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The Best Portable CPAP Machines for Camping: Z1 vs Transcend

For those who love camping, there is nothing like pitching a tent in the middle of a beautiful forest glade and enjoying the utter peace and quiet of sleeping out in nature, under the stars, away from all the noises of civilization.

Unfortunately, if one or more people in the campground suffers from obstructive sleep apnea, the raucously loud snoring that often accompanies this condition can shatter that idyllic illusion within moments of “light’s out.”

For those who use a CPAP machine (continuous positive airway pressure), the inability to bring their machine along on the camping trip holds potentially worse consequences than ruining their camping companions nights of restful slumber.

The regular usage of a CPAPalso called “CPAP compliance”is the best treatment for obstructive sleep apnea, a condition during which the sleeper’s windpipe collapses while they sleep (an apnea), literally choking off their air supply for seconds, even minutes at a time. People with severe sleep apnea may stop breathing hundreds of times each hour.

Fortunately for the sufferer, the body’s autonomic nervous system can detect these sleep apneas, and do something to re-open the windpipe. Unfortunately, the action taken is to wake the patient up, interrupting what should be a deep, restful night of sleep. Most apnea sufferers are totally unaware of this and go right back to sleep where the apnea cycle happens again and again. As a result, they literally can not enjoy a full, good, deep night of sleep, and spend their waking hours in a tired, non-alert, constantly napping state.

Can You go Camping With a CPAP Machine?

So what is a person suffering from sleep apnea, yet who loves to camp, to do? Especially as most campgrounds won’t have a convenient power outlet into which they can plug their CPAP?

Luckily for the avid apnea outdoors person, portable CPAP technology has matured significantly in the last five years. Now there are excellent options for remaining in full compliance with CPAP therapy, while enjoying the pleasures of overnight camping (and not driving away the whole campground with thunderous snores).

Since the invention of the CPAP machine in the 1970s, several manufacturers have developed portable CPAP versions. Older models suffered from low battery capacities and significantly reduced functionality, especially in comparison to standard non-portable designs.

Of those on the market today, two models the Z1 and the Transcend CPAPs are especially small, light, and pack enough battery power to function effectively for a whole night’s sleep. These machines are so small and non-intrusive, they are approved by the FAA for in-flight use. They both also feature virtually the same operating functions as regular models, such as ramping, data storage, and operational ability at high altitudes.

Good news for those who are camping off-the-grid at a high-sierra outpost or on the side of Mt. Rainier!

Below we’ve reviewed two of the best portable CPAP machines for camping available today!

The Z1 CPAP by HDM

The Z1 is a series of CPAP machines produced by the HDM corporation. They are widely available direct from the manufacturer, as well as from a large range of medical equipment houses. The Z1 fits easily into your hand and sports the following specifications:

  • Weight: 10 ounces
  • Size: 6.5″ by 3.45″ by 2.25″, roughly the size of a large smartphone
  • Noise: 26 decibels (quieter than a typical whisper; in comparison, normal conversation measures 60 decibels)
  • Humidifier: available for additional cost
  • Power supply: AC, 10.5 ounces

What makes the Z1 especially good for camping enthusiasts is its optional external battery pack, called the”Powershell.” Encased in a neoprene sleeve, the battery holds enough power to operate the CPAP for a full night’s sleep. The powershell doubles the weight of the Z1 to about 19 ounces. The battery is replaceable, allowing you to carry multiple battery packs and replacing them in turn as they deplete.

The advantages of the Z1 over a regular CPAP are:

  • The 10-ounce AC power adapter may be used for both the Z1 and for recharging its Powershell. There is also a DC adapter available that allows you to plug the Z1 into a car’s charging port.

Among the cons of the Z1 CPAP are:

  • Requires use of proprietary CPAP hose adapters (which allow use of standard tubing and face masks)
  • Instability: the unit is very easy to flip over, fall, and move due to its extreme light weight; even small motions on the cpap hose may pull the Z1 off of a table
  • Limited range of CPAP pressurization, due to small size and limited power availability

Because the weight of the battery pack doubles the weight of the CPAP, and because of the need to carry additional batteries, the Z1 may be most appropriate for car camping, where you can pack extra supplies and have easy access to a power source. Backpackers would likely prefer to carry something lighter that doesn’t require carrying too many additional supplies.

However, the Z1 can make a great backup option for anyone who lives in areas where power loss can be predicted: for example, in high wind areas or places that get heavy snow, rain, or storm activity. This models ability to switch over from power outlet to battery mode means you can get through the night with uninterrupted CPAP therapy, maintaining your compliance.

The Transcend Series of CPAPs

The Transcend CPAPs are currently offered in three models: Standard, EZEX, and Auto. All models are available from most medical supply houses. Exact specifications vary among the three types of Transcend CPAPs, but all three adhere closely to the following:

  • Weight: 14 ounces
  • Size: 6″ by 3.5″ by 3″
  • Noise level: 2629 db
  • Humidifier: available for additional cost
  • Power supply: AC, 8 oz.

The physical specifications of the Transcend and Z1 CPAPs are virtually identical. What differentiates the Transcend models from the Z1s are the Transcend’s innovative battery and power options.

Transcend Portable CPAP Batteries:

  • Only the size of a deck of cards, the Transcend batteries come in two versions. The first can operate theCPAP for 7 hours; the second, 14 hours, allowing for multiple nights of CPAP compliance.
  • The Transcend is capable of instantly switching from AC to battery power, ensuring an uninterrupted flow of CPAP air in the event of a blackout or brownout.

Solar Battery Charger for the Transcend

Unique to the Transcend CPAP, you may purchase a flexible sheet of solar power cells, which may be used to recharge the battery in 612 hours. The solar charger operates in all light levels, and is touted as “military grade” construction.

The Transcend CPAP batteries may also be charged with a DC auto power adapter, as well as the standard AC adapter included with the CPAP.

Among the few cons of using the Transcend CPAP are:

  • Inability to use the humidifier while on battery power
  • Required use of CPAP hose adapters, to connect to all standard CPAP tubing and masks
  • Instability: the unit is very easy to flip over, fall, and move due to its extreme light weight; even small motions on the cpap hose may pull the Z1 off of a table

For those who like to backpack or camp off the grid, the Transcend, with its 14-hour battery and solar panel recharge ability, is a solid option that may allow you to stay out for days without a power outlet.

Another bonus: this model is excellent in the case of power outages. If you know you’re likely to lose power in the night due to a storm, using the Transcend for the night can allow you uninterrupted therapy in the case of a power outage. Simply keep the battery plugged into an outlet. If the power goes out, the machine automatically switches over to battery mode.


As you can see from this review, both of these CPAP lines offer great portable solutions for traveling light, sleeping in the great outdoors, orin the case of flood, mudslide, and severe storms relocating temporarily to a shelter.

Car campers or those close to a source of power can use either the Z1 or the Transcend. However, off-the-grid backpackers, climbers, anglers, and hunters who don’t have easy access to recharging stations may prefer the Transcend due to its innovative solar charging panel.

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