Using Supplemental Oxygen When Acclimating

I live on the Central Coast in California (sea level) and I’ve had my fair share of bad altitude experiences before I really learned about acclimating and supplemental oxygen.


On my first snowboarding trip of 2018, I went to Mammoth for opening weekend. In the evening, a friend and I went shopping around town. While my friend was trying on helmets I sat down in the store and just started feeling off. My head started feeling heavier and heavier, and I kept feeling too hot or too cold. Apparently, I was also looking very off because one of the store employees walked up and handed me a can of Boost Oxygen to try. They explained how to use it and what it does, and I took two puffs.


You inhale and hold it for a couple of seconds, the same way you would with an inhaler.


Within a few minutes, I started to feel like myself again.


I got a couple of cans for when we got to the lifts on Sunday and to keep a stock for future trips. Now I keep a couple of cans in my gear closet at home so when I know I’m heading on an altitude trip.


These have been a game changer in my adventures. Some times my body is fine at higher altitude and other times my body is more sensitive.


Boost Oxygen helps your body as your acclimating, almost like a supplement that helps the acclimation process. But if you are feeling severe Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) or High-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), you need to descent to lower elevations quickly. That is the only cure for AMS and HAPE.


In the winters I snowboard (mainly at Mammoth) and in the summers I hike at high altitude all over the Sierra Nevada’s and I’ve been keeping a stock of these cans at home so I can grab and go when I hit the mountain. These cans weigh almost nothing, so to all the backpackers out there worried about your pack-weight, these won’t make it any heavier.


Whether we’re at 7,000 ft, 11,000 ft or higher, everyone in the group ends up passing around the oxygen can, taking turns puffing.




  • Aviv

    April 8, 2021

    Great tip! I’d never heard about oxygen canisters before. I’m planning to hike the high Sierra Trail; slowly because I live at 1,000 ft. I’ve never backpacked above 6,500 ft before. How many canisters (of the size in your photo) would you recommend I bring, and how would you recommend I space out use? The trail, as you know, has two bumps (big Arroyo to Upper Funston and Mt. Whitney)—would I reserve use for those two sections? Take a couple of puffs every hour on those days?


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