Portable Oxygen for High Altitude

Discussion in 'Equipment' started by ThruTraffic, Apr 16, 2018 at 1:59 PM.

  1. ThruTraffic

    ThruTraffic Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2012
    Oddometer:
    221
    Location:
    North Carolina
    First; I'm not asking about Boost Oxygen cans or those over the counter products.

    I've never had altitude sickness before, don't want to.

    I'm going to be spending about ten days riding back country above 10,000 feet in June. Two oxygen related experiences I've encountered were Bear Tooth Pass and Pike's Peak. Walking around BTP taking pictures etc. was a little difficult at times. Short breaks were required. Atop Pike's Peak it was difficult just walking to the store and back from the parking lot. Both these events were 20 years ago. I'm 66 now.

    I got a prescription for 125mg Diamox (Acetazolamide) and an order that will allow me to purchase medical grade O2 for this and I'll do a couple of days altitude acclimation around Denver (5000) and then Colorado Springs (6000). I live a couple hundred feet above sea level.

    So I'm looking for a backup oxygen delivery system that's reasonable to take on an off road motorcycle ride. I figure a tank, a hose and a hand mask stored in my saddlebag will likely be the device I take but I'm wondering if anyone else has any experience with this and has a better mousetrap.

    An astronaut's helmet would be great but I can't afford NASA's rates. :jack

    My ask is: Has anyone ever done something similar, what equipment did you utilize, and how did it work for you?
    #1
  2. oldmanb777

    oldmanb777 Just say NO to socialism!

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2006
    Oddometer:
    6,508
    Location:
    Centennial,Co./ Grand Lake,Co
    It's not the concentration of oxygen as much as the partial pressure at altitude. So, learn to pressure breathe.
    #2
  3. SnowMule

    SnowMule [angry moth noises]

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2009
    Oddometer:
    22,048
    Location:
    I LIVE IN A GIANT BUCKET
    Acclimate first.
    Take a few days to relax at 6-7k ft, then venture up from there. And drink water.

    If you start feeling the effects of elevation, start making your way down the mountain. HAPE/HACE aren't things to fuck around with.

    Your goal is to finish the ride and get home safely; the top of the mountain is an objective along the way.
    Ride with the mindset that objectives can (and should) be changed as conditions change, to accomplish your goal.

    Short breaks are a fact of life at 10k+ ft. Know your limits and work within them.
    I know i'm good for 5-6 hrs with sufficient food/hydration for the activity at 13k+ ft before I start getting fumble-fingered and make mistakes.

    IMO the idea of bringing supplemental o2 on a ride is silly. Plan your trip better before you head up.

    [​IMG]
    #3
    Boondox likes this.
  4. appliance57

    appliance57 Long timer

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2014
    Oddometer:
    1,678
    Location:
    Boston
    Breathing pure oxygen for an extended period will crystalize lung tissue. It's also highly explosive. Gotta be a better way.
    #4
  5. the_gr8t_waldo

    the_gr8t_waldo Long timer

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2006
    Oddometer:
    2,560
    Location:
    tacoma warshington
    you won't need anything more than money...there's potable o2 breaking systems for recreational. and glider pilots. not cheap but in a fairly wide array of features. just about any medical supply company can fill one....10k isn't all that high, are you sure you really need one? if you really do, your med insurance should cover the majority of the cost.... if there's a REAL medical need
    #5
  6. Blissed

    Blissed Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2014
    Oddometer:
    123
    Location:
    PNW
    #6
  7. Themartymac

    Themartymac Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2017
    Oddometer:
    132
    Location:
    British Columbia, Canada
    Disclaimer: I have spent many years living at altitude and treating acute sickness as both a firefighter/EMR and search and rescue manager, but I am not a Doctor. I agree that supplemental oxygen is a hassle and has definite risks and complications, particularly when associated with motosports. However, you certainly would be bringing a potentially lifesaving tool if you really need it. I would focus on acclimation if possible, managing your exertion, and having a plan for emergencies. An emergency treatment bottle is not an unreasonable measure though considering your age and personal fitness assessment, so if you want to go that route there are considerations...

    You're not climbing a mountain, so a full mask system is not necessary or practical. A very low flow with a nasal canula would be plenty to manage short periods of acute symptons, and much more practical if you needed to "ride-out" a short distance with supplemental oxygen. A reservoir mask would be reserved for the most serious emergencies (which would certainly involve a call for rescue). Most compact bottles don't last very long at typical mask flow rates of 5-10 lpm or more (just a few minutes), and if you recognize the symptoms and treat early, you're only looking to get another 5-10 % o2 concentration for a short duration to see relief. If you allow yourself to reach the point of significant/chronic symptoms or disorientation you have failed and are in serious trouble. Education is key here, and a total lack of a superman complex!

    An experienced alpine Doctor needs to advise you, but unless you are a serious athlete you probably cannot acclimate quickly at your age. Considering what off-tarmac mountain riding can be like, 1-2 days at high altitude (8000-12000) will do the bare minimum. You probably need to allow 3+ days for high altitude, and up to a week of staged acclimatization to get above 12000 (considered Very High) for more than a day of off-road riding. Certainly for several days of physical riding because you will probably shoot right up to 10000+ and not have any benefits of staged acclimatization as a much slower hiker would.

    For gear, Boost bottles are a marketing gimmick. Avoid them completely! A small carbon fibre-wrapped "DD" medical cylinder is about 5lbs with regulator and accessories and maybe 12 inches long and less than 6 inches wide. That's about 700 litres of oygen, or 3-5 hours of low-flow supplemental oxygen through a nasal cannula (2-4 lpm), or up to an hour of high-flow through a reservoir mask (10 lpm) for emergencies. A carbon "EE" cylinder is twice that amount, and about twice the size and weight with accessories. Both are somewhat unique, so you would have to preplan their rental and refill.

    The physical and medical hazards of high concentration o2 are very real, and high concentrations are actually toxic to humans for extended periods and cause secondary medical problems. There are significant fire and explosion hazards when any kind of spark or oil/grease are introduced. You can't wing it, so get some good education before you decide. :-)

    #7
    Adrian V and SnowMule like this.
  8. Hankus

    Hankus Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2014
    Oddometer:
    221
    “A little difficult at times” is normal for high altitude, especially when you are not used to it. The best rule I can give you is to party high and sleep low. If you can pull that off you should not have a serious problem. Altitude sickness is a serious problem and its not the same as “a little difficult”. The sure cure is to immediately descend to a lower altitude. If you are sleeping at lower altitudes you should be fine for the day’s fun.

    I’ve been bothered by altitude sickness once and was able to go down and shake it off. The important thing is to recognize the signs early and do something about it. Unless you have an illness that might aggravate the effects of altitude, just riding your bike over a mountain pass should be no problem at all. I ride mountain bikes at high altitude and do just fine if I’ve been riding enough at home (just basic conditioning) before I go. Home for me is 600-900 feet. I just ride slow enough to not over extend myself. I’m about your age. Its not an age thing.

    All that said, I think you should follow the advice given so far, especially the part about getting advice from a doctor who is experienced with altitude effects and who is aware of any physical limitations you might have. Most healthy people can go to 10,000 feet and not notice a thing but “a little difficulty”. If that’s not you, talk to a doctor about this before you go.
    #8
    ThruTraffic and Adrian V like this.
  9. bigphish

    bigphish Curiously Satisfying

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2009
    Oddometer:
    1,116
    Location:
    Wandering WNC and sometimes in Costa Rica
    I am 65 years old and last year on my trip through the Rockies I really felt the effects of high altitude. First time in my life I can say that. I do however think if I took my time, meaning a couple of days to acclimate I would have greatly reduced the light headed feeling I got a couple of times. This year I plan to spend a couple of days at 6 to 7K ft. before heading out, that should help.
    #9
  10. appliance57

    appliance57 Long timer

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2014
    Oddometer:
    1,678
    Location:
    Boston
    Not sure 10k is the piece of cake you make it out to be. It depends on the amount of aerobic exertion. I've felt queazy when setting up camp chopping wood etc.., but not when driving. Not sure about riding, but it's not that aerobic.
    #10
  11. longslowdistance

    longslowdistance Long timer

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2010
    Oddometer:
    1,273
    Location:
    Virginia
    Ask your physician about diamox.
    #11
  12. Adrian V

    Adrian V Long timer

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2008
    Oddometer:
    1,259
    Location:
    Albany Western Australia
    This is good advice :thumb.
    Don't underestimate the Diamox, it can work well. I also wouldn't be worrying too much about severe altitude sickness at that height, but you should let how you feel dictate what you do. Feeling out of breath is normal, but a severe headache, or noticing one of your party starting to do random stuff is not good. Best thing to do then is to get lower down, even a couple of thousand feet may be enough. As outlined above, try arrange your trip so you sleep at lower altitudes where possible, i.e. up and over the passes in the day and back down for a good sleep. Warmer that way too :-).
    #12
  13. Hankus

    Hankus Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2014
    Oddometer:
    221
    Blissed posted this link above. Its a good explanation of the problem. Expect mild symptoms, they are normal for most people. A little headache and slight shortness of breath is to be expected. Drink lots of water and go a little slower. Mild discomfort is not the same as altitude sickness that does require attention and descent. Do not ignore symptoms that point to a more serious problem. Read the link.

    https://www.princeton.edu/~oa/safety/altitude.html
    #13
  14. ThruTraffic

    ThruTraffic Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2012
    Oddometer:
    221
    Location:
    North Carolina
    I reviewed several studies about this and the results seem to indicate this type of 'lung/diaphragm' traing does indeed enhance breathing muscles but it doesn't supply an increase of blood oxygenation, which is what's needed to prevent altitude sickness; just creates stronger breathing apparatus. :-)
    #14
  15. ThruTraffic

    ThruTraffic Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2012
    Oddometer:
    221
    Location:
    North Carolina
    My primary care physician and many mountain climbers would disagree. I'm going with silly; a prescription of Diamox and a small quantity of O2 just in case.
    #15
    oldmanb777 likes this.
  16. ThruTraffic

    ThruTraffic Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2012
    Oddometer:
    221
    Location:
    North Carolina
    Again, going with silly. I don't know if the need will exist but I'm taking some anyway. Insurance did pay for the doctor visit/discussion and a prescription for Diamox. They won't pay for the O2. If I don't use it it will probably still be good when I'm 80 and need it for sea level. :-)
    #16
  17. ThruTraffic

    ThruTraffic Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2012
    Oddometer:
    221
    Location:
    North Carolina
    Posts this valuable occur about one time out of a 100 asks in a forum. ~80% of replies are worthless and then a guy like this comes along and pours out a bag of diamonds in text; free for everyone!

    Themartymac ROCKS!
    #17
  18. cagiva549

    cagiva549 whats a cagiva

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2004
    Oddometer:
    4,157
    Location:
    Cypress Tx
    When industrial oxygen bottles are filled they are attached to a rack that a Liguid oxygen truck backs up to and connects and fills 50 bottles at once . I happened to notice medical bottles on the same rack and asked the store guys about it , they told me medical bottles require cirtifacation papers stating the pureity of the product , and that's all they buy . Interesting info I thought , but for years if I came to work feeling low and slow I would open the valve of an oxy bottle a bit and take a few good snorts of supercharged air , clear your head right up . Since then any time I plan on spending more than a few hours at high altitude I will take one of my oxygen bottles along , I even have a midical bottle that will almost fit in my tank bag , just crack the valve a bit and take a few snorts and your good to go . Your not breathing it pure , your just supercharging the natural air that's already there . I forgot to add , the price for industrial air is a 10th that of medical oxygen , that paperwork is very expensive . Your results may vary so use this information at your own risk .
    #18
  19. oldmanb777

    oldmanb777 Just say NO to socialism!

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2006
    Oddometer:
    6,508
    Location:
    Centennial,Co./ Grand Lake,Co
    #19
  20. RoundTrip

    RoundTrip Unintentional deerslayer

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2006
    Oddometer:
    2,824
    Location:
    Sunny Tucson AZ
    66 yrs old and spent about a week in Cusco Peru which is at 11,00'. FRankly didn't have any problems just walking around and up and down normal hills. All the locals and we drank coca tea most of the day and another herb at night. No psychoactive effects but definitely better oxygenation. I suspect you'll have good results with Diamox. Just take it easy until you see how it's going for you.
    #20