Expert Review: Nemo Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad

This review is my honest opinion of the sleeping pad, which I purchased with my own money in June of 2018.

Nemo Tensor Insulated Loft sleeping pad in a tent.

All photos courtesy of Will Shaw

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About this Review: This review is my honest opinion of the sleeping pad, which I purchased with my own money in June of 2018.

My take

The Nemo Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad is an ultralight packable sleeping pad with an excellent loft that doesn’t crinkle. It’s a great option for any weight-conscious backpacker who sleeps on their side.

About the gear

  • Model: 2018 Nemo Tensor Insulated
  • Size: Regular

Test conditions

  • When I bought it: June 2018
  • Days tested: 10
  • Used for: Car camping, backpacking
  • Where I’ve used it: Colorado, Kentucky
  • Seasons I’ve used it in: Summer, fall, and winter

About me

  • Height: 5’10”
  • Weight: 180 lbs
  • Experience: 25 years

How it Performs

Comfort
4/5
Durability
2/5
Packability
5/5
Versatility
3/5
Weight
5/5

What I was looking for

I had been using a Therm-a-Rest NeoAir, but I didn’t like how loud it was, so when I first saw the Nemo Tensor, I was sold. Also, I was not too fond of all the moisture I knew I was blowing into the NeoAir, so the Vortex Pump Bag was also a big plus.

I’m a side sleeper and had good luck with Nemo pads, so I was hoping the Tensor would let me sleep on my side without my hip hitting the ground or having to inflate the pad so much that it felt like I was going to roll off.

Why I chose this gear

I decided to replace my NeoAir with the Tensor because the Tensor is a much quieter pad to sleep on. Nemo does a great job with their baffles, and they use a low-stretch fabric so I can sleep on my side comfortably. I also really like the Vortex Pump. I had looked at a couple Big Agnes pads, but after lying down on the Tensor, I didn’t do much more shopping around.

The Nemo Tensor packed in its stuff sack next to a water bottle.

Size comparison

What I love about it

  • Weight: The Tensor is very lightweight for how comfortable it is. With the included stuff sack, repair kit, and velcro strap, my pad weighs 530g.
  • Packability: I was really surprised by the packability of the Tensor. It seems to pack a little smaller than my old NeoAir. It’s easy to slide into the included bag, and Nemo includes a velcro strap to keep the pad compact.
  • Insulation and R-Value: I have been happy with the insulation. I run pretty warmly at night, so this usually isn’t a problem, but I have slept great on cold winter nights without feeling like I was losing heat through the ground. Of course, it’s a little warm in the summer, but I like having the versatility of an insulated pad, and I’ve never felt like that was why I was too hot.
  • Comfort: The Tensor is the most comfortable ultralight pad I’ve used. It has 3 inches of loft, and the low-stretch baffles help the pad hold its shape without ballooning out in some areas and collapsing in others. I can comfortably sleep on my side without having to inflate the pad until it is rock hard.
  • Shape: I tend to toss and turn a lot at night, so I like the full rectangular shape instead of a mummy. I still find myself on the ground at times, but I don’t feel like I have to lay perfectly still on the full pad.
  • Noise: Nemo uses recycled polyester fabric for the Tensor with a reflective foil for insulation. I was worried that the foil would crinkle, but it was surprisingly quiet.
  • Features: Nemo’s Spaceframe baffles and low-stretch material make the Tensor one of the most comfortable pads for its weight. I love that I can fine-tune the pressure, so it’s not rock hard, and I can still sleep on my side without feeling the ground.
  • Ease of use: The Vortex Inflation System makes the Tensor quick and easy to inflate. The pad comes with an inflation bag that looks like a dry bag with a valve on the bottom. The valve connects to the pad, and the bag is inflated by blowing into it from a few inches away. The bag draws in more air as it is blown into, so I can inflate the bag with just a couple of breaths. When the bag is full, rolling the top down like a dry bag pushes the air into the pad, and it only takes 2-3 inflation bags to fill the pad. Besides being quick and easy, I like that I’m not blowing a bunch of moisture into my pad that would probably never get out.
  • Backpacking: The Tensor is a great pad for backpacking. It’s lightweight, super packable, and comfortable.
  • Thru-Hiking: The Tensor’s lightweight, packable design makes it a good option for through-hiking. Depending on how far I am going, I might carry a more robust repair kit than what is included.

Issues I’ve encountered

  • Durability: I haven’t had any issues with my current pad, but I have seen the back of a valve wear a hole in the other side of a non-insulated Tensor pad. Nemo was quick to replace that pad. I have not encountered any other issues, but I am careful with my insulated Tensor, as it is a lightweight piece of gear.
  • Car Camping: I use the Tensor on car camping trips when I need to save space, but I like to use a heavier, more durable pad when I can. There are also less expensive options available for car camping.
  • Mountaineering: The Tensor could work as a pad for mountaineering, but I’d only bring it if I were bringing a tent. I prefer a bivy and a foam pad, so I don’t have to worry about punctures.

Favorite moment with this gear

Other than just sleeping through the night, my favorite moment was the first time I used the Tensor. I brought it on a car camping trip because I had flown to Ohio for Christmas and was going to sneak away from my in-laws for a couple of days to climb at Red River Gorge. Unfortunately, after the first full day of climbing, I got caught up in a heated game of dominos late into the night, and I hadn’t set up camp. I had forgotten that I had the Tensor, so I was not looking forward to sitting there manually inflating my old pad. So, quickly inflating the Tensor with the Vortex Pump and going to sleep quicker was a welcome surprise.

Value for the money vs. other options

The Tensor is more expensive than heavier or less packable pads, but it is priced competitively compared to comparable pads like the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir. I have been happy with the value of the Tensor.

Final verdict

The Nemo Tensor is the first lightweight pad I have been truly comfortable on, and I have felt that it’s worth its weight in the pack. In addition, it’s a great option for side sleepers and much quieter than other comparable options.

Selling Nemo on Curated.com
Nemo Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad
$189.95
Camping & Hiking Expert Will Shaw
Will Shaw
Camping & Hiking Expert
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Written By
I've been hiking since before I could walk on family trips in Arkansas. From there I got into backpacking and then more rock climbing, mountaineering, and backcountry skiing. Now most of the hiking and caming I do is to access climbing or skiing objectives or car camping on a climbing trip. ​ Before...

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