NEMO Tensor (2019) Ultralight Insulated Sleeping Pad Review: Best of the Best.
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Up until the end of 2018, I had been using my Therm-a-Rest Neo Air XLIte and aside from the color not being my favorite, I thought I had found a pad that would lay by my side (quite literally) for the rest of my life. That is until I found a newer, cheaper, and more attractive pad on the market.
While the Nemo Tensor Ultralight Sleeping Pad has been on the market for quite some time, the recent 2019 updates have taken it from an easily overlookable pad to one of the best new products I have purchased in quite some time.
Included in your extra special NEMO care package you will receive the following…
⁃ The Sleeping Pad Itself (Of Course)
⁃ A Drawstring Stuff Sack
⁃ Vortex Pump Sack (You’re Gonna Love This)
⁃ Velcro Strap
⁃ Repair Kit
Like most all other sleeping pads on the market, you get your basics, but what I really like about this pad is that if you decide to shave weight, you can use the velcro strap and ditch the drawstring stuff sack. Not only that, Vortex Pump Sack is downright amazing, and it’s included with your pad!
Comfort & Warmth
This one is completely subjective so take it for what it is worth, but I personally feel like this sleeping pad is incredibly comfortable. Much more so than my Neo Air Xlite and MUCH more so than my old Big Agnes Insulated Q Core SL.
It is not quite as thick as some, more luxurious pads out there, but it feels extremely well balanced and distributed your weight beautifully. When sleeping on this pad I get no sense of “rolling off the side” as I have with numerous other pads in the past.
As far as warmth is concerned, NEMO does not rate their pads with an R-value as some other companies choose to do but I will say that I have tested this pad in temperatures near 13 degrees and felt as though it performed as good if not better than my Therm-a-Rest Neo Air XLite. I had no issues with poor insulation and find their temperature ratings to be very accurate.
Overall, I think this pad is extremely comfortable and plenty warm for most all adventures!
My Therm-a-Rest sleeping pad was extremely lightweight. In fact, to my knowledge, it was the lightest option on the market, but it came at a price. It sounded like a potato chip bag crinkling in the tent every time I moved (which is generally quite a bit). It was still my best pad (until now) but I am happy to say that the annoying crinkling sound is a thing of the past.
The materials used in this pad are much softer and less stretchy to the touch but NEMO says the reason the pad is so much quieter is because of the “Spaceframe baffle suspension”. Whatever the reason, I’m here to say that it works, and noise is no longer a factor with this sleeping pad.
You get one. One color to choose from… One!
You may care, or you may not. Personally, I am a bit picky and like the camping colors to flow like the rivers of Babylon. That being said, I do wish yellow was not the only option available. Like my old Therm-a-Rest, yellow is the only color available for this particular sleeping pad, but there is an upside. Unlike the Therm-a-Rest, the NEMO pad is much more of a “mango” and less of a “banana” color. Furthermore, it is not entirely yellow, only the top half is yellow and the bottom is actually grey. As it happens, it matches me sleeping bag perfectly and I love that they made it a bit more orange than the Therm-a-Rest but I still wish that it was not yellow.
Ease of Use
This pad is comfortable. It is very lightweight and not noisy at all, but the best is yet to come. The included inflation sack coupled with the Laylow valve makes unpacking and inflating this bag quick and nearly effortless. It generally takes me 3 squeezes to fill the pad to my liking and that translates into about 30 seconds of my time which is night and day compared to my old system. Not to mention the fact that the valve is also one-way and will not allow any air to escape in-between your pump sack pumps.
To be fair, NEMO is not the only company out there employing this technology in their latest pads but compared to some of the others we have used, it is our favorite that we have tested this far.
In addition to being quick and amazingly simple (no batteries required) the Laylow valve also includes a tab for quickly releasing all of the air out of the pad when your trip has concluded. This was not a huge deal for me personally, but still, an improvement over the old system and it makes packing up even more simple and easy.
Now here is the best part, the Laylow valve also includes a micro adjustment valve where you can release the tiniest amount of air with just a touch of the finger. Fine-tuning your firmness desires is now as easy as calling an elevator.
Materials, Weight, & Sizing
For those of you who are interested, the material used in this pad is a “Premium 20D Fabric” and the insulation is a “Thermal Mirror Metalized Film”. Whatever they want to call it, it is soft to the touch and quiet to sleep on, so I am happy.
NEMO has done a great job making numerous shapes and sizes available and each comes with their own weight and pack size. For the sake of this review, we will just list the standard size which is what we purchased.
According to NEMO (Standard Tensor 2019)
Inflated Dimensions: 72 X 20 in.
Inflated Thickness: 3 in.
Packed Size: 8 X 3 in.
Packed Weight: 1lb 2oz
Minimum Weight: 15oz
Full Weight: 1lb 2oz
Pad Alone: 16oz
With the above information in mind, I have seen a couple of reviews online where people were complaining about the weight being different than NEMO has listed but I have tested and can confirm myself that it is nearly exact. I measured a hair more than NEMO but not enough to waste any more time talking about it.
You may be looking for something ever so slightly more lightweight, and that is fine, but I have been there before, and I will happily carry a couple of extra ounces for this pad.
On a side note, I am not exactly a huge dude but I would say that my shoulders are a bit wider than average. With that being said, I found that the 20” wide standard pad was adequate for a good nights sleep. I have used the "regular wide” Tensor and can say that it was much more comfortable but not enough to justify the added weight and sizing if you are planning to use a small-ish tent. If your goal is car camping and you are not trying to squeeze into a small tent, you will probably be very happy with the wide version.
*Also available is a Short Mummy, a Regular Mummy, and Regular Wide, and Long Wide all of which are available in both insulated and non-insulated versions.
Those who know me, know I’m cheap. In fact, even those who don’t know me, know I’m cheap. With that said, I think this pad represents a great value and unlike a lot of products I review, I think the price is very fair.
Usually, this is the part of the review where I would say that the product is awesome but considering how expensive it is, I may suggest looking elsewhere. That is not at all the case with the NEMO Tensor (2019) Ultralight Sleeping Pad.
The price of the new (2019) NEMO Tensor Sleeping Pad is 159.99. Sure, that sounds like a lot, and it is, but when you compare to the competition, I think it is priced perfectly. Make no mistake, this pad is the cream of the crop and it is going to cost you some dough but for the sake of it, let’s do some comparison shopping…
I don’t know about you, but I hate blowing up my sleeping pad. Not only that, I hate introducing all of that moisture from my breathe into my sleeping pad which is sure to mildew. Now say for instance you buy a Therm-a-Rest Neo Air Xlite (169.99) and then decided to buy the Therm-a-Rest Inflator (39.99). Now you have spent over $210 after tax and added considerable weight to your pack. Sure, there are other options, but this is what I previously used and compared when purchasing my new set up.
Result: In addition to saving $50+ the NEMO pad comes with its own easy inflation bag which weighs almost nothing and requires no batteries. WIN for NEMO!
Now think about this. If you opt for the Big Agnes Q-Core SLX, you are going to be spending 159.95. Seems fair at first until you realize that again, unlike NEMO, if you want the Big Agnes Pumphouse Ultra Pad Pump, that’s going to cost you an extra $35 making the grand total a whopping $200.
Result: NEMO offers a better value and is considerably cheaper when considering the inflation bag is included.
I think you get the point…
I have said this before and I’m sure I will say it again, but NEMO sets the bar for customer service. I have contacted them multiple times with multiple issues on various products in the past and they have always taken amazing care of me. In fact, they probably took better care of me than they probably should have. On top of nearly instant responses, their team has always been polite, friendly, helpful, knowledgeable, and capable of fixing any issue I have ever presented them with. They stand by their products and as far as I am concerned, they get a perfect 5 out of 5 stars for their after-purchase support.
If I haven’t sold you on this pad already, did I mention that it comes with a LIFETIME warranty?
Where To Buy
When this pad was initially launched it was an REI exclusive and was only purchasable directly through REI. Lucky for you, that’s no longer your only option. While we love REI and buy loads from them, we often find great deals when purchasing directly from NEMO and recommend you at least check their site to see if they have any current promotions.
Currently, you can find this pad for sale at REI, Backcountry, Amazon, or even NEMO direct but you do want to be careful and make sure you are getting the 2019 model. There is a big difference and some retailers aren’t so good at distinguishing the two. The most easily distinguishable characteristic is the new “Laylow Zero Profile Valve” in the top right-hand corner of the pad.
Who Is It For?
I like to mention who I think a product is best suited for in our reviews and usually, that’s pretty easy but with the Nemo Tensor (2019) it’s not really that simple. This pad is both lightweight and easily packable (even with the Vortex Pump Sack) which means that I could easily recommend it to backpackers, car campers, bike campers, and climbers alike. I have used it on numerous trips in my kayak and definitely appreciate its convenience.
I can wholeheartedly recommend this product to just about anyone. I see this pad as a no-sacrifice pad and can’t imagine an activity where this pad would not find itself right at home.
On the second thought, for those ultralight snobs out there (you know who you are) there are lighter pads out there. They may be more expensive and less comfortable but if your number goal is weight savings then you may want to look into other options (The NeoAir XLite comes to mind).
The One Problem
This pad is not made in the USA…
Unlike our tried and true Therm-a-Rest, the NEMO pad is manufactured in China. It is a bit of a bummer but is not necessarily a game changer for me and probably will not be for you.
The OTHER one problem is “Laylow Zero Profile Valve”. Don’t get me wrong, this thing is AMAZING and a complete work of art coming from my old pad but the inflator snaps in so tightly that long term durability is a concern. I understand why it would need to be so tight but on the other hand, I am hoping that from continued use the connecting and disconnecting of the inflator bag will get a bit easier. Either way, we're thrilled to have it and know that NEMO will stand behind the product even if we did ever have an issue, so I am going to label this issue as very minor.
This is without a doubt the absolute best sleeping pad I have ever used. Whew, I have been waiting the entire review to tell you that... no joke!
While it is not the lightest option available, it is still very lightweight and very comfortable. It’s the easiest pad I have ever owned to inflate and on top of all that, it’s made by NEMO which has the best customer service out of any company I have ever dealt with.
No. We didn’t try every sleeping bag out there, but we have tried a lot and we still had no trouble placing this pad the tippy top of our list. Of course, you may not need the best and may be willing to go with a slightly heavier, less convenient pad to save some cash and I totally understand but if you have the money and you want the best, this is it.
I have seen some comments regarding the NEMO Tensor’s “patch-ability” and I would like to report that I have confirmed with NEMO that this pad is 100% patchable should you run into any issues on the trail. Furthermore, this pad does indeed come with a patch kit for just that instance. This shouldn’t be a concern of yours, but we thought we would clarify anyway…