.)
So, there you have it. Everything you need to consider for happy travels with your CPAP machine. If you still have any questions, feel free to call us. We're always happy to help you.
CPAP-Supply.com is a leading online retailer of CPAP equipment. Located in Spokane, WA CPAP-Supply.com has been serving thousands of customers around the world since 2001. Founded on a belief that patients are their own best primary care providers, CPAP-Supply.com understands the importance of educating patients and customers on both the effects of and treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. For more information visit CPAP-Supply.com or call toll free 1-888-955-2727.