Gear Review: NEMO Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad

NEMO rolled out a new line of sleeping pad options this spring, and the Tensor model tops the list as the most lightweight. The NEMO Tensor comes either insulated or not, and it also comes in different shape and size options. I got to review the insulated mummy pad, which is legitimately one of the best options available for three-season lightweight backpackers. For the range of temperatures it is designed for, its weight makes it competitive with any other pad like this on the market. Compared to the extremely popular Therm-a-Rest competitor, this pad also boasts less noise and an arguably more comfortable texture.

NEMO Tensor At-a-Glance:

NEMO Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad

Brand: NEMO
Model: Insulated Tensor
MSRP: $159.95
Size: Regular length mummy
Weight (just the pad): 14 oz
Weight (with stuff sack and pump bag): 17 oz
Packed size: 8 x 3 in
Size: 72 x 20 x 3 in
Materials: 20D PU Polyester
Insulation: Aluminized Film
Temperature Rating: 10 – 20 Degrees Fahrenheit

Circumstance of Review

I got this pad about a month before I set out to thru-hike the PCT. I had a few chances to test it out in the early spring in Alabama (temperatures in the high 40s/low 50s at night) and also now a few nights on the PCT as low as 25 degrees. It wasn’t the pad that I started with (I was thinking it wouldn’t get much cooler than about 40 at night out here) but after a couple of weeks I went ahead and made the switch. I had originally planned on upgrading to an insulated pad for the Sierra section, but the Southern California weather has been pretty weird this year and I’ve wanted all the extra warmth I could get. Paired with my 20 degree Enlightened Equipment Revelation quilt, I’ve been very comfortable since the switch, even getting sweaty legs a few nights.

Features

Insulation: The inside of the pad is basically a double-walled space blanket that does a great job of reflecting warmth back up to you.

Pump bag: The pad comes with a bag that you can fill with air and attach to the pad to inflate. Depending on how well you can fill it, it only takes two to three pumps to totally fill the pad.

Updated valve system:  There are two closure tabs on the valve on the pad. The tabs connect to each other, and if you pull the bottom tab, both come off and quickly dump the air from the pad. The top tab can be removed without letting air out of the pad, which allows you to easily blow up the pad. Whether you are using the pump sack or just your mouth, you can pause between inflations without letting any air out. You can also press in on the tab to let out a little air once the pad is inflated to adjust its fill to your needs.

Texture: The pad is designed with a comfortable texture that does a really nice job of keeping you on the pad. I’m a bit wider at the shoulders and have had trouble staying on some other pads I’ve tried, but the Tensor has a dented texture along the pad that is both comfortable and efficient at keeping you in place.

Comfort Details

The Tensor is a seriously comfortable pad. As mentioned above, the texture of the pad is just awesome. It’s such a great balance of lightweight material and something that you feel confident putting all of your weight on. In a dozen or so nights on the pad, I’ve noticed that I barely even move in my sleep. The fact that it comes in an insulated version is icing on the cake. It manages to be a warm pad without being a super crinkly pad. Once this thing is inflated, the space blanket material stays flush to the pad so you can move around without making a sound.

Another piece to the comfort factor is the convenience of inflating this. The pump bag works quickly and efficiently. Once this clicks into place, you don’t even have to unclick it to fill it with air. You can fill this up all the way in one to two minutes. If you opt not to use the pump bag, this pad is very easy to fill by breathing into it. The way the valves work it’s like filling up a pool ball: once you start putting air in, it can’t come back out, leaving time to take another breath without having to squeeze a valve to keep it closed.

Pros

  • Weight (14 oz stripped down)
  • Comfort
  • Warmth
  • Different inflatability options

Cons

  • A bit on the pricey side
  • The pump bag isn’t versatile (can’t be used as a dry sack or anything) and is almost dead weight at over two ounces
  • Probably too warm for most summer camping

Overall / Value

Based on my experience, I would say that this pad is one of the top options on the market right now in its category. If you can stomach the price (which is very comparable to most of the other pads in this category) then this is a very reasonable purchase. I’m personally not a huge fan of carrying a few extra ounces to blow this thing up, but that’s the beauty of this pad: it’s versatile. If you want the convenience of quickly blowing up your pad at the end of the night and carrying a little extra weight, you can do that. If you count ounces and are fine using your perfectly fine lungs to fill this thing up, that works great too. This pad works well however you want to use it.

A Few Comparison Items

Therm-a-rest NeoAir XTherm Sleeping Pad: $199.95

Big Agnes Insulated AXL Air Sleeping Pad (Regular Mummy): $179.95

Sea to Summit UltraLight Insulated Sleeping Pad (Regular Mummy): $129.95

Shop the NEMO Tensor Here

**This product was donated for purpose of review

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