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Looking for advice for sleep apnea and backpacking.

Dear Friends;

I've been a member since 1975. I've been extremely athletic most of my years, but I nevertheless developed sleep apnea. Backpacking trips have frankly become quite miserable at night; living hell is not an overstatement. A doctor prescribed xanax to try and minimize anxiety so I can attempt to sleep through the night, to no avail so far. I do use a cpap machine diligently while in civilization. I am wondering if anyone has experimented with hammocks. If so, what are the results? Are there other sleep positioning aids that might allow a more elevated chest while sleeping? I was wondering if there is a blow-up wedge or something from another venue that might be adapted to backpacking. I would appreciate a rigorous discussion. With every good wish to you all....

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6 Replies

Homemade wanderlust (aka Dixie)  discussed CPAP machines here if you have been prescribed one of those...there are some battery operated one that are lightish.

She said there was a discussion on her Homemade Wanderlust facebook

@Tron Thanks for reaching out!

While the conversation was around a different sleep issue, we recommend checking out the conversation, GERD prevention while camping?. There are some helpful links to lightweight, 'wedge' style pillows that you may find interesting.

Hopefully this helps, thanks!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

I have sleep apnea and am about go on my first backpacking trip in over a decade. My sleep apnea is due to a narrow airway in the back of my throat. I have no nasal issues, so what works for me, may not work for others.

I plan on bringing my dental appliance, which helps keep my airway open. It’s not as effective as it was 10 years ago when I started using it, but still better than nothing. I also tested out sleeping on my stomach on a camping pad with a regular small pillow. I think that by far is going to be the best sleep position for me while camping. Sleeping on my back is hellish, as you described. And side sleeping requires far more cushioning than I want to pack on the trip.  So hopefully this plan gets me through ok. Good luck!


@Tron @Futtsnaej I was diagnosed several months ago with sleep apnea and started diligently using a CPAP.  Last month due to a storm we lost power so I was forced to sleep without the machine for the first time.  I felt like I'd been hit by a bus and struggled to function the next day.  As a result, I'm looking for solutions for backpacking.

So far the best I can come up with a small travel machine ($880, 0.66lbs, about the size of a beer can) and battery ($300-$350 ,claims to weigh 1.3lbs, and looks to be the size of a small paperback).  However, my biggest concern is battery life which seems to be 1-2 nights at best.  The battery manufacturer shows a photo with a 50w solar charger ($250-$350, 2.8lbs).  The specs suggest a 7-9 hour charge time with the solar charger in full sun.  The cost at this point is $1,400+ depending on where you buy with added weight of 5-7lbs which isn't ideal, but doable.

My challenge is I plan to hike a section of a long trail rather than hike in, set up a base camp to day hike/fish from, then hike out.  While I'm not excited about the extra weight, I just don't know if I'll be able to keep the battery sufficiently charged to get 6+ hours of good sleep to continue on the trail for two weeks.  I'm also not keen to spend $1,400+ to find out I can't make it work for that long.

Anyone have any thoughts or experience with solar chargers in the wild?  Has anyone tried using a travel CPAP with battery backup?


Based on the general criticisms of solar chargers by long distance hikers I have come across and my own minimal experience with them, I think what you propose is unlikely to go well.  

Solar works well for vehicle camping where you have a very high capacity battery and lots of solar panel.  Solar is too unreliable for backpacking anywhere outside the South West in the summer or similar location where you can actually expect 9 hrs + of full sun a day.  Even then it is generally not possible to present sufficient solar panels toward the sun while hiking.  That makes it unlikely you will collect enough energy on a daily basis given that 50W of solar is probably the minimum for your needs under ideal conditions.   For backpacking in general, solar is only really practical as a backup charger for a Garmin InReach or phone in case you get stuck.  I have carried a ~3oz "lixada 10W" with this intent. 

What most long distance hikers with high power needs (generally camera batteries) do is carry more battery capacity and plan to recharge them in town when they zero in town or similar after 4 to 7 nights on the trail. Obviously their needs are more flexible than yours but I think that approach is more likely to work.  So assuming one battery can get actually get you through two nights, rather than carry a cumbersome solar array that will likely disappoint,  consider putting the money and weight budgets into a 2nd battery or even a 3rd and adjust your trip to zero in town on the 4th or 5th night.

From what you say I guess you are proposing to use something like the ResMed Air Mini with the medistrom pilot24 battery  and the medistrom solar panel ? I have looked at that battery for travel for a family member but I do not know if 2 nights claim is reliably plausible.  I am curious as to how well it works.  I suspect it may depend in how aggressively you require the CPAP to work.  The ReMed Mini uses between 6 and 27 W for example.   Reviews are generally good with a few DOAs and short lives some of which may be the result of under use and not storing a half charge (ie user error).

There are some less expensive 24v batteries which some people claim to use successfully to power their ResMed Air Sense 10 CPAPs like the TalentCell PB240B1 with this cable .  A concern is that the nominal 24v output is not stabilized and can vary from 29.4v to 21v so use with caution.  Apparently you have to ensure the charge level gives less than 28v on the DC output of the CPAP won't work...fine if you have a voltmeter along 🙂 .  I'm looking for a suitable 24v regulator.  Things are a bit easier if the CPAP you use can be powered from 12v since 12v batteries are easier to find.

Although not directly relevant,  currently we use a Jackery 240 as a UPS for a ResMed Air Sense 10 to handle power outages.  The Jackery 500 is the minimum recommended size for CPAP use off grid supposedly providing about 9 hrs of use from the 110v inverter (easy but not efficient).  Obviously neither of those is suitable for backpacking. 


@MrBean - On my last trip I did have some success by in fact finding various sizes and configurations of inflatable wedge pillows on Amazon (not too heavy), combining that with an otc antihistamine over a week-long trip. I was able to sleep through the night moderately restfully for the first time in a number of years. I am unlikely to spend $1500 or so to come up with a more portable cpap/battery option. I wish everyone well in their search for a solution.