2022 NEMO Tensor Ultralight Insulated Sleeping Pad Review

There’s a strong case to be made that a backpacker’s sleep setup is the most important gear they carry. They’ll spend 8-10 hours of every day on trail horizontally recovering within the comfort (or lack thereof) of this gear. If there’s anywhere a backpacker might consider carrying a little extra weight, it should be here. One of the top players in the sleeping gear game is NEMO, and their updated Tensor Insulated Ultralight Sleeping Pad is one of their top options. I’ve had a chance to log some major hours on the Long/Wide version this winter. Here’s what I found.

NEMO Tensor Ultralight Insulated Pad

NEMO Tensor Ultralight Insulated Pad.

NEMO Tensor Ultralight Insulated Sleeping Pad (Long/Wide) At-a-Glance

  • Weight: 21 ounces alone, 24 w/ pump sack
  • MSRP: $219.95
  • Thickness: 3 inches
  • R-Value: 4.2
  • Insulation: Aluminized Film

Circumstance of Review

I’ve been using this pad since the start of my thru-hike of the Eastern Continental Trail in Key West on January 1st. After about the first two weeks, I actually sent it ahead on trail because I was finding it a bit too warm for the Southern Florida heat and humidity. I picked it up again three weeks later and have been using it ever since, up to mile 380 on the Appalachian Trail at Carver’s Gap. The lowest temperature I’ve slept on it has been about 25 degrees Fahrenheit. My highest camped temperature was around 75. The entire time I’ve used it, I’ve been pairing it with my Katabatic Flex 30 Quilt. I’ve logged somewhere in the ballpark of 30 nights of use on it so far. I am six feet tall and weigh 180 pounds.

NEMO Tensor Ultralight Insulated Pad

Splayed out on the Tensor in a Zpacks Altaplex.

Features

  • Spaceframe Baffles – The unique baffles system on the Tensor provides excellent stability and weight distribution, using low-stress, die-cut trusses that eliminate springiness.
  • Two Layers of Thermal Film Insulation – Thermal Film Insulation is lightweight and quieter than the competition.
  • Vortex Pump Sack – Provides easy and fast inflation that also prevents moisture buildup within the pad. Weighs ~3 ounces.
  • Laylow Valve – Zero profile and multi-layered for fine-tuning.
  • Eco-Friendly – 100% bluesign® certified, 20D premium recycled polyester fabric. Also, the packaging is made from recycled materials and is 100% recyclable.
  • Extras Included – All versions of the Tensor come with a Vortex pump sack, drawstring storage bag, velcro strap, and repair kit.

Usage

This insulated version of the Tensor is made to be used with cooler temperatures. The insulating “space blanket” on the inside really does reflect a good amount of heat. While it can be a bit too much with really warm temperatures (I’m talking mid to upper 70s at night) it can be used for a significant portion of the year in most climates. The Long/Wide component serves as either bonus comfort or accommodation for larger hikers. With my six-foot frame, I found I had ample room to move around at night and really splay out when I wanted.

The included Vortex pump sack has the usage instructions written on it.

Feature Spotlight

I’ve spent roughly a month’s worth of nights getting familiar with this pad, so I’ve had a good chunk of time to get familiar with it. I’m mostly going to talk about the two factors that make this pad unique: its insulation and its large cut.

Insulation

The insulation on this pad is pretty impressive. I’ve slept on the pad for multiple nights in temperatures below what my quilt was rated for and have been plenty comfortable with the combination (granted, I’ve heard that Katabatic quilts are actually rated a bit higher than normal). The insulation also doesn’t add too terribly much to the weight (the non-insulated Long/Wide is only three ounces lighter). Finally, the sound of the insulation is surprisingly quiet. Other similar pads are notorious for having a “chip bag” sound that deters some from even using the pad. Even with the virtual space blanket inside the Insulated Tensor, the pad stays impressively quiet during even the most restless night’s sleep.

NEMO Tensor Ultralight Insulated Pad

The “space blanket” material is just visible through the open valve.

Long/Wide

This is a big sleeping pad. Like, as big as a reasonably lightweight sleeping pad can get. I’ve been able to really splay out all over this thing. I can spread my legs in various combinations without any worry of spilling over the sides. The pad also does a good job of filling up most one-person tents. I spend my first few weeks using this pad with the DCF version of Gossamer Gear’s The One tent. That tent is a bit small, and the Long/Wide Tensor completely fills up the floor space, corner to corner. Since then, I’ve used it with my Zpacks Altaplex Tent, another piece of gear built for the bigger hiker. Even in the larger tent the pad takes up quite a bit of room. While it can be an issue in the lack of room for other gear in the tent, it’s a plus that the pad doesn’t have much room to move around itself. Smaller, slicker pads can move around a lot within a tent, but this big guy doesn’t have much of anywhere to go.

NEMO Tensor Ultralight Insulated Pad Pros

  • Warm – The insulation in the pad is serious. It has the ability to basically add warmth to the temperature rating of most sleeping bags/quilts.
  • Spacious – Even with a six-foot frame, I found this pad to have plenty of space. This is awesome for anyone who likes to splay out and has plenty of room for most people in general.
  • Quiet – No “sound penalty!” All the space blanket insulation with none of the loud rustling.
  • Variety of Options – Again, this was the Insulated Long/Wide version of the Tensor, but it comes in a whopping eight different combinations of options.

The NEMO dual valve system. The bottom valve only lets air in unless you put a little pressure on it, which allows the user to dial in the air pressure.

NEMO Tensor Ultralight Insulated Pad Cons

  • Heavy – 21 ounces is kind of a lot for a “lightweight” sleeping pad, insulated or not. It’s 9 ounces (over half a pound) heavier than the ultimate standard Neo-Air Xlite and 6.5 ounces (over a third of a pound) heavier than the Insulated Mummy version of the Tensor.
  • Takes a lot of breath – While the included pump sack is extremely efficient at inflating the pad, three extra ounces is a fairly stiff weight penalty for the gram weenies. If left behind though, this pad becomes a bit of a hassle to inflate. It brings me close to light-headed at the end of a long day of hiking to huff this thing to its full tightness.
  • Can be too warm – It’s a great warm pad, but it’s arguably not usable in the summer. I spent a few 70-ish degree nights on this pad wearing basically nothing and still found myself drenched in sweat.

Final Thoughts

There’s no arguing this is an extremely comfortable pad. It’s warm, the baffle pattern nestles well, and the splay room is awesome. The hold-up factors are weight, maintenance requirements, and maybe price. Even if the Long/Wide and/or Insulated versions aren’t the best fit, NEMO’s Tensor line is absolutely a top-tier pad.

Shop the NEMO Tensor Ultralight Insulated Pad

NEMO Tensor Ultralight Insulated Pad

Similar Sleeping Pads

NEMO Tensor Insulated Mummy Ultralight Sleeping Pad

MSRP: $189.95a
Weight: 14.5 ounces

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm Regular Wide

MSRP: $249.95
Weight: 20 ounces

Big Agnes Insulated AXL Air Sleeping Pad Long Wide

MSRP: $249.95
Weight: 18 ounces

This NEMO Tensor Ultralight Insulated Pad was donated for purpose of review.

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Comments 5

  • Wolf of the Wind and Wood : Mar 24th

    Great review. I am 6 1, 240 lbs and find this pad to be more than long enough. My only complaint is that as I lay on it I guess my shoulders are so wide that my arms inherently slip off the pad onto the ground. This can be alleviated a bit by configuring the quilt to retain arms closer to the body or by putting clothes in that area to help lift my arms up off the ground a bit but, I do not always want to sleep that way. I had been using an Exped Downmat 9 long\wide that’s just a bit wider than the Nemo. Even that isnt perfect for me but the extra width is noticeable but it is also a full pound heavier. I guess I am one of the unlucky few with this problem.

    Reply
  • Ian Edmonstone : Mar 25th

    Thanks for the great review – one thing I would like you to possibly clarify please. At the end you mention that maintenance could be a hold up factor but you offer no further detail – did you have an issue? I sued a NEo Air XL on PCT and never got a good nights sleep so I am planning to try one of these on CDT this year as subjectively it feels much more comfortable to me – but if it’s going to ‘pop’ a lot then I may need to rethink that strategy. Thx again, 007

    Reply
  • Nick : Mar 25th

    I also use this pad and often found it running colder than a thermarest trekker pad with a R value of 3. I used both with a 20 degree top quilt. My theory is that the wide version of this pad leaves a lot more surface area exposed to the air (not covered by the quilt) and that cools the whole thing down. Has anyone else experienced this?

    Reply
  • Mickey Johnson : Apr 10th

    This pad has been plagued with leaky weld issues. My own and many others (not tears or punctures, etc) but hard to spot edge of the oval welds. When they are filling hikers boxes on the pct, its a problem. (Read REI reviews). No indication that the new version from a couple months out (mabe feb 22) Has any improvement.

    Reply
  • GATOME83 : Apr 14th

    I have this same pad…..comfortable but beware trying to use in the 15 degree or below range…the cold will definitely creep in from below. The air bladder is singular use as well. Thermarest Xtherm a much better insulated pad for cold weather, with an air bladder that will serve as a stuff sack for your bag.

    Reply

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