Hiking, Living Breathless
Leave a Comment

How to hike with busted lungs

My collection of necessities for hiking includes tanks of oxygen,  a pulse oximeter to monitor my oxygen levels and a hound dog.

My collection of necessities for hiking includes tanks of oxygen, a pulse oximeter to monitor my oxygen levels and a hound dog.

Its pretty well established on this blog that I love road trips and hiking. They are just about my two favorite activities. So you’d think – as I did – that busted lungs means no more hiking, right? WRONG. I just needed some “modifications.” You know, like the bionic woman.

So what does one need to hike with busted lungs?

  1. Oxygen: Enough to cover the distance
  2. Backpack: To carry oxygen and other supplies
  3. Pulse oximeter: To measure oxygen levels
  4. Timer: To keep track of how much time/oxygen is left
  5. Fitbit: To measure my distance/steps taken so I feel super accomplished
  6. GoPro: For documenting the inevitable trip and fall
  7. Hound Dog: Because what fun is a walk in the woods without being dragged after a squirrel?

So, if you’re like me six months ago, your oxygen therapy knowledge extends to wearing a tube on your face and kids looking at you funny. While those things are true, there is actually a lot more to it. There’s different kinds of tanks, regulators, and concentrators and they all do different things. I like the smaller tanks because they’re easier for me to slip in a bag and sling around. Obviously they give me less time per tank, but mobility is more important to me. I’m not into dragging a wheelie cart behind me with a giant, green tank laying on it.  I’m trying to keep what’s left of my dignity.

The side mesh pockets on my pack are perfect for holding my pulse oximeter and wrench for my oxygen tanks.

The side mesh pockets on my pack are perfect for holding my pulse oximeter and wrench for my oxygen tanks.r

Of course, there is a higher-tech option to using these canisters: a portable oxygen concentrator. These small machines that make oxygen sound like a great idea. Instead of having to deal with oxygen deliveries every week and having only about an hour before I need to replenish, I can have a battery operated machine that just needs juice and I can go on forever! Plus, several portables are approved by the FAA for use on planes, whereas the tanks definitely are not.

Added bonus: If the ads for portables are to be believed, getting one will give me my life back! I can bake cookies with my granddaughters, go fly fishing with my grandson, attend birthday parties in the neighborhood, play my guitar on my front porch and work on my motorcycle in the garage. Where do I sign?!

Can you tell these products are not marketed for an almost 30 year old?

Oh, yeah. Double-barrel action for those longer hikes.

Oh, yeah. Double-barrel action for those longer hikes.

The solution that’s working for me right now ended up being a little closer to home. I already had an organizing pack I bought from Thirty-One a couple of years ago that I modified to use as a camera pack. (I don’t think its still being offered, but I did find some listings on eBay, if you’re interested in the bag.) The dividers didn’t seem padded or sturdy enough to hold my camera and lenses, so my crafty Mom made some extra padding and dividers for the inside of the bag for me. For hiking, I just fold some of the dividers down and viola! Instant oxygen pack. I can slide one canister in and leave the other side for my cameras and gear or lay down all the dividers and get some double-barrel action. If I’m really feeling adventurous – and like carrying around all that weight – I can use some more of my homemade dividers and slide a third tank in the pack and get about three-and-a-half hours of continuous oxygen.

Plus, the backpack strap has a loop on it that is tailor-made for clipping on a GoPro. Make an ad about THAT, oxygen marketers.

This entry was posted in: Hiking, Living Breathless


I’m something you don’t see every day: A person under 80 who walks around with oxygen everywhere she goes. I have Sjogren's Syndrome, an autoimmune disorder which, with the help of my stubborn refusal to go to the doctor, caused some pretty deep damage to my lungs. My lack of breath slowed me down for a while, but I'm back to adventuring - just with Gus, my little oxygen tank, in tow. This year's goal is to complete the 52 Hike Challenge and get myself into a healthier state of being. Join me on my quest to become oxygen free!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s