NEMO updated the Tensor Insulated with a new, low-profile valve that lies flat on the corner of the pad (see if you can spot it in the top right of the first photo below!) This new valve is designed to provide micro-adjustable inflation control. The new pad retails for $160. It is shown below on the left, followed by the version we tested (right).
Hands-On Review of the Tensor Insulated
The NEMO Tensor pad proved super comfortable, lightweight, and versatile.
The Tensor is a super lightweight mat that boasts high comfort and three-season warmth.
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 XLite, 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.
As you can see, the Nemo is slightly thicker than the REI Co-Op Flash Insulated. We found it slightly more comfortable because it is rectangular and smoother.
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 XLite reigns supreme with a comfort score of 7/10 and weighs just 12 ounces. Nemo also offers this pad in uninsulated, short, and tapered variants that further increase weight savings.
As you can see, the Tensor is comparably small to the REI Flash Insulated.
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, we never once felt the cold ground zap our heat away; but we also never had the opportunity to sleep on snow. 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.
The insulated version of this mat uses a metallic film layer to reflect radiant heat to the sleeper.
Ease of Inflation
This pad employs a pretty standard twist valve with the addition of the lock mechanism that took a little getting used to have dialed. But once we did, we were inflating and deflating with ease. We love the simplicity of twist valves like this but have come to love the one-way valves on pads like the REI Flash Insulated and Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated that make inflating a little easier, but make deflating much much faster.
As you can see, the valve on the REI Co-Op Flash Insulated opens much larger allowing for rapid deflation.
20D PU polyester ripstop forms the outer material for this pad. This type of material represents an aggressive weight savings approach to pad design. For instance, the Therm a Rest NeoAir Venture employs super durable 75D Polyester and is subsequently much more suited to stargazing bivies sans ground tarp — but at the expense of tipping the scale at 21oz. We were anything but gentle with the Tensor; using it directly on sharp granite rocks, grassy substrates, etc. 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 Tensor Is great for three-season backpacking of any kind. 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.
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.
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.
We loved sleeping on the Nemo. Take care of it and this high functioning pad will take care of you on your next adventure.