NEMO Tensor Alpine Ultralight Insulated Sleeping Pad Review

Nemo Tensor Alpine Air Pad Review

The NEMO Tensor Alpine Ultralight Insulated Sleeping Pad is a lightweight insulated air mat that weighs 17 ounces and is 3″ thick. It has a flat 2-way valve and includes an inflation sack so you don’t have to bust a gut blowing it up. This pad also has an R-value of 4.8 measured using the new sleeping pad R-value industry standard, so you can compare its insulation value with pads from other vendors that have adopted this new standard including REI, Therm-a-Rest, Sea-to-Summit, Exped, and Big Agnes.

The Tensor Alpine Sleeping Pad is available in two sizes:

The NEMO Tensor Alpine Ultralight Insulated Sleeping Pad

Comfort
Ease of Inflation
Warmth
Weight
Durability
Packed Size

Thick and Warm

The NEMO Tensor Alpine Ultralight Insulated Sleeping Pad is a four-season sleeping pad, that's comfortable, ultralight, quiet and compact. With an R-value of 4.8 it's a great choice if you want one sleeping pad for year-round use. 

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Specs at a Glance

  • Size: Regular Mummy, 72″ x 20″
  • Thickness: 3″
  • Weight: 17 oz (spec), 16.3 oz (actual) – yes, it weighs less than specked!
  • R-Value: 4.8
  • Cover: 20D PU Polyester
  • Breaths to inflate: 29
  • Inflation sackfuls to inflate: 5-6
  • Vortex inflation sack weight: 2 oz.
  • Packed Size: 8″ long, 3″ in diameter

Besides its low weight, the Nemo Tensor Alpine is a quiet and comfortable sleeping pad that is covered with 20D PU-coated Polyester that has a soft hand against your skin. It’s insulated with three internal aluminized reflective liners but does not make the loud crinkly sound you find with other sleeping pads like the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite or XTherm Sleeping pads. A full 3″ thick, your waist, shoulders, and elbows won’t bottom out if you sleep on your side or on your back.

The pad is inflated and deflated with a flat valve that is more durable than pads with stick values. The valve has two modes: one-way inflation with a small button to bleed off air and wide-open for rapid deflation. If you press the small button to bleed off some air to make the pad softer, it’s very important that you cap it afterward. Otherwise, the button will continue to bleed off a small stream of air as you move around on the pad and will eventually go flat.

The Nemo Tensor Alpine Valve has two modes: inflation and deflation
The Nemo Tensor Alpine Valve has two modes: inflation and deflation

The Tensor Alpine is a fairly firm pad as air mattresses go, but you can bleed off air to soften it up. The baffles run horizontally much like Therm-a-Rest’s Neoair sleeping pads but the cover fabric feels much more comfortable against your skin. The 20″ width is generally sufficient if you’re a side sleeper, but you may want to get one the wide Tensor Alpine pad if you’re a back sleeper to prevent your arms and elbows from dropping off the sides of the pad at night. The Tensor Alpine Pads do not come with a pillow accessory attachment like the Sea-to-Summit pads, but it’s pretty easy to create one with some velcro so that your pillow doesn’t fall off at night.

Bundled Inflation Sack

NEMO bundles a 2.0-ounce Vortex inflation sack with many of their sleeping pads, including the Tensor Alpine Insulated. It reduces the effort of inflating the Tensor Alpine Mummy from 29 breaths down to 5-6 bagfuls of air and is a nice luxury item to bring on a trip. The sack locks onto the Tensor Alpine’s valve and you inflate the pad by forcing air from the sack into it.

The Vortex Inflation Sack has a narrow top opening that you blow into
The Vortex Inflation Sack has a narrow top opening that you blow into

However, we don’t particularly like this inflation sack because it can’t be used for multiple purposes such as a waterproof stuff sack or pack liner. While it works well enough, the top part of the inflation sack is too narrow to insert or remove gear. Instead, we’d recommend carrying a compatible inflation sack called the Exped Schnozzel, which can be used as a stuff sack or pack liner because it has a full-width rolltop opening (see our review).

Sleeping Pad R-Values and Air Temperature in Degrees

What’s the correlation between air temperature and sleeping pad R-values? When do you need a pad with a higher R-value? This table is based on Exped’s recommendations in Fahrenheit and Celsius degrees.

Air Temperature (F):503025100-15-25-40
Minimum R-Value12345678
Air Temperature (C):10-1-4-12-18-26-32-40
Minimum R-Value12345678

In addition:

  • R-values are additive, so you can combine two pads to increase your warmth level.
  • Women need higher R-values pads because they have lower body mass than men. An additional R-value of 1 is usually a good hedge for women and other cold sleepers

Comparable Insulated Lightweight Sleeping Pads

Sleeping PadTypeThicknessWeightR-Value
Sea-to-Summit Ether Light XT ExtremeAir4.0"25.6 ozR=6.2
Exped Ultra 5RAir3.0"20.3 ozR=4.8
NEMO Tensor Alpine AirAir3.0"17 ozR=4.8
NEMO Tensor UL InsulatedAir3.0"15 ozR=4.2
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLiteAir2.5"12 ozR=4.2
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite Women'sAir2.5"12 ozR=5.4
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XThermAir2.5"15 ozR=6.9
Mountain Equip Aerostat DownAir2.8"20.4 ozR=5

Recommendation

The NEMO Tensor Alpine Ultralight Insulated Sleeping Pad is a four-season sleeping pad, that’s comfortable, ultralight, quiet, and compact. With an R-value of 4.8, it’s a great choice if you want one sleeping pad for year-round use.  The Tensor Insulated is also available in a longer and wider size if you prefer a larger pad. While the Tensor Alpine does not have as high an R-value as the Therm-a-Rest XTherm, we like the fact that it’s a more comfortable pad and a quieter one to sleep on. If you wanted to own one air mattress that you could use year-round, the NEMO Tensor Alpine UL Insulated Pad would be a good choice.

See also: Sleeping Pad R-Values for a complete comparison of the R-values for all Therm-a-Rest, Exped, Sea-to-Summit, Nemo, Big Agnes, and REI sleeping pads.

Disclosure: NEMO provided the author with a sample sleeping pad for this review. 

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28 comments

  1. It is mystifying why they made their pump sack this way. And I would think there is market for a regular wide mummy, too.

  2. I love the pump sack. It traps the air in it much easier rwaulting in less bags needed. My LW takes 4 full bags. My exped schnozzel i could obly secure half a bag everytime with the wide opening.

  3. it would be great to have a review that tells me if it is ok for a side sleeper (like me).

  4. I’m with Brad – I have had other style pump sacks and really prefer this style Nemo is using. Easier to move air into the bag.

  5. Hi, I was wondering if you could help me decideing between the Nemo Tensor Alpine and the Exped Synmat UL Winter. I really only want one Pad. I’m a back and side and cold sleeper. I contacted Nemo and they told me the Pad would probably be to warm in the summer an I should got the Tensor Insu. and buy another pad for under in the winter. I don’t want to carry two Pads. I just ordered both Pads to compare but would like your opinion on it.
    Thanks Sylvia

    • Bizarre statement by Nemo, since pads don’t generate heat. They just block it from entering the ground. Big difference. But I’d try them and decide which you like better. They’re both quite comfortable and well made although I like the exped better when inflated with the schnozzel. The Nemo inflation bags are lame.

    • El Diablo Amarillo

      I have the Tensor. Have used it for 2 hunting seasons now (fall thru winter) and love it once its inflated. That bag is just stupid even tho it is better than lungpower. I have to agree with Nemos input on being to warm. I tried it in summer and found it too hot. I think it reflects so much more of your body heat than what I was used to in a sleeping pad was part of it. Not that the pad generates any heat but it does a good job not transferring it to the ground. I wont use it in the summer or warmer spring/ fall nights.

  6. langleybackcountry

    How would you compare it to the SeatoSummit Etherlight Insulated pad? A friend and I have both been having issues with overnight deflation/pressure loss on our S2S pads, so I am looking for an alternative.

    Particularly the fabric feel when using a quilt in warmer weather, and the noise, as well as durability.

    • Very comparable in terms of comfort with a nice softcover fabric. Low noise. Good durability because it has a flat valve and thick cover.

      Sorry about your S2S experience. My Etherlight Insulated is still going strong. Have you contacted them to see if they’ll replace them?You never know.

      • langleybackcountry

        Thanks for the quick response!
        My buddy is exchanging his, so I’ll see how it goes. I really like S2S stuff, and I need to run a couple more tests on mine. We just both started needing to re-inflate a bit at night, even though temps were upper 30s/40 at worst.)

        I also meant to ask if the Nemo valve is compatible with the S2S pump sacks. The design looks very (suspiciously) similar.

  7. Philip,

    Great review. You rated the durability as 4/5 – do you know of any leak issues? I have a Tensor Insulated that I’ve had to replace with NEMO twice now due to mystery leaks. I am very careful my gear, especially the pads, so don’t believe any of theses issues were environmental like thorns or rocks (one case was indoors on a clean concrete floor).

    This sounds like a great pad, just concerned over the brand durability.

  8. Thanks for reviewing this product as we are converts. Yes it is 5 ounces heavier than our Therma Rest Neo Air LT but it is .5″ thicker and for our weary bones it is heaven. We have stripped down all other gear so we can indulge in that comfy pad. If you don’t get good sleep it makes the next days hike less fun. We love the Vortex, took a bit to get the hang of it but well worth it. We even stick it in our hammock.

  9. I’ve been looking for a wide (25″), short (60″ or so) insulated sleeping pad. I think this would be perfect for side sleepers, like myself. I’ve been told on other message boards to just cut of the extra length, but this voids the warranty. Why haven’t any manufacturers of pads come up with this pad for side sleepers?

  10. I use the X-therm, and at 15oz for R6.9 and more durable than the x-lite and I sleep on my side, it’s a clear winner, I think I’m getting close to 200 nights on my x-therm, with one patch total. It is a little noisy when you thrash around. But, that R rating, and weight! I’m not sure how Thermarest does that. Because of the r value, you can use a lighter bag/quilt too. However, i’m looking at this Tensor for my wife for Christmas, because it seems even more comfy and she’s not been happy with the x-lite she has.

    • This is much more comfortable than an Xlite or an xtherm. It also uses a very similar insulation mechanism – sandwiched layers of reflective material, but is much quieter than thermarest’s pads, which I can barely stand anymore because it feels like your sleeping on a board.

    • I have both and vastly prefer the Nemo. It’s quieter, feels better (especially since I use a quilt), and had better edge support. The NeoAir always felt narrower than 20″ because I always felt the roundness of the edge and my arms would easily fall off the pad.

  11. I used this mattress last winter on snow at around -5°C and let me tell you it was a very chilling experience. I could feel the heat being sucked out from below me all night. I judged it to be about the same insulation value as the thermarest ridge rest which is rated at R 2.1. on the plus side the exped schnozzel pump sack worked brilliantly with this mattress. The size medium sock was able to fully inflate the size large mattress with only two and a half bag fulls, I had it inflated in under a minute. I returned the mattress and purchase the xlite instead. From my comparative testing done on an icy cold concretely basement floor, the xlite is much warmer. I will also be purchasing an xtherm for winter use, you only have to lay on this thing for 30 seconds in the store to realize how shockingly warm it is. Obviously published R values can’t be trusted. It’s worth noting that these values are still synthetic, because R stands for resistance but many of these mattresses only have radiant barriers, and therefore the emissivity of the test plates can skew the results.

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