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This article is a comprehensive review of mini CPAP options for portable treatment of sleep apnea by our board certified sleep physician.

Mini CPAP: A Guide to Portable CPAP Machines

plane train and car symbols

Are you in the market for a mini CPAP? If you have sleep apnea and are in one of the following groups, a travel CPAP might be of interest to you:

  • frequent travelers
  • hunters
  • backcountry campers
  • sailors
  • vacation home owners who don't want to lug their regular machines back and forth
  • those who don't want everyone to know that they have sleep apnea when they take a commercial flight

What CPAP travel machine options are available?

The smallest CPAP machines on the market are manufactured by two companies, Somnetics and HDM. Let's explore both:

Transcend CPAP Machines (Somnetics)

transcend cpap with key for scale

Transcend is original small CPAP machine. There are three machine models:

  • Transcend miniCPAP: base model - fixed pressure machine
  • Transcend EZEX: fixed pressure machine with exhalation pressure relief for added comfort
  • Transcend AUTO: auto CPAP machine; includes EZEX pressure relief; can also be set to fixed pressure

Machine specifications:

All three Transcend CPAP machine models have the following specifications:

  • Weight: 426 grams
  • Dimensions (L x W x H): 15.5cm x 8.9cm x 7.1cm
  • Adjustable ramp: 0-45 minutes
  • Automatic altitude adjustment: up to 2438 meters
  • Power supply: 100-240 VAC, 50-60Hz, 19VDC, 2.6 Amp
  • Warranty: 3 years

Noise levels vary slightly. The Transcend AUTO and Transcend EZEX put generates 26.6 dB, while the base model Transcend produces 29 dB.

Z1 CPAP (HDM) 

z1 cpap held in palm of hand

Z1 bills itself as the smallest CPAP machine in the world. It comes in four models: 

  • Z1 CPAP: fixed pressure machine
  • Z1 CPAP Unplugged: fixed pressure machine bundled with rechargeable battery for portable use
  • Z1 Auto: auto PAP machine
  • Z1 Auto Unplugged: auto PAP machine bundled with rechargeable battery for portable use 

Machine specifications:

All Z1 models have the following specifications: 

  • Weight: 263 g
  • Dimensions (L x W l x H): 16.5cm x 8.4cm x 5.1cm
  • Adjustable ramp: 0-45 minutes
  • Automatic altitude adjustment: up to 2591 meters
  • Power supply: 100-240 VAC, 50-60Hz, 19VDC, 2.6 Amp
  • Warranty: 3 years
  • Noise level: 26 dB 

The Z1 also offers Bluetooth data transmission and a free data app so users can monitor their own compliance data.

Apex CPAP 

apex cpap held in palm of hand

Some might also include the Apex XT small CPAP line in a list of best travel CPAP machines. These machines are not quite as small as the Transcend and Z1 but are lighter and less bulky than many of the traditional CPAP machines on the market and, at their lower price point, may offer an affordable CPAP for travel option.

 Apex XT Models

Differences in functionality between the machines are depicted in the table below:

apex cpap machine comparison chart

 Machine specifications:

The entire XT portable c-pap machine line has the following specifications: 

  • Weight: 800 g
  • Dimensions (L x W l x H): 14.8cm x 12.8cm x 10cm
  • Adjustable ramp: 0-45 minutes
  • Automatic altitude adjustment: up to 2438 meters
  • Power supply: 100-240 VAC, 50-60Hz, 19VDC, 2.6 Amp
  • Warranty: 2 years
  • Noise level: 28 dB 

Note: the base models of each Apex XT line do not automatically include heated humidification, which is a major comfort feature. An additional heated humidification unit is available as an add-on for an additional fee. 

How well do the machines work? 

The best scientific research paper to analyze the comparative effectiveness of autoCPAP machines was the 2015 Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine article entitled, "All APAPs Are Not Equivalent for the Treatment of Sleep Disordered Breathing: A Bench Evaluation of Eleven Commercially Available Devices," by Zhu et al. The Transcend AUTO was tested for efficacy in this article and scored a 96% rating, which placed it at the top of the group of eleven auto CPAP machines that were evaluated. Neither the Z1 Auto or XT Auto were included in this study. 

Can I use a mini CPAP as my "everyday" machine? What are the typical complaints regarding travel CPAP reviews? 

In theory, you could. But with portable sleep apnea machines, the reduced size comes with tradeoffs; the major one that might affect daily use is lack of robust heated humidification. This may take its toll on your throat, leading to significant dryness and negatively affecting your ability to tolerate therapy with the machine after a few days of use. Of course, if you have no problem using the mini CPAP machine all night, then it may be the only machine that you ever need.   

Where can I purchase these machines? 

The machines discussed above are available for purchase online from a number of Internet-based DME retailers, as well as brick-and-mortar DME shops. You can order the Z1 directly from HDM, the manufacturer.  If you prefer to buy locally, contact local DME stores in your area to find out if they carry the product line that you're interested in. 

Another word of caution: If you suspect that you have sleep apnea, do not skip having a sleep apnea test and discussing the results with a sleep doctor prior to purchasing one of these machines from say Craigslist or Amazon. It's important to determine whether you have sleep apnea, as well as the type and degree of sleep disordered breathing, before you self-treat with one of these machines. You can now do a home sleep study to get the information that you need, which may be more palatable to a lot of people who would like to avoid spending an uncomfortable night in a sleep lab. 

If I buy a travel cpap machine, will I need special tubing for it? Do only specific CPAP masks work with these small cpap machines? 

The Transcend and Apex travel size CPAP machines are compatible with standard CPAP tubing and all CPAP masks so you can use your current interface with your new machine. The Z1 comes with HDM's SlimStyle tubing but is universally compatible with all hoses. 

How much do mini CPAP machines cost? What about the accessories? 

Cost comparison: Average prices in USD are approximately as follows - 

Transcend: 

Machines: 

  • Transend miniCPAP: $449
  • Transcend EZEX: $499
  • Transcend AUTO: $529 

Accessories: 

Z1: 

Machines: 

Z1CPAP: $479

Z1Auto: $549

Z1CPAP Unplugged (includes battery pack): $828

Z1Auto Unplugged (included battery pack): $898

Accessories: 

Powershell (battery pack): $445

Z1 heat moisture exchanger: $6 - uses naturally-occurring moisture in breath to humidify CPAP air; requires replacement after seven days 

Apex: 

Machines: 

  • XT Fit: $189
  • XT Sense: $285
  • XT Prime: $315
  • XT Auto: $385

Accessories: 

XT heated humidifier: $129

Note: if your mini CPAP machine is your second machine, insurance is unlikely to pay for an additional CPAP travel machine and you will need to pay cash, out of pocket. You may also want to buy an additional mask and tubing for the logistical benefit of not having to continuously swap out your interface from your primary machine. 

How do I clean my equipment while traveling? 

You will need to clean your mini machine, mask, and tubing daily. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to manually clean the machine or consider adding the SoClean 2 Go to your CPAP travel bag, which can save a lot of time over the long run. Remember, if you're traveling outside of the United States or using untreated water, like while backcountry camping, you will need to boil or otherwise treat (e.g., iodine tablets, portable water purification systems) the water before using it to clean your equpiment. 

Do I need to use distilled water in my mini CPAP machine's humidifier when traveling? 

You should use distilled water whenever possible. If you are traveling outside the U.S., and do not have access to distilled water, it is extremely important to boil water before using in your humidifier. Tap water in other countries may have higher levels of bacteria and different strains of "bugs" than we are used to, which can lead to potentially nasty infections. Boiling water is clearly the best alternative to distilled water but, if this is not an option, bottled drinking water is preferable to local tap water.   

Note to international shoppers residing outside the United States: some of these product lines may not be available in all countries. 

sleep apnea test home sleep study Joseph Krainin Joseph Krainin, M.D., FAASM is the founder of Singular Sleep, the world's first online sleep center.  He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and board-certified in both sleep  medicine and neurology. He has been practicing medicine for over 10 years.

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