The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

NEMO Tensor Insulated Review

This is a good pad for the seasoned hiker that doesn't mind carrying a little extra for a great night of sleep.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $160 List | $119.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Large sleeping area, comfortable
Cons:  Heavy
Manufacturer:   NEMO
By Matt Bento ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  May 15, 2019
  • Share this article:
65
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#11 of 27
  • Comfort - 30% 9
  • Weight and Packed Size - 30% 7
  • Warmth - 20% 4
  • Ease of Inflation - 10% 5
  • Durability - 10% 4

Our Verdict

The Tensor Insulated is a top quality pad with great specs and aggressive weight savings. The quilt-like baffle design prevents edge collapse found on horizontal pads and the bouncy sensation caused by vertically baffled mattresses. Our testers loved sleeping on it! With adequate warmth, a small packed size, and quiet materials, there was little not to love! The only downside our testers found to this pad is that it is made with less durable fabrics than many of the others in our review.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award  
Price $119.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$199.95 at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
$129.00 at REICheck Price at Amazon
Compare at 3 sellers
$159.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
Overall Score Sort Icon
100
0
65
100
0
75
100
0
71
100
0
70
100
0
69
Star Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Pros Large sleeping area, comfortableSuper warm, packs down small, comfortable, versatileWarm, comfortable pad, great valueLightweight, warm for the weight, packs small, comfortable, versatileWarm, durable, comfortable
Cons HeavyEdges aren’t as stable as other pads, expensiveToo heavy for ultralight enthusiastsExpensive, edges not as stable as other pad designsHeavier and not as warm as NeoAir Xtherm
Bottom Line This is a good pad for the seasoned hiker that doesn't mind carrying a little extra for a great night of sleep.Our go-to sleeping pad, this model balances the portability, comfort, longevity, and warmth better than the rest.This pad is a versatile, comfortable option at a great price.Weight savings and small packed size do not compromise comfort in this ultralight pad.A great pad for those who prioritize comfort over weight savings, though we still prefer Therm-a-Rest pads without the SV system.
Rating Categories NEMO Tensor Insulated Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm Co-op Flash All-Season Insul... Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NeoAir All Season SV
Comfort (30%)
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
8
Weight And Packed Size (30%)
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
6
10
0
9
10
0
5
Warmth (20%)
10
0
4
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
6
10
0
7
Ease Of Inflation (10%)
10
0
5
10
0
5
10
0
8
10
0
5
10
0
9
Durability (10%)
10
0
4
10
0
7
10
0
5
10
0
5
10
0
7
Specs NEMO Tensor... Therm-a-Rest... Co-op Flash... Therm-a-Rest... NeoAir All Season SV
Weight 15 oz 15 oz 21.6 oz 12 oz 22.8 oz
Thickness 3 in 2.5 in 2 in 2.5 in 2.5 in
Claimed R Value Unknown 5.7 5.2 3.2 4.9
Length 72 in 72 in 72 in 72 in 72 in
Packed Volume (L) 1.2 L 1.6 L 2.5 L 1.4 L 2.8 L
Width 20 in 20 in 20 in 20 in 20 in
Breaths to Inflate 20 - 30 27-33 12-14 27-33
Type Air Construction/Synthetic Insulation Air Construction/Baffled Insulation Air Construction/Synthetic Insulation Air Construction/Baffled Insulation Air Construction/Baffled Insulation

Our Analysis and Test Results

If you do a good job protecting this pad from external punctures, it is a competitive alternative to more costly mats like the Top Pick winning Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated or the Editors' Choice-winning Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm. Continue reading to see why we loved the Tensor and why it might be the right addition to your kit.

Performance Comparison


The Tensor beckons to weary backs at the end of a long day. Not the lightest pad out there  but one of the most comfortable.
The Tensor beckons to weary backs at the end of a long day. Not the lightest pad out there, but one of the most comfortable.

Comfort


The Tensor ranked high in the comfort metric. The relatively smooth surface welcomed a solid night's sleep. Three inches of thickness absorbed any irregularities like grass clumps and provided lots of cushion for side sleepers. For those who can't get past the crinkly but high scoring Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm, the Tensor provides a much quieter night's sleep, and our reviewers found it a bit more comfortable because the edges are less prone to collapse.

Our testers get a great night sleep when they have a large surface area to roll around one without falling off onto the cold ground.
Our testers get a great night sleep when they have a large surface area to roll around one without falling off onto the cold ground.

Weight and Packed Size


Low weight and packed size are two great reasons to choose this pad over more durable options like the Therm a Rest NeoAir Camper. Coming at just 15 ounces, the Tensor turned heads and didn't weigh us down. If your most important metrics are weight and comfort, this is the pad for you. Winter travelers will likely be better off with the 15-ounce Therm-a-Rest XTherm. If you're looking for true ultralight comfort, the Therm-a-Rest UberLite reigns supreme with a high comfort score and weighs just 12 ounces. Nemo also offers this pad in uninsulated, short, and tapered variants that further increase weight savings.

This pad packs down relatively small for its massive inflated size.
This pad packs down relatively small for its massive inflated size.

Warmth


Nemo refrains from posting the R-value of the Tensor but claims that it is suitable for temperatures down to 30 degrees F at the lower end. Based on our testing of similar claims about other three-season pads, we suspect this pad has a warmth rating close to an R-value of 3. During our review, testers felt cold while sleeping on the snow, so we recommend pairing this pad with a foam one like the Therm-a-Rest ZLite Sol for forays into winter conditions. For three-season backpacking, the Tensor proved up to the task.

Ease of Inflation


The latest incarnation of the Tensor employs a micro-adjustable valve so you can easily dial in your firmness level, but what really impresses our testers is the Vortex Pump sack. The wide version of this pad takes a lot of air, and the pump sack makes filling the pad a relatively quick and easy process. Simply connect the pump to the valve, open up the end of the sack, so it fills with air, and roll the sack closed, so all the air is forced inside the pad. We think it works better than similar pump designs from Thermarest and Klymit.

This pad uses a stuff sack inflation system that works better than similar designs from Thermarest.
This pad uses a stuff sack inflation system that works better than similar designs from Thermarest.

Durability


20D PU polyester ripstop forms the outer material for this pad. This type of material represents an aggressive weight savings approach to pad design. We were anything but gentle with the Tensor, using it directly on sharp granite rocks and grassy substrates, and subsequently, the pad no longer remains inflated for a whole evening. If you end up purchasing the Nemo, we recommend using it in conjunction with a ground tarp or tent. Treat it well, and it'll likely reward you for years to come.

The Nemo saves shaves ounces by using lightweight 20D Polyester.
The Nemo saves shaves ounces by using lightweight 20D Polyester.

Best Applications


The Tensor is great for three-season backpacking of any kind. The low weight makes it a high performing pad for those looking to parse down their base weight without sacrificing comfort. For car camping, we'd recommend a more durable pad.

Value


We feel this is a fair price compared to other pads on the market. Some pads we like more are less expensive like the REI Flash Insulated, but others are more expensive like the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm.

Conclusion


The Tensor is a great lightweight backpacking pad with high performance at the cost of durability. Our testers found it super comfortable and an improvement over pads with horizontal baffles. If you're looking for one pad for your weekend adventures and tend to treat your gear with care, the Tensor has impressive specs that make it a top competitor.


Matt Bento