Nemo  Tensor 20R
($120, nemoequipment.com)

It’s impossible to look at the Nemo Tensor 20R without paying homage to its inspiration, the previously reviewed Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Xlite. The two are remarkably similar and coming into this review, we were curious if the Tensor would address the slippery surface, loud fabric and narrow width concerns we had during the NeoAir review.

A quick look at the basic specifications of the two pads:

Nemo Tensor 20R

Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Xlite

MSRP $120

MSRP $160

13oz

12oz

Inflated Size: 72 x 20 x 3 in

Inflated Size: 72 x 20 x 2.5in

Packed Size: 8 x 3 in

Packed Size: 9 x 4 in

The packed size of the Tensor is truly impressive; this little thing is not taking up much room in a drybag. Out of the stuff sack it seems rather loud due to the aluminized film used for insulation. The good news is that this film is on the bottom layer of the pad, making it much quieter in use than while setting up. In use, it is not the quietest inflatable pad we’ve used, yet it’s still a few volume notches down from the NeoAir.

Next, we come to two words not often used in sleeping pad reviews: Elasticity and stability. Nemo’s new fabric has minimal elasticity, which in turn gives it incredible stability. How this translates into the real world is that the pad does not have to be over-inflated to make it stable. Basically, it has the least “pool toy” feel of any inflatable pad we’ve used to date, and it can be inflated soft enough to maximize all three inches of height without getting squishy. Kudos to Nemo for being at the forefront of what is the future evolution of inflatable pads.

The fabric is also less slippery than its predecessors; we had no problems slipping off during a night’s sleep.

For broad shouldered users, the NeoAir was plagued by a considerable bevel, making the top of the pad narrower than some users’ shoulders, resulting in a discordant feeling of simultaneously slipping off both sides of the pad. Unfortunately, the Nemo is nearly identical to the NeoAir in this regard, a considerable bevel results in roughly 18 inches of usable sleeping width at the top of the pad.

Of course, nothing is perfect. The valve placement on the Tensor is puzzling. Perhaps it was considerably cheaper to place on the sleeping surface of the pad, and those savings has been passed on to the consumer. Unfortunately, it takes away from the already diminutive sleeping area and leaves us wondering why this location was chosen.

At the end of a few multi-day trips we can say that for anyone excepting wide shoulder sleepers who must sleep on their back or stomach, the Tensor is a fantastic ultralight sleeping pad. We’re happy to see that it’s an evolution rather than a carbon copy of what inspired it. For those in the market for an ultralight pad, it’s highly recommended. For those who already own NeoAir, it’s up to you to decide if the smaller packed size and greater stability are worth the upgrade.

— Read Darin McQuiod’s full SLEEPING PADS and SLEEPING BAGS reviews.