Nemo Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad Review

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Introduction

This Nemo Equipment Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad review presents the performance of a lightweight, quiet, stable, and comfortable sleeping pad targeted to the backpacking community. The Nemo Tensor sleeping pad line offers a variety of shapes (as well as insulated and non-insulated models) to address the needs of a wide range of sleepers.

Nemo Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad Review - configuration options.

Photo: Nemo Equipment. From left to right: short mummy, regular mummy, regular, regular wide, long wide

Features and Specifications

For this review, we will focus on the insulated style and the regular mummy size (the format I chose to test). Specifications for the other formats are available on the manufacturer’s website. Backpacking Light publisher Ryan Jordan owns and uses the insulated style regular wide size and features that pad in several videos on the Backpacking Light YouTube channel. Ryan’s comments are included in the Review Rating below, as well.

Features

  • compatible with the Nemo Vortex pump sack
  • low profile two-function valve with a one-way airflow diaphragm and rapid deflation option
  • interior baffles for body weight and movement stabilization
  • 20 denier polyurethane-coated polyester fabric
  • thermal (metalized) film insulation (low-noise)
  • lifetime warranty
  • included: sleeping pad, velcro strap, repair kit, pump sack, drawstring stuff sack
  • color
    • insulated: marigold
    • uninsulated: elite yellow

Specifications

  • available in five shapes and sizes:
    • mummy (short length): 48 x 20 in (122 x 51 cm)
    • mummy (regular length): 72 x 20 in (183 x 51 cm)
    • rectangular (regular width): 72 x 20 in (183 x 51 cm)
    • rectangular (wide width): 72 x 25 in (183 x 64 cm)
    • long wide (rectangle): 76 x 25 in (193 x 64 cm)
  • thickness: 3 in (8 cm)
  • packed size (regular mummy): 8 x 3 in (20 x 7.5 cm) diameter
  • available in insulated and uninsulated models
  • packed weight (regular mummy):
    • insulated: 17 oz (490 g)
    • uninsulated: 15 oz (425 g)
  • minimum weight (regular mummy):
    • insulated: 14 oz (410 g)
    • uninsulated: 12 oz (345 g)
  • temperature rating:
    • insulated: 10F to 20F (-12 to -7C)
    • uninsulated: 35F to 45F (2 to 7C)
Nemo Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad - size and style options.

Photo: Nemo Equipment

Context: How I Reviewed the Nemo Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad

When looking at inflatable sleeping pads, I consider the following to be key performance features: comfort, insulation (warmth), weight, size and shape options, durability, warranty, and price point. Of these, comfort and durability are the most subjective features, and I will address them specifically in this review.

My definition of sleeping pad comfort covers three areas: warmth, quiet (noisiness), and cushioning.

  • First, I am a cold sleeper (If you are a warm sleeper, take my thoughts on insulation with a grain of salt).
  • Second, I highly value quiet when I’m sleeping. Crinkle sounds drive me nuts!
  • Third, I have a spinal injury history and am particular about cushioning. I am small-framed but bony, and when my hips and elbows bottom out through a pad, I notice! I have zero tolerance for lack of cushion in an air mattress. For good measure, I also had my friend Michael, who is 6’2″ (188 cm), test the mat for length and comfort.
Nemo Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad - testing on snow.

Photo: Michael giving the Nemo Equipment Tensor Ultralight a test run.

I have reasonable expectations of sleeping pad durability. Ultralight pads made from low denier material are delicate and need to be treated with care (e.g., see Andrew’s review of the Therm-a-Rest Uberlite and Ryan’s video commentary about it). No one wants to wake up on a flat pad. It happens but is avoided for the most part with appropriate precautions. My precautions include:

  • protecting the sleeping pad by storing it in a stuff sack
  • using some type of shelter floor (maybe even in addition to a footprint) or durable ground cloth
  • avoiding packing it next to pointy objects such as micro-spikes, and
  • only using the pad on a clean(ish) ground surface free of sharp debris (e.g., abrasive rocks and pointy forest litter).

I cannot verify how durable the mat is in other contexts: I didn’t test it using it as part of a chair kit, without a groundsheet, or without a stuff sack.

Description of Field Testing

For me, the 2019 backpacking season was full of new experiences, environments, and climates.

Specifically, I tested the Nemo Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad while canoeing in Canada’s Northwest Territories and backpacking in Alberta’s Rocky Mountain range. The cold, humid environment made for ideal testing conditions. As I continue to use the Nemo Tensor, I’m happy to answer further questions in the comments section of this article.

Nemo Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad Review - testing at minus 30 deg F.

Where I go, the Nemo Equipment Tensor Ultralight Sleeping Pad goes too, which includes testing its outer limits at -31 deg F (-35 deg C).

Member’s Only Content

Login as a Premium or Unlimited Member to read the comprehensive Performance Assessment and Author Commentary sections of this review:

  • Performance Assessment Comfort, Stability, Noise, Insulation Durability, Pump Functionality
  • Strengths & Limitations
  • Compared To: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xthemr, Xped Downmat HL Winter, & Klymit Insulated V Ultralight SL
  • Commentary: Initial Testing and First Impressions; Mid-Term Evaluations, & Final Exam

Member’s only version is 4,500 words and includes 17 photographs.

Nemo Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad Review Rating: Highly Recommendedrsz bpl highly recommended

The Nemo Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad is not the most comfortable pad I’ve ever slept on (the Exped DownMat is slightly more comfortable for me). But the Exped is really in a different class than the Tensor due to its higher weight. Thus, I believe that the Nemo Equipment Tensor’s comfort-to-weight ratio is best in class. 

As far as consumer competition, the Nemo Equipment Tensor goes head to head with the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm. The materials used, quality, and design of the Tensor are all superior. I believe the Nemo Equipment Tensor outperforms the Therm-a-Rest XTherm in every category except insulation. The Tensor’s approximate R-Value is 5 vs. the XTherm’s ISO measured R-Value of 5.7. 

I dislike the Therm-a-Rest XTherm’s crinkle and the way the fabric feels while sleeping. The Xtherm is thinner, has more pressure points in its baffle system, is heavier, and more expensive.  The valve system on the Therm-a-Rest XTherm is functional, but perhaps a little bit outdated). There are more progressive designs, and the Nemo Equipment Tensor has one. I would like to see a more efficient design of Nemo’s pump sack (so it can be used for other purposes), but overall, the valve system is one of the best on the market. What makes it a valve with best-in-class tech is the one-way diaphragm used in the two-piece valve system and its flush mount to the sleeping pad.

Any issues I had with the Nemo Equipment Tensor were both positive and negative (valve stiffness vs. durability) or were neutral (condensation build-up happens in every sleeping pad with long term, high humidity usage – worse if you mouth inflate.) I had the Nemo Equipment Tensor out in use more in six months than many users would in a lifetime of use, and it is still in (seemingly) pristine condition. The review is over, and the Tensor will continue to be on my gear lists for a long time to come. 

Another point to consider here is that Nemo offers the short mummy, a configuration not offered by any other product we compared the Tensor to. The short mummy is generally the lightest and most compact sleeping pad configuration. Short mummy-style pads are often not popular sellers, so Nemo’s dedication to making a genuinely ultralight product here is commendable. Short mummy-style sleeping pads are also great options for kids who want to go backpacking.

Also, the Nemo Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad is one of the few pads available in a regular-wide option, which many users, including Ryan Jordan (see notes in the next paragraph), will find to be a very comfortable configuration.

Ryan J: I broke my back in 2005. Since then, sleeping comfortably – whether at home or in the backcountry – has been a chore for me. I’ve used inflatable pads from REI, Sea to Summit, Therm-a-Rest, and Exped, and Nemo. The Nemo Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad (I have the regular wide model) is the first pad in its weight class that I can reliably trust for a good night’s sleep.It’s warm when sleeping directly on snow and cold, wet ground. Its stability is best-in-class with the least amount of wobble, especially when I roll around. I can sleep on my back, side, or stomach without having to change positions as often as I do on other pads. Although it’s heavier than my Therm-a-Rest XTherm, its comfort, stability, quietness, and warmth make it well worth the added weight for me.I chose the wide width, so my arms don’t fall off the pad while lying on my back, and it allows me to lie on my side with on leg tucked up while my body stays entirely on the pad. The Nemo Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad is not just a luxury item for me, but an essential one as well, and I’ll happily take the extra ounces on most trips.

For these reasons and others listed in the review, we highly recommend the Nemo Equipment Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad.

The Nemo Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad is a key piece in Ryan’s “mountain inclement weather trifecta” kit that also includes a 21-ounce hoodless, zipperless down bag and a two-pound single wall tent.

Where to Buy

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Product Review Disclosure

Updated September 15, 2018

  • How we acquired these products: Product(s) discussed in this review were either acquired by the author from a retailer or otherwise provided by the manufacturer at a discount/donation with no obligation to provide media coverage or a product review to the manufacturer(s).
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