Travel with a CPAP
Several years ago I was sent on a two week business trip to Singapore.
I was able to take my CPAP
(Constant Positive Air Pressure) machine on the trip with
surprisingly little difficulty. This web page is intended to
provide information for other CPAP users who might have a need to
travel. For a discussion of my own
experience with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and my CPAP, read my OSA page .
The following considerations apply to travel within North America in
addition to overseas. Note that everything below is specific to
my experience with the Respironics REMstar Plus CPAP. As the
automobile ads used
to say, "Your mileage may vary."
I am a native of the "Mile High City" of Denver, Colorado, at 5280'
sea level. My REMstar Plus provides three altitude ranges:
= below 2500', Medium = 2500' to 5000', and High = 5000' to 7500'.
Above 7500', the user's guide simply says that the pressure may
be inaccurate. The
vast majority of the US is below 2500', so be sure you know how to make
adjustment when you get there. Don't forget to readjust the
when you get home, especially if you live above 5000'. From what
can tell, the REMstar Plus is calibrated to raise the outside air
by a fraction (9mm at 5000' is a 1.5% increase; at sea level it's only
which would deliver only 7.3mm at 5000').
Airliner cabins are pressurized to between 4,000' and 8,000' at cruise
altitude, in case you will be using your CPAP on a long flight.
Your neighbors might find
your mask and hose amusing, but I'm sure they would not be amused by
12 Volt Power for Auto and Airliner Use
My REMstar Plus can operate off either its regular power cord or from a
12 volt adapter cord. This makes it easy to take the REMstar Plus
road trips and power it from the car's electrical system. Most
now provide 12 volt connectors at the seats in Business Class and First
Radio Shack and some duty-free shops sell a short adapter cord
Shack #270-1580 if you can find it) that plugs into the airline seat
and provides an auto-style socket.
The REMstar Plus User's Guide speaks of and pictures a 12 volt
adapter, which is said to be available through Respironics dealers.
The User's Guide also warns that only the
should be used in order to avoid damage to the unit. Doing
will undoubtedly void the warranty.
That said, the following cable from Radio Shack works just fine with my
REMstar Plus for under $7. I have not had occasion to examine the
Respironics cord to see if it provides a fully regulated 12 volt output
such regulation to the REMstar Plus' power supply as I suspect), so
must be used with this alternative. Automobile electrical systems
claim to be 12 volts, but they actually run closer to 14 and may spike
under certain circumstances. If something goes wrong, remember
you were warned.
The REMstar Plus draws a maximum of 3 amperes (36 watts) at 12 volts.
Radio Shack part number 270-1558 is a 12 volt Heavy Duty Power
with an automobile cigarette lighter plug at one end and an
jack at the other end. The price includes one AdaptaPlug
of which the correct size is N (#273-1717: OD 5.5mm, ID
There is a 5 ampere fuse inside the plug end. If you
this cord and connector, make sure that you plug the AdaptaPlug
such that the "+" lines up with "TIP" on the socket. If the
is reversed, it will damage the CPAP.
I will raise another possibility that I have not researched. The
airlines and various duty-free shops sell a product called the
PowerXtender® in various models to provide filtered and regulated
power for laptop computers and DVD players. One of those models
could well provide 12 volts through the same connector used by the
CPAP. The PowerXtender® also includes an auto adapter, so one
cord still serves both airliner and auto use. (Note to
Respironics: if one of the PowerXtender® models fits your
why not offer it as your 12 volt power cord? It's
but it's also pre-approved by the airlines.)
When I first flew with my CPAP, I fully expected questions at the
security checkpoint. In fact, they were
more interested in the metal insoles in my shoes than in my big black
carry-on containing the REMstar Plus, power cables, hose, and
mask. They've seen quite a few by now. Recent changes in
the rules at US checkpoints now require me to remove my CPAP from its
bag, the same as for a laptop computer. When I have failed to do
so, the TSA agents performed a secondary inspection with a "sniffer" to
detect any hidden contraband.
I fully expected the housekeeping staff to look askance at the CPAP,
hose, and mask as they sat on my nightstand, but I'm sure they have
become used to much stranger things. They simply tidied up around
it and left it alone.
Colorado is in a very dry climate, so I have a "cold" humidifier that I
use with my CPAP at home. I don't usually take it with me unless
I'm going somewhere that is also arid. In those cases, I empty
humidifier tray and slip it into the pouch on the back of the CPAP
bag. The bag is generous enough that I can also carry a 1 liter
of (distilled) water. Jugs of distilled water can be
at almost any supermarket in the world.
North American power
is 120 volts at 60Hz (cycles per second). The rest of the world
uses 220-240 volts at 50Hz. Fortunately for us, the REMstar Plus
happily accepts both, as shown to the right. Check your own unit
to see if it is as accomodating before proceeding.
Dozens of different power plugs are used outside North America, but
they boil down to the four that appear in most travel kits (e.g. Radio
Shack #273-1405). I was in Singapore, so I used the monster
British adapter (D) with
the REMstar Plus' normal power cord. There is usually an outlet
or behind the nightstand in most hotels; you might have to request an
extension cord in some places.
No transformer was needed because the REMstar Plus handles 240V at 50Hz
along with 120V at 60Hz. Note
that a 1 ampere/120 watt
transformer will be needed for units that only accept 120 volts, so
make sure you check the unit first.
I had expected to encounter some difficulties traveling with my CPAP,
but there were none. It seems that there are far more people
so than I had ever imagined. I found myself in a discussion about
OSA with another American businessman while I was in Singapore.
One of his
co-workers travels with his CPAP. It might become a conversation
if you have guests to your hotel room, but that's secondary compared to
benefits of using it.