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NEMO Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad Review

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May 20 2019

We’ve thoroughly enjoyed testing NEMO’s new Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad on recent camping and backpacking trips in the Pacific Northwest. Its main strengths are being thick, cushy, quiet, and very comfortable. We also appreciate that the Tensor is offered in various size and shape options, which makes it easy to find one that fits our bodies and backpacking styles the best. We probably wouldn’t use this pad for really cold trips when we expect temps to drop below 25°F, but for 3-season backpacking and camping, we think the Tensor is one of the most comfortable sleeping pads on the market.

Quick Specs

Stock image of NEMO Tensor Trail

NEMO Tensor Trail

Best Ultralight Rectangular Sleeping Pad

Price: $180

Weight: 13.9 oz.

R-Value: 2.8

Thickness: 3.5 in.


  • Ultralight
  • Above-average comfort
  • Exceptionally quiet
  • Many size/shape options
  • Quick inflation/deflation
  • Very durable for the weight
  • Comes with our favorite pump sack


  • A bit expensive
  • Not warm enough for sub-freezing temps



All inflatable air pads make some noise, but we’ve been impressed with how quiet the Tensor is to sleep on. With no noisy thermal layer on its surface, the Tensor feels much more like your mattress at home than a crinkly plastic cushion. The Tensor is a great choice for light sleepers who tend to move around a lot at night.

Well designed valve

The low-profile valve on the Tensor makes inflating and adjusting the air pressure easy and convenient. It also features a dump-valve that makes deflating the pad extremely quick, with no need to tediously squeeze air out. That makes the packing process for the Tensor quick and easy. It takes us less than a minute to deflate, fold in thirds, roll up, and stash away this pad.

Comfortable & Supportive

The Tensor is three inches thick, which is quite impressive for a backpacking pad. It has enough loft that we don’t bottom out when we sit up or sleep on our side, which commonly happens with other inflatable pads. On top of that, the stretchy fabric surface feels soft and breathable against the skin, which is excellent for times when we want to relax directly on the pad without feeling sticky and sweaty.

Variety of shapes and sizes

One of the features we like most about the Tensor is that it comes in different sizes and shapes to fit various body-types and sleeping styles. NEMO offers short and regular mummy-style pads that help keep weight to a minimum, and regular, regular-wide, and long-wide rectangular pads for those who like to spread out at night. We tested the regular-wide rectangular version and loved the unrestricted space for our legs and extra width to support our arms. Most companies make long-wide pads, but it’s rare to find regular-wide pads that are a better fit for average-height people. If you do choose a wide pad, make sure your tent will accommodate it, as most one and two-person backpacking tents are fairly tight. As a general rule, two backpackers sleeping on wide pads will need a 3-person tent for the extra width.

Vortex pump sack included

The Vortex Pump Sack is a very nice touch and comes complimentary with every Tensor. It makes inflating this voluminous pad very easy, but it isn’t strictly necessary if you’d rather not carry it on ultralight trips. The Vortex still requires you to blow air into it but makes each breath more efficient. We can inflate the regular-wide Tensor easily with only 3 breaths, which is awesome. The Vortex also minimizes the amount of moisture that goes into the pad with your breath, which is especially useful on cold-weather trips when condensation is likely to freeze.



The Tensor is a tad on the expensive side, which could be an obstacle for buyers on a budget. The price is on par with comparable pads made by other manufacturers, though you could get a warmer/lighter (but slightly noisier) pad, like the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT, for just a bit more. We think getting good sleep in the outdoors is well worth investing in a high-quality, comfortable pad if you plan on putting it to good use, so the Tensor’s price seems very fair to us. If you’re on a tight budget and looking for less expensive options, check out our list of the 10 Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads for good budget buys.

Slightly heavy & bulky

The Tensor isn’t the lightest or most compact pad out there, but it’s quiet comfort might be well worth a little extra weight and bulk. The Tensor sits in the middle of the pack as far as 3-season pads go, weighing three ounces more than the industry leading Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite and two ounces less than the popular Sea to Summit UltraLight Insulated. Also, if summer backpacking is your main activity, the new NeoAir UberLite (10 ounces less) is about as light and compact as sleeping pads get.

Therm-A-Rest Uberlite wide/long vs. NEMO Tensor wide/regular packed size

Bottom Line

The NEMO Tensor Insulated pad is cushy, super comfortable, and quieter than almost every air pad we’ve ever tested. We really appreciate that NEMO makes the Tensor in several shapes and size options including mummy, rectangular, and the elusive regular-wide model. The Tensor also comes with a convenient pump sack, which makes inflation fast and easy. Another big reason we like this pad is because it takes so little effort to deflate and pack due to the well-designed valve. There’s no official R-value listed for the Tensor, but we still think it will work well for most 3-season backpacking trips and would trust it down to 20-25°F.If you’re looking for a comfy, quiet, and well-designed backpacking pad, the NEMO Tensor is one of the best on the market.

Check out our list of the 10 Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads for more of our top recommendations.