NEMO Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad Review

NEMO Tensor UL Insulated Sleeping Pad Review

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.

NEMO Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad

Ease of Inflation
Packed Size

Warm Air Mattress

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 Sleeping Pad is available in five sizes:

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 Nemo Tensor Insulated Valve has two modes: Inflation and deflation
The Nemo Tensor Insulated Valve has two modes: Inflation and deflation

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.

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

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):50433629221580-7-14-21-30
Minimum R-Value11.522.533.544.555.566.5
Air Temperature (C):1062-2-6-9-13-18-22-26-30-34
Minimum R-Value11.522.533.544.555.566.5

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 Lightweight Sleeping Pads

Sleeping PadTypeSizeWeightASTM 3340 R-ValuePrice
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLiteAir Pad20" x 72" x 2.58.8 ozR=2.3$195
Nemo Tensor Insulated Short MummyAir Pad20" x 48" x 3"9 ozR=3.5$130
Big Agnes Insulated AXL AirAir Pad20" x 72" x 3.75"11.6 ozR=3$180
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XliteAir Pad20" x 72" x 2.5"12 ozR=4.2$185
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite Women'sAir Pad20" x 72" x 2.5"12 ozR=5.4$175
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XThermAir Pad20" x 72" x 2.5"15 ozR=6.9$215
Big Agnes Q-Core SLXAir Pad20" x 72" x 4.25"16 ozR=3.2$150
NEMO Astro Lite InsulatedAir Pad20" x 72" x 3.5"18 ozR=2.6$130
NEMO Tensor Air PadAir Pad20" x 72" x 3.0"13 ozR-1.6$140
Sea-to-Summit Ether Light XT Insulated Air Pad21.5" x 72" x 4"17.3 ozR=3.2$190
Sea-to-Summit Ether Light XT Insulated Women'sAir Pad21.5" x 72" x 4"17.5 ozR=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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  1. Anyone compare this comfort-wise to the neo air xlite and the S2S Etherlight? It looks like a cross between the two.

    • It’s a lot more like an Xlite (very firm) than the S2S Ether light which is a heck of a thicker, softer, and comfortable.

  2. I have both the Nemo Tensor insulated and the S2S Etherlight insulated. Both are great pads. I think the older Tensor was quiter and a bit more comfortable. I sold the new one and kept the original Tensor to go along with the S2S..

  3. After a long day’s hike, I’m not sure I’d classify the pump sack as a luxury-it starts looking an awful lot like a necessity. ?

    They also make a Vector version, 4 ounces heavier with a built-in foot pump for inflation – it seems slower than the sack. Any thoughts about whether the pump is worth the weight or cost?

    • I’m a big fan of 1 item for 1 function. My preference would be to use a separate item for each, to avoid the case where the pump fails.
      But I’ve never used one of those built-in pumps, either.

  4. 2 questions for you Philip. 1st – How much edge collapse does this pad have vs the Thermarests (which have a lot)? 2nd – Any concerns on durability of the 20D poly fabric versus say the 30D nylon used in the Xlite?
    P.S. Thanks for all your great review work!

  5. Does this come with a repair kit?

  6. I may have to sleep on the ground at some point, and I believe you’ve just convinced me to buy an air pad. (This is lighter than my old Zrest pad and because it’s 3″ thick — I’m a side sleeper — I might get some sleep.)

  7. I bought the long and wide version, the only one REI had at the store, and used my 20% discount in the process. To me, it’s like sleeping on a king size bed! By far, it’s the most comfy and cushy pad I’ve ever used. My wife appropriated it for car camping and backpacking when she tags along. If I keep requiring surgeries (today was rotator cuff), I may be forced to use it myself. It’s a REALLY nice pad for people with physical limitations. When I’m recovered enough from this and my upcoming spinal fusion, which will be followed by surgery on my foot, I may buy one of the smaller forms of this pad for my use in backpacking.

  8. Soooo … the short wide option is missing – as always. Anybody know if this one can be cut and resealed? Thanks.

    • Please don’t ask foolish questions, of course it can but not easily and you will ruin the warranty. There are literally only ounces between the models so pick what fits you.

  9. Picked up the regular wide as an upgrade this year. It really does strike a great balance at a high level, across the board.

    Quiet, comfortable, no roll off on the edges, light enough I don’t feel guilty going for the wide pad, compact. And feels warm even for an R of 3.5. My last pad was 3-something, and I don’t remember feeling the warmth like I do this one.

    First trip is this weekend, and I’m mostly looking forward to sleeping, haha.

    • (I did get a Schnozzel bag though. Fits the flange perfectly, same weight as the included vortex bag, and as mentioned can be used as a dry bag or liner if I need it. Three breaths/bags of air fills the regular wide for me using either. Definitely bring one or the other!)

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