The NEMO Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad is a lightweight insulated air mat that’s available in a wide variety of lengths and widths. It’s undergone substantial improvement since we last reviewed it a few years ago including a new flat 2-way valve, new insulation, reduced weight, and inclusion of an inflation sack. This pad also has an R-value of 3.5 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 Insulated Sleeping Pad is available in five sizes:
- Long Rectangular: 78 x 25 x 3 inches (weight: 1 lb 4 oz)
- Regular Wide Rectangular: 72 x 25 x 3 inches (weight: 1 lb 3 oz)
- Regular Rectangular: 72 x 20 x 3 inches (weight: 15 oz)
- Regular Mummy: 72 x 20 x 3.0 inches (weight: 14 oz)
- Short Mummy: 48 x 20 x 3.0 inches (weight: 9 0z)
We review the Short Mummy size below, one of the few inflatable sleeping pads available in a very short 48″ length, making it suitable for ultralight backpackers who want the comfort of a 3″ thick air mattress under their torso but are willing to trade off gear weight for less insulation and padding under their lower legs in warm weather.
Specs at a Glance
- Size: Short Mummy, 48 x 20
- Thickness: 3″
- Weight: 9 oz (spec), 9.3 oz (actual)
- R-Value: 3.5
- Cover: 20D PU Polyester
- Breaths to inflate: 21
- Inflation sackfuls to inflate: 3-4
- Vortex inflation sack weight: 2 oz.
Why sleep on such a short sleeping pad? Mainly to save weight. Your legs need less insulation from the ground than your torso, so many ultralight backpackers rest their legs on top of their other gear like a backpack which provides enough insulation from the ground to keep them comfortable. NEMO also sells a Tensor Non-insulated version of this 48″ mummy-sized pad, that weighs 8.0 ounces (R-value = 1.6).
Besides its low weight, the Tensor Insulated 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 dual 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 Uberlite 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 Tensor Insulated is a fairly firm pad as air mattresses go, even when you bleed off air. The baffles run horizontally much like Therm-a-Rest’s Neoair sleeping pads. The 20″ width is generally sufficient if you’re a side sleeper, but you may want to get one of the wide Tensor Insulated 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 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. This can make a huge difference in your quality of sleep if you use a pillow at home.
Bundled Inflation Sack
NEMO bundles a 2.0-ounce Vortex inflation sack with many of their sleeping pads, including the Tensor Insulated. It reduces the effort of inflating the Tensor Insulated Short Mummy from 21 breaths down to 3-4 bagfuls of air and is a nice luxury item to bring on a trip. The sack locks onto the Tensor Insulated’s valve and you inflate the pad by forcing air from the sack into it.
But 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 was 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):||50||43||36||29||22||15||8||0||-7||-14||-21||-30|
|Air Temperature (C):||10||6||2||-2||-6||-9||-13||-18||-22||-26||-30||-34|
- 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 Lightweight Sleeping Pads
|Sleeping Pad||Type||Size||Weight||ASTM 3340 R-Value||Price|
|Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite||Air Pad||20" x 72" x 2.5||8.8 oz||R=2.3||$195|
|Nemo Tensor Insulated Short Mummy||Air Pad||20" x 48" x 3"||9 oz||R=3.5||$130|
|Big Agnes Insulated AXL Air||Air Pad||20" x 72" x 3.75"||11.6 oz||R=3||$180|
|Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite||Air Pad||20" x 72" x 2.5"||12 oz||R=4.2||$185|
|Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite Women's||Air Pad||20" x 72" x 2.5"||12 oz||R=5.4||$175|
|Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm||Air Pad||20" x 72" x 2.5"||15 oz||R=6.9||$215|
|Big Agnes Q-Core SLX||Air Pad||20" x 72" x 4.25"||16 oz||R=3.2||$150|
|NEMO Astro Lite Insulated||Air Pad||20" x 72" x 3.5"||18 oz||R=2.6||$130|
|NEMO Tensor Air Pad||Air Pad||20" x 72" x 3.0"||13 oz||R-1.6||$140|
|Sea-to-Summit Ether Light XT Insulated||Air Pad||21.5" x 72" x 4"||17.3 oz||R=3.2||$190|
|Sea-to-Summit Ether Light XT Insulated Women's||Air Pad||21.5" x 72" x 4"||17.5 oz||R=3.5||$190|
The Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad is a firm sleeping pad, that’s comfortable, ultralight, quiet and compact. With an R-value of 3.5, it’s a great choice if you want one sleeping pad for use in three season weather, including early spring and late autumn, when the ground is still cold. The Tensor Insulated is also available in longer and wider sizes if you prefer a larger pad, but still want to enjoy its superior construction.
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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