Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Scout Camping (LONG)
Rodger Morris (rodger@FISHNET.NET)
Tue, 10 Feb 1998 09:18:02 -0800
At 10:05 AM 2/10/98 -0500, you wrote:
>I just read your message in scouts-l about OSA. I've recently discovered
>too that I have it (my oxygen levels were going as low as 69%). Since I
>got my cpap machine, it's been like a rebirth to not be sleepy all the
>time and to wake up feeling refreshed - as I'm sure you know. I'm very
>curious about the setup you use for camping, since I plan to remain very
>active in the troop (I'm the advancement chairman, my oldest son is in
>the troop and my youngest is 2 years away). I plan to attend summer
>camps and even Philmont - somehow. Any suggestions?
I don't go backpacking anymore, as the weight and bulk of the CPAP,
batteries, inverter, humidifier, and so on preclude doing so. OSA
gets worse at altitude, so I don't recommend backpacking for over
a week away from your CPAP at the high altitudes found at Philmont.
I use a Radio Shack inverter, part number 22-132A and a pair of marine
deep cycle batteries. These suffice for a weekend, as I use one battery
on Friday night and another on Saturday night. These items also do double
duty as emergency gear in the event of a power outage at home, and they
have been invaluable on several occasions.
One quirk of the inverter is that, should you hook the two clips up
backwards to the battery, the internal cylindrical fuse in the inverter
will blow out. This is easy to do at night and/or when one is tired. I
don't hook the inverter up ahead of time, as it depletes the battery,
even when nothing is attached to the inverter.
Thus, I keep some spare fuses in my kit. I also have a small DC neon
light I can hook up to the battery so I can see what I'm doing as I rig
the gear in the dark.
For my van, I bought a solenoid switch and paid to have auxiliary wiring
run to the rear of the van where I have a storage space for two marine
deep cycle batteries. The solenoid engages when the ignition is on and
disengages when the ignition is off. This charges the batteries as I
drive. It also ensures that should I deplete both batteries that I do
not run down the car battery.
At summer camp, I have been given dispensation to drive to the campsite
and offload the CPAP and associated gear. I drop a pair of battery
chargers and an electrical extension cord off at the Health Lodge along
with one of the batteries. Every morning, I carry a battery up to the
lodge and hook it up as I'm on my way to breakfast. On my way back, I
carry the other battery back to our troop campsite. The council is kind
enough to accomodate me by putting my troop in a campsite near the
I find that at the end of the week, about Friday morning, the battery
seems to go flat at about 5 a.m. Thus, I have decided to get another
battery and go to a three day rotation, with two days charging and one
When the battery gets low, there is no warning. Between one breath and
the next, the compressor motor on the CPAP starts spooling down. This
was quite disconcerting the first time it happened to me.
Also, those batteries get _heavy_ when you must carry them. I am
considering getting a "little red wagon" or something similar to
transport the batteries between the Health Lodge and the troop
The one piece of gear that I shall have to buy for an extended trip
(such as a spring camping trip down in Baja California or the Pimaree,
for example) is a small electrical generator I may also need to increase
the number of batteries, as it seems to take several hours of charging
for every hour of use of the inverter in order to fully recharge the
As a side issue, my Scouts know that I have OSA, and that if they hear
me start to snore, that my headgear has slipped and I am in trouble. They
know to wake me up and tell me that I was snoring so that I can
re-position my headgear. This seldom happens, but it's nice to know I
have some backup. Since the two surgeries, I no longer wake up choking,
but I take enough of a beating without the CPAP that I am exhausted in
the morning. Alas, my CPAP is one of the older models that does not have
an alarm that sounds if it does not detect the pressure rise that
I hope this helps you out. Let me know what improvements you come up
with on the life support system I have outlined.
Yours in Scouting,
Rodger Morris <email@example.com>
Asst. Scoutmaster, Troop 808 Wood Badge 416-18
Ventura County Council at Philmont, 1973
Camarillo, California, USA "I used to be a Beaver..."
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City