Table of Contents
A lot of sleeping pads are the equivalent of that old mattress that sits in someone’s guest room that was used for years. It’s super thin, not very comfortable, and makes noise with every small movement you make.
The Nemo Tensor is like the mattress that is in the master bedroom. Thick, super comfortable, and you can turn over on it without making much of any noise.
If getting good sleep seems impossible while backpacking or camping, it is probably because you are using cheap, low-quality sleeping pads.
But don’t worry, you can get incredible sleep while on the trail. The Nemo Tensor Ultralight sleeping pad provides you with a comfortable surface to sleep, packs down to the size of an average water bottle, and it will not cost you an arm and a leg to buy.
Having a quality sleeping pad is crucial for you to get a good night’s sleep while on the trail. With backpacking, I recommend investing more in your “Big Four” (tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, and pack). Most of your time is either spent in or carrying these items, and you want them to be quality and to last a long time. A low-quality sleeping pad can have you struggling to get comfortable and have you waking up every few hours to adjust.
The Nemo Tensor gives you an ultralight sleeping pad that performs above its R-value rating, does not make a bunch of noise like other pads, and can inflate in a fraction of the time of similar pads.
(Based on the Non-insulated/Regular Mummy version of the sleeping pad)
Weight – 1 lb. (includes velcro strap, repair kit, and vortex pump sack)
Dimensions – 72″ x 20″
Packed size – 8″ long x 3″ diameter
R-Value – 2.5
Material – 20D recycled nylon
Ultralight sleeping pad
Easy and fast inflation
The Tensor receives high marks in comfort for two main reasons: 3 inches of comfortable cushioning and a very quiet material.
Thinner pads do not provide the same level of protection from uneven ground beneath the tent. If you are using the sleeping pad mostly in car camping campgrounds with well-manicured campsites, you can survive with a little less cushioning. But, for backpacking trips where the terrain varies from night to night, having more protection is crucial.
Additionally, one of the knocks on inflatable sleeping pads is that the material can be too noisy when you move around on it. I have had some loud inflatable pads before and it is such an annoyance at the end of a tough day of hiking. The Tensor is among the quietest inflatable sleeping pads I have used.
The warmth of the Nemo Tensor leaves a bit to be desired. With an R-value of 2.5, it is difficult to use this sleeping pad comfortably in conditions below about 40 degrees. I have used it down to that temperature range and could not see using it in colder weather. I consider this to be a 2.5-season option; during the shoulder seasons, it just depends on how cold it will get on a particular night.
The upside is that Nemo makes an insulated version of the Tensor with an R-value of 4.2. The insulated pad could comfortably serve as a true three-season sleeping pad.
If you spend a lot of nights in cold weather or high in the mountains, I recommend opting for the insulated Tensor pad versus the regular version. The insulated version only adds an ounce, making it an easy choice for cooler conditions.
Weight & packability
Coming in right around 1 pound for the pad, velcro strap, and vortex pump sack, the Nemo Tensor is a true ultralight sleeping pad. It comes with a stuff sack that brings the packed size down to 8″ x 3″, roughly the size of a standard plastic water bottle.
Not the lightest pad on the market, but coming in at 1 pound makes it tough to beat in the weight category. (especially considering the 3-inch thickness) The Tensor is tough to beat as a backpacking sleeping pad in the weight and packability category.
Ease of use
The Vortex pump sack makes the Tensor easy to inflate and prevents moisture from entering the inside of the pad. (which leads to eventual mold growth) All that you have to do is attach the pump sack to the valve on the pad, open and close the other end of the sack, and then compress and roll the pump sack til it is empty. Simply repeat this a few times and presto! your sleeping pad is ready to go.
Other brands utilize similar pump sacks, but Nemo is the top-tier one available. It is intuitive to use and inflates the pad quickly.
The Tensor is made from 20D recycled polyester. This places it on the thinner side for an inflatable sleeping pad. Because of this you definitely want to be careful with where you use it. If you use a tent, you should be using a footprint to provide an additional layer of protection from rough terrain.
I have heard of people running into issues with the Tensor not holding air with around a year’s worth of use. If you can avoid using the pad directly on rocky or rough surfaces, you should get multiple years out of it, though.
The comfort, weight, and ease of use make the Nemo Tensor sleeping pad among the best values out there. There are some areas for improvement, but you (and your wallet) will be happy with what you are getting with this pad.
If you need the lightest, warmest, or most durable pad available, you may want to explore other options. But the Tensor pad provides great value as a 2.5-season sleeping pad. If the R-value were closer to 3 or 3.5, it would be an absolute home run of a value.
There are some other comparable options out there that are either warmer or cheaper. (I.e., Thermarest and Klymit) But, you will either pay more or get an inferior product. (and there are some circumstances that those products make more sense)
I really enjoyed the 3 inches of supportive comfort, the low weight, and I loved that this sleeping pad was quieter than others. The Tensor is among the top-tier of lightweight sleeping pads that can thrive in a wide-range of conditions.
With regular usage, the Tensor pad should last multiple years before needing to be replaced.
The non-insulated version has an R-value of 2.5. While the insulated version has an R-value of 4.2.
Yes, the Nemo Tensor sleeping pad comes in 8 variations. Including mummy, long, wide, and insulated versions.
It is hard to argue that have of the specifications rule out the Nemo Tensor as an elite option for camping or backpacking usage. Some (including me) wish that the R-value was a little bit higher to make it a true three-season option. Though, with the right sleeping bag take this pad down to 40 degrees and be comfortable.
This sleeping pad is among the top 3 options I recommend to backpackers who are looking for a do-it-all sleep pad at a reasonable price. Plus, with the myriad of variations that Nemo makes for the Tensor, there is certainly an option that will suit your exact needs.
Don’t let a heavy, thin, noisy sleep pad get in the way of you getting a quality night’s sleep while out there exploring!