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."

Altitude Changes

I am a native of the "Mile High City" of Denver, Colorado, at 5280' above mean sea level.  My REMstar Plus provides three altitude ranges:  Low = 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 the adjustment when you get there.  Don't forget to readjust the altitude when you get home, especially if you live above 5000'.  From what I can tell, the REMstar Plus is calibrated to raise the outside air pressure by a fraction (9mm at 5000' is a 1.5% increase; at sea level it's only 1.2%, 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 loud snoring.

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 on road trips and power it from the car's electrical system.  Most airlines now provide 12 volt connectors at the seats in Business Class and First Class.  Radio Shack and some duty-free shops sell a short adapter cord (Radio Shack #270-1580 if you can find it) that plugs into the airline seat connector 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 official adapter should be used in order to avoid damage to the unit.  Doing otherwise 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 (or leaves such regulation to the REMstar Plus' power supply as I suspect), so care must be used with this alternative.  Automobile electrical systems claim to be 12 volts, but they actually run closer to 14 and may spike higher under certain circumstances.  If something goes wrong, remember that 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 Cord with an automobile cigarette lighter plug at one end and an AdaptaPlug® jack at the other end.  The price includes one AdaptaPlug connector, of which the correct size is N (#273-1717:  OD 5.5mm, ID 2.5mm).  There is a 5 ampere fuse inside the plug end.  If you buy this cord and connector, make sure that you plug the AdaptaPlug connector such that the "+" lines up with "TIP" on the socket.  If the connector 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 products, why not offer it as your 12 volt power cord?  It's a bit pricy, but it's also pre-approved by the airlines.)

Airport Security

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 the humidifier tray and slip it into the pouch on the back of the CPAP travel bag.  The bag is generous enough that I can also carry a 1 liter bottle of (distilled) water.  Jugs of distilled water can be purchased at almost any supermarket in the world.

International Power

REMstar Plus power requirements sticker 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 below 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.

Final Thoughts

I had expected to encounter some difficulties traveling with my CPAP, but there were none.  It seems that there are far more people doing 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 piece if you have guests to your hotel room, but that's secondary compared to the benefits of using it.