Do I get laughs from “the guys” when I put my mask on in the tent? Yes. Do I instinctively do my best Bane impression from the Dark Knight series (or Darth Vader if I’m feeling geeky)? Oh yeah. But am I left out of camping because I sleep with a CPAP machine? Not on your life!
I have a lot of people tell me they don’t get outdoors and camp because they use a CPAP (Constant Positive Air Pressure) and can’t sleep without it, so the most adventure they get is a cabin where they can plug in. I get it… I’ve had CPAP machine for over 10 years now and I have a hard time without it. But I also love the outdoors and I wasn’t about to let that stop me. Besides, could I really have a complete”zombie plan” if I didn’t figure out a way to use it in the long term? (more to come on that later)
I’ve done a lot of research over the years… And there are some great ideas out there and I’d like to share with you some of what I found.
My brother recently came to a camp out with a DIY battery for his CPAP that he made from a plastic box and a car battery. The cost was fairly low, and it worked great for him. Hey, if it’s strong enough for the car, it’s more than enough for the CPAP and there is definitely some info out there for doing this kind of project. As long as you can get all the items for a reasonable price and you have the time, it’s a great way to get started.
The downside is that, if you want to stay out longer than a night or two, you need to find a way to charge it. (My brother hooked it up to his car and turned it on for a while)
Nowadays, there are more and more manufacturers offering batteries specifically made for their CPAP machines. More and more CPAP retailers are offering 3rd party options as well.
These can also be a great option as most have been designed specifically for the machine.
The problem I had with them is they are a bit costly without offering additional charge options for devices, tent lights, etc. On top of that, if I were to switch equipment – as most of us do very 5-10 years – I would need to buy a new battery.
After a lot of looking around, I found my first Goal Zero kit. Admittedly, the cost is higher than the first two options, but it had all the versatility I was looking for:
- It wasn’t just specific to a CPAP, but could also be used for charging other things
- It has an intuitive design, meaning I didn’t have to pack a lot of other gear or accessories
- And the solar option means it is sustainable. You can go out for extended periods of time without having to plug in
First off, batteries are heavy. If you’re car camping this isn’t as much of an issue, but what if you want to go backpacking and pounds count? (More on this to follow) The other problem is that CPAP machines consume a lot of energy, especially if you’re using a humidifier like I do (I live in a dry climate and these are almost mandatory. This means you need a lot of battery. The folks at Goal Zero told me not to consider anything smaller than their Yeti 400, which is approximately 29 lbs.
One of the coolest tricks I uncovered was changing how I plugged the machine in. I found out that the manufacturer makes a DC converter for use with a car outlet or 12v. As it turns out, we’re used to plugging into AC power from a wall outlet, but the battery puts out its power in DC. So, the battery wastes energy converting from Direct Current (DC) to Alternating Current (AC). If you can bypass this and just use DC current, it’s a much more efficient transfer. Additionally, if you turn down the humidity settings (or off depending on the climate), you’ll save even more power.
The payoff is that, if I take the bigger battery when I’m car camping, I now have a lot more juice to use on other things.
Or, if weight is an issue, I have been able to scale down to smaller batteries like the Yeti 150 – weighing in at 12 lbs AND less expensive. In some cases I’ve even been able to power a whole night’s sleep on the Sherpa 100 – which is under 2 lbs!
The Solar Option
Solar panels aren’t cheap, and I’ll say that right out front. But from the per perspective of emergency preparedness, it could prove almost invaluable. Most of us don’t think about power needs when we make our “zombie plan”, but for someone like me who needs a CPAP to sleep, solar can make all the difference in the world.
It used to be that Goal Zero only made hard panels, called the Boulder 30. They’re still available today, and actually pretty cool…but not very practical for camping or bug out planning.
They now offer a new line of folding panels. The good news is that they don’t cost more than the hard panels, AND they can be daisy-chained together. I personally have the Nomad 20 panel and, even though I’m only getting 20 watt/hours instead of 30, the weight and size benefits are awesome.
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|Yeti 1250 Battery||Sherpa 100 Battery|