The Pros and Cons of Travel CPAP Use for Sleep Apnea

Portability and battery options are attractive—at a price

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Having a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) designed for travel offers convenience and ensures uninterrupted treatment of sleep apnea while you are on the road and even camping. However, travel CPAPs are typically costly and vary in how effectively they work compared to your at-home unit.

Travel CPAP includes DreamStation Go from Philips Respironics
Brandon Peters, MD

There are many different travel CPAP machines sold online or through specialty medical supply stores.

This article looks at the different features of four popular travel CPAP machines:

  • ResMed AirMini
  • Philips Respironics DreamStation Go
  • Somnetics Transcend,
  • Human Design Medical Z1

It reviews their sizes, power supplies, and battery life. It also lists the benefits and drawbacks so you can make an informed choice if thinking about buying a travel unit.

Any products mentioned in this article that were personally reviewed by the author have been returned to the supplier at the conclusion of the review period.

Travel CPAP Sizes and Weights

Travel CPAP machines vary in size and weight, and there is no set standard as to what constitutes a "travel-size" unit. By way of example, here are the sizes and weights of four popular travel CPAP models:

  • ResMed AirMini: This is the smallest available model measuring 5.4 inches in length, 3.3 inches in width, and 2.1 inches in height. It weighs a mere 10.6 ounces.
  • Human Design Medical Z1: This is the lightest model weighing in at 10 ounces. It is 6.5 inches in length, 3.3 inches in width, and 2.0 inches in height.
  • Somnetics Transcend: This machine is 6.1 inches in length, 3.5 inches in width, and 2.8 inches in height. It weighs 16 ounces (1 pound).
  • Philips Respironics DreamStation Go: This machine is 5.9 inches in length and width and 2.3 inches in height. The optional battery increases the length by 4.8 inches. The unit weighs 1.88 pounds without the battery and 3.41 pounds with it.

Travel CPAP Power Supplies

With the exception of the AirMini, each of the most popular travel models has the option of running off a battery. The battery life will vary based on how much pressure is being delivered and whether accessories like a heated humidifier are being used.

As an example, the DreamStation Go has a battery that will reportedly last two nights when the CPAP pressure is set to 10 centimeters of water pressure (cm H2O). The battery will presumably last longer at lower settings.

In practical use, the battery life for most travel CPAP machines is one to two nights with standard use.

The lithium-ion battery used in travel CPAP machines is rechargeable. With that said, the battery cannot be recharged unless you have a power source. This is a consideration if you decide to take the unit out with you while camping.

Of the four recommended models, the Transcend has a solar charger that can make it useful for wilderness outings (unless, of course, it rains).

Pros of Using Travel CPAP

Travel CPAP machines have several features that may make them attractive for people who are on the road or away from home:

  • The units are quiet. Newer technology has led to devices that create virtually no noise. This is a big step forward from older models which often had a disruptive whirring sound.
  • The slimline tubing is sleek. Some devices feature smaller slimline tubing, reducing the size of the standard CPAP tubing. This makes the unit easier to pack and allows for greater movement during sleep without altering the airflow dynamics.
  • There are various mask options. With standard tubing connectors, it is possible to use any type of mask with most newer travel CPAP machines. The only exception is AirMini which requires one of several proprietary masks to accommodate the humidifier design.
  • Integrated displays are standard. Rather than using a smartphone app to control and view the machine's settings, each of the four models has touch-responsive integrated displays that are far easier to use and monitor.
  • Auto-CPAP function is standard. Each of these models has an auto-CPAP option with default settings ranging from 4 to 20 cm H20. This automatically adjusts the airflow pressure based on the amount of resistance it encounters from your breathing.
  • Battery power allows for remote use. Most travel CPAP models (with the exception of the AirMini) have an integrated battery. The battery is safe to take on an airplane without restriction.

Cons of Using Travel CPAP

There are several reasons that you might not want to buy a travel CPAP. These may range from relatively minor nuisances to significant drawbacks, such as:

  • Higher pressure settings may be needed. Travel CPAP machines may not work as well at lower settings and be less responsive to subtle changes in airflow resistance. This can be a problem since higher pressure settings may not be appropriate for you.
  • There may be no humidifier. While many travel CPAP machines have a built-in humidifier, others don't. This could be a deal-breaker if you are prone to nosebleeds or persistent dry mouth from standard CPAP machines.
  • Button responsiveness varies. The navigation buttons on some travel CPAP models are hard to push and vary in their responsiveness. Newer streamlined models generally overcome these concerns.
  • Some models are cumbersome. While the DreamStation Go arguably offers more consistent pressure at high and low settings, it does so because it is larger. At 3.4 pounds, it is five times heavier than the AirMini and Z1, making it harder to transport in carry-on luggage.
  • They are generally costly. Expect to pay $500 to $900 for the four recommended brands. You can opt for inexpensive models you find online, but their performance tends to be lackluster.
  • Insurance may not cover the cost. Insurance will typically only cover a new CPAP device every five years, so you may need to pay for a travel unit out of your own pocket.
5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. ResMed. ResMed AirMini.

  2. Sleeptech. Somnetics Transcend.

  3. Phillips. Philips Respironics DreamStation Go.

  4. Lebret M, Wuyam B, Bertrand D, Chaudot C, Pépin JL, Borel JC. Effectiveness of a lightweight portable auto-CPAP device for the treatment of sleep apnea during high altitude stages of the Dakar Rally: a case reportSleep Sci. 2018;11(2):123–126. doi:10.5935/1984-0063.20180023

  5. Soudorn C, Muntham D, Reutrakul S, Chirakalwasan N. Effect of heated humidification on CPAP therapy adherence in subjects with obstructive sleep apnea with nasopharyngeal symptoms. Respir Care. 2016;61(9):1151-9. doi:10.4187/respcare.04536

Additional Reading

By Brandon Peters, MD
Brandon Peters, MD, is a board-certified neurologist and sleep medicine specialist.