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.
MSRP (Regular): $159.95
WEIGHT (Regular): 15 oz.
DIMENSIONS (L x W x H): 72 x 20 x 3 in.
PACKED SIZE: 3 x 8 in.
SIZES: Short Mummy, Regular Mummy, Regular, Regular-Wide, Long-Wide
Photo Gallery (Regular/Wide size)
WHAT WE LIKE
Quiet - 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.
Comfortable and 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.
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.
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.
WHAT WE DON’T LIKE
Expensive - 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, 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.
Warmth Overstated - The Tensor comes in an insulated version as well as a non-insulated version. The insulated version we tested claims to work down to 10-20°F temperatures, but we think that’s an overestimation. We wouldn’t recommend this pad for temps lower than 20-25°F. That said, the Tensor’s suspended insulation does a good job of keeping the chill from the ground at bay, and we still see this pad as a solid 3-season option.
No R-value - NEMO doesn’t list an R-value for the Tensor, as they wait for a better industry standard, but we wish they would. Insulation ratings give buyers critical info and help us trust products with our safety in the backcountry. A typical 3-season pad would fall in the 3-4 R-value range, but we have no idea where the Tensor stands.
Slightly Heavy and 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 (6 oz. less) is about as light and compact as sleeping pads get.
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.
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