Travel CPAP Reviews

As an airline pilot, being diagnosed with sleep apnea was a challenge in more ways than one. You can read about my experience from symptoms to dealing with the FAA in my other post. My first machine was a ResMed Airsense 10. But, after carrying that around the world, I decided to read several travel CPAP reviews to find the most compact unit I could carry on the road. I ultimately purchased the ResMed Air Mini CPAP (AirMini) machine.  I learned a lot in the process and wanted to share my experience.

The Good News

Luggage Space

When you travel a lot, every inch and every pound matters. I try to pack as light as I can, from buying lightweight fabrics, rolling my clothes to stuffing my underwear and socks inside my shoes. Now that I had to carry my ResMed CPAP machine around with me, everything changed. I fly for a cargo company. We don’t have jet-ways. We walk up ladders to get inside the cockpit. So, lugging a heavy bag up those stairs was not my idea of fun. I could do it for a while, but I wanted to find something that would be good for the long term.

Plugging and Unplugging

My schedule demands that I fly for a day or two, and then return home. I found myself plugging and unplugging my machine all the time. I also had to empty and fill the water chamber on my AirSense 10. Having the AirMini as my “travel CPAP” made life so much easier. All I had to do was pack it once, and I was on my way.

Small and Lightweight

The Air Mini weighs 0.66 pounds (300 grams) and measures 5.4 x 3.3 x 2 in (13.6 x 8.4 x 5.2 cm). You can see from my photo how it compares to the size of a $1 bill. Because it does not have a water chamber for humidity, the unit is very compact.

Less is best

There are not that many pieces you need to carry. Here is what you need:

  1. Unit
  2. Mask
  3. Power Cord
  4. Hose
  5. Bag to carry it in

I carry a back pack for my computer and iPad. I went out and bought a soft-side lunch bag that zips to carry everything inside one container. I do have two smaller bags that I sub-divide the pieces into, just in case I need to split things up to get even smaller. I typically will store the CPAP in my suitcase, but if I ever have to check my bag, all I have to do is throw it in my backpack.  My backpack still fits under the seat in front of me if I have to fly on a passenger airplane.

It Works as Advertised

While I do sleep more comfortably at home with my AirSense 10, I have to say this machine works extremely well. I was concerned about the lack of humidity, but it has not been a factor. ResMed designed a system that captures some of the humidity from your breath, and it works for me. Even as light as the machine is, it stays put quite well on the bed-side table in the hotel. The power connector is a two-pronged plug, so it is easy to use in any hotel.  Most rooms have a plug next to your bed, but even if they don’t, the cord is long enough to span the distance.

Capturing Data

The machine does not have a data card inside. It connects through Bluetooth. I was a little concerned about this, as I need to ensure my data is collected for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The connectivity has been great. You can start and stop the machine with the phone App and see your sleep details very quickly when you wake up. The only issue moving forward is merging the data from my two machines. ResMed stores all the data in the Cloud. I have two ResMed accounts. The Sleep Clinic will have to take all the data from both accounts and merge it into a single sleep report.

Now, for the Bad News

Noise is a Minor Problem

The greatest complaint I continually read in the reviews was noise. Honestly, it is noisier than the AirSense 10. Most of the noise comes from the air that escapes from the mask connector. I’m not sure why they designed it that way, but a fair amount of air does escape.

The machine has a ramp-up feature that starts you off at a lower pressure, then gradually increases to the needed level.  I find that the air noise is louder during the ramp-up phase.  When I wake up in the middle of the night, the air noise seems to be much softer.  Honestly, the noise is not that bad.

I use the F20 AirFit full-face mask. I’m a mouth-breather, so I can’t use the N20 nasal mask. I’m not sure if that is any quieter, but I can’t imagine it is much better.

The F20 and N20 masks are the only ones that work.  I wish they made it compatible with the masks used with their home units.  This would take care of almost all the noise issues.

The machine itself does not make any noise.  It is all from the connection from the hose to mask.

Other Drawbacks?

While humidity has not been a major factor, the air you get will be much drier. I have not suffered any real side-effects. I do find myself keeping a bottle of water close to the bed so I can take a drink in the middle of the night.  It also has a lot to do with where you are.  On a recent trip to Colorado, I did find my mouth and nose drier as a result of the low humidity in the air.  In San Juan or Jacksonville, I don’t have any problems.

The Cost

Many insurance companies only pay for one machine every five years. This unit goes for around $899, plus supplies. So, this will likely be an out-of-pocket expense if you already have a home unit. I asked my family for this as a Christmas present.  I determined long ago that my time and effort have a financial value.  The ease and portability the ResMed AirMini provides for me is worth every penny.

Why Not Other Travel CPAPs?

There are several other travel CPAP machines on the market.  The Z1 Travel CPAP seems portable.  It does have the ability to use a battery for true cord-free sleeping.  But, I have read mixed-reviews on the sound level and I really don’t want more things to carry.  Also, because my home unit is ResMed, I wanted to keep everything in the ResMed cloud for ease of FAA sleep reports.  The Z1 may ultimately cost less, but sometimes you get what you pay for.  The AirMini has been worth the money.  You will ultimately have the same issue of humidity with any machine that does not use a water bin.  That’s what makes these units so light and portable.

What’s the Verdict?

You have to ask yourself why you want a travel CPAP machine? If you need something small, lightweight and very portable, this machine is definitely for you. The two inconveniences of noise and humidity are small in comparison to the benefit you will receive from buying the ResMed AirMini. As someone who travels a lot and sleeps in hotels half the month, this unit met every need I had. My fellow pilots are amazed when they see how small and compact this unit is. While there are design issues ResMed needs to work on, I give it my highest recommendation and believe it can be very useful to those who travel a lot.

Please share your experiences below. I would like to get quality feedback if you have used this machine or another travel style.