Nothing will get a gram-weenie, toothbrush-choppin’, ultralight trail-trotter like me extra jazzed than seeing claims like those above. It’s like studying about movie star drama on the Met Gala — for dirtbags. Hell hath no fury just like the warmth-to-weight debate amongst backpackers.
And it’s maybe most fierce when the subject of sleeping baggage and pads arises. These are, in any case, two of crucial and space-consuming members of the “huge 4” household in your backpack.
In early Could 2021, I used to be post-holing in hip-deep snow by the frozen San Juans on a determined thru-hike of the CDT. Whereas my Therm-a-Relaxation NeoAir XLite saved me cozy in most circumstances, what I’d have given for a pad with wherever close to an 8.5 R-value on these frigid snow-blasted nights in Colorado. However each choice was just too heavy for an ultralight loadout. So when the Tensor Excessive Situations ($250) got here out, I used to be past psyched to get my grubby paws on it.
Such excessive insulation isn’t mandatory for many shoulder-season backpacking journeys. However when a pad weighs lower than high fashions available on the market that may’t even boast half the R-value, it’s value a glance. Plus, spurts of high-altitude mileage by freezing temps could also be required throughout the fall and spring, as I’ve found on every of my thru-hikes. And, for these stone-cold professionals braving arctic temps on looking excursions and winter thru-hikes, this can be the backcountry mattress of your goals.
NEMO’s newly launched Tensor Excessive Situations (EC) Pad is already making ripples within the outside group. It’s fully toasting the competitors and raked in a coveted worldwide ISPO award. However does it deserve the crimson carpet? After placing this slim feat of engineering by frigid fall backpacking journeys, in a single day climbing journeys in Appalachia, and even huge wall ascents in Yosemite sleeping on portaledges, I agree — there’s nothing fairly prefer it.
In brief: Whereas I’ve a number of qualms that arose throughout testing, the Tensor Excessive Situations undoubtedly units a brand new bar in ultralight sleeping pad innovation. Constructing on the shoulders of NEMO’s established sleeping pad tech, Thermal Mirror Insulation, and new Apex baffles crank up the warmth with out packing on kilos. For uncompromising heat at an ultralight weight on freezing forays within the backcountry, that is fairly actually nearly as good because it will get.
1 lb., 1 oz. (Common Mummy)
20D and 40D GRS-certified & Bluesign-approved nylon
Greatest warmth-to-weight ratio available on the market
Small pack measurement
Sturdy development regardless of mild weight
Fast inflation time
Extraordinarily tough to suit into stuff sack
Not our favourite valve development
NEMO Tensor Excessive Situations Overview
Let’s get all the way down to brass tacks: this pad isn’t for everybody. NEMO broke some severe floor in growing the Tensor Excessive Situations. However I wouldn’t advocate it to only any ultralighter hitting the path. That is for the hiker, backpacker, hunter, mountaineer — you identify it — who’s staring down the barrel of technical missions in frigid temps, and must hold that base weight as little as potential.
In creating such a light-weight monster insulator, Nemo did have to chop some corners — particularly within the consolation and useability departments. Heat and an ultralight profile are prioritized right here.
That’s to not say you’ll be able to’t snag some severe Zs atop this pad, although. Sure, it’s a bit slender and falls on the slippery fringe of the spectrum. However it boasts a luxurious 3.5-inch peak and isn’t close to as “bouncy” as different fashions I’ve examined, tremendously bettering sleep.
Regardless of a minimal weight of 1 pound, 1 ounce, the Tensor EC boils with thermal effectivity. It cranks out a powerful R-value of 8.5. That’s the very best worth available on the market, with a weight that rivals top-shelf pads value half the heat. Apex baffles are key components within the secret sauce.
Apex Baffle Development: Hefty Insulation in a Tiny Bundle
The Tensor EC borrows some core parts from current NEMO pads, like one-way lay-low valves, and suspended Thermal Mirror metalized movie. Nevertheless, it employs a brand new baffle tech referred to as Apex. 4 layers of its thermal movie are positioned over trapezoidal trusses (versatile, vertical helps inside the pad), versus the widespread rectangular design.
Every sheet of movie is slotted over these trusses, with different-sized holes in every sheet. That eliminates the necessity to weld them in place. By free-floating every sheet, NEMO not solely cuts weight however tremendously reduces the loud crinkly sound that’s so widespread — and insomnia-inducing — with insulating air pads.
Every layer displays again physique warmth and guards in opposition to radiant warmth loss, whereas deflecting chilly from the bottom. Although I wasn’t in a position to check this within the sub-zero temps it’s designed to deal with, I approached the freezing level on a few journeys and may verify — that is one heck of a toasty pad. By no means as soon as was I uncomfortable or chilly.
The low-stretch trusses inside the pad scale back springiness and supply a shocking stability of help and provides, regardless of the 4 suspended movie layers beneath you. I had some fears — significantly as a facet sleeper — that the “suspended” nature of the Thermal Mirror sheets would result in an uneven feeling. However I used to be pleasantly stunned at how steady it felt, even whereas tossing and turning.
The three.5-inch stack peak makes this a dream for side-sleepers. It’s a half-inch bump from my flagship NeoAir XLite that normally accompanies me on backpacking excursions.
Tensor Excessive Situation’s Slim, Ultralight Silhouette
The Tensor EC‘s slim design and skinny supplies scale back weight, however I discovered myself sliding off on a number of events — no due to the comparatively slippery material. Whereas a 20-inch width is in keeping with high light-weight pads (such because the NeoAir XLite NXT and UberLite), it feels slender for a pad with such a excessive stack peak and lofty R-value. If I’m going to be tenting in sub-zero temps, I schlep alongside a chunky sub-zero sleeping bag. I’m typically additionally sporting a thick winter coat, hat, gloves, and so forth.
All of this on a 20-inch pad feels a bit hindering. Pads with comparable excessive R-values, like Exped’s Extremely 7R and Dura 8R enable you a tad extra girth, affording a cozier, much less constraining sleep.
Although it’s designed for ultralight winter missions in arctic circumstances, I discovered its skinny profile, excessive insulation, and beneficiant cushion good for a distinct segment outside function: sleeping on slender ledges throughout chilly huge wall ascents. Whereas a jaunt up El Cap is a considerably unconventional testing floor for a sleeping pad, it supplied distinctive perception that different adventures might not have. It compelled me to deal with particular parts greater than others.
NEMO’s Tensor EC Goes Climbing
Close to-freezing temps, whipping wind, teetering hundreds of toes above a darkish void — every fall night time on El Cap is a check of endurance and squeamishness. My mattress of alternative for our 5-day foray was not picked flippantly. I wanted a extremely insulated pad with the bottom weight potential. It additionally wanted to be slim sufficient to suit on small pure ledges and on our portaledge. The Tensor EC match the invoice nearly completely.
If I used to be impressed at how nicely it saved me heat on stable floor, I used to be blown away by its skill to insulate me from chilly seeping in from the granite face. It was like sleeping on a smushy area heater. Not solely that, however the comparatively slender width allowed me to squeeze onto tiny ledges with out the pad falling off
Moreover, its 40-denier nylon backside resisted ripping in opposition to the sharp stone. Sturdiness is all the time a concern of mine when testing ultralight pads. So this was a nice shock. Whereas sleeping on our portaledge, it deflected violent gusts of wind that endlessly whipped the underside of the ledge, cocooning me in heat.
A small gap on the high of the pad allowed me to clip it to a sling in case the pad slipped from beneath me and flew away within the breeze. This additionally serves as a simple solution to grasp the pad as much as dry if it will get moist. That was a easy added bonus that I haven’t seen on different pads.
It is a distinctive instance, however my climb allowed me to view and respect this pad from totally different angles. It proved the Tensor EC’s sturdiness in harsher circumstances than a generic tenting journey.
I additionally introduced it on a latest nippy fall backpacking romp alongside the Cumberland Path in Tennessee. The colours have been popping, and the solar was sensible — however temps plummeted at night time. It was onerous to consider the mercury due to how heat I used to be. I even needed to shed layers and open my sleeping bag to vent a bit. I rapidly realized I wasn’t doing this pad justice. It yearns for far-flung expeditions on the very fringe of life-threatening circumstances.
Mini Pack Measurement — With a Caveat
One in all Tensor Excessive Situations‘ promoting factors is how small it packs down, in correlation with its absurdly low weight. The pad rolls up advantageous, and does certainly cram down to only over the scale of a Nalgene. However boy, do I’ve to virtually blow a gasket to get it there. The included stuff sack is constricting, to say the least. Until you roll it up with manufacturing facility precision, it takes some severe gumption to stuff the pad inside.
That’s very true if you wish to stow the pump sack with it. Contemplating the EC was designed to be used in freezing temps, that is the final battle I think about you’d need to battle with numb, frozen fingers on crisp alpine begins.
I’m a fan of beneficiant stuff sacks. I can all the time shove gear down smaller inside my pack even when the sack has a saggy match round it. I discovered the EC’s small pouch significantly irritating whereas juggling cams, haul baggage, and tenting gear within the early mornings on El Cap, balancing precariously on our portaledge. On a number of events, I virtually dropped the pad whereas wrestling it into the sack.
I’m being fairly cynical right here. But when packed measurement is famous as a major professional, it could be good if it shrunk to the claimed measurement simply. That mentioned, for the heat this factor delivers, it’s an impressively small bundle. Different pads on this bracket of insulation are a lot bulkier and heavier and will embrace some type of insulation to attain such a excessive R-value.
So sure, that is objectively an especially compressible mannequin. I simply want it match higher within the storage pouch it gives.
Lay-Low Valve, Excessive-Worth Adjustment
Sleeping pad valves are available all sizes and styles. Whereas some are higher than others, basically each model and mannequin now options one-way valves with the choice to rapidly dump the air when it’s time to roll it up. NEMO’s Lay-Low valve follows swimsuit. It makes inflation a breeze, and micro-adjustments even simpler. Both use its included Vortex pump sack, or blow it up together with your mouth to avoid wasting weight. This factor inflates quick.
Take away the highest cap to entry the one-way valve, and pull the cap beneath out to swiftly deflate it. I’m typically not a fan of valves that sit on high of my pad, as they will rub in opposition to my head at night time. However this one is about as flush with the material because it will get.
For a extra cushioned really feel, the valve makes it straightforward to launch air even when the pad is weighted. Open the highest cap and easily push the interior valve down barely. Micro changes are simpler to make than most pads I’ve performed with.
Watch out, although. On a few events, I unintentionally pulled your complete valve out of the pad whereas making an attempt to make changes, deflating the factor solely. It was my very own fault, however be sure you rub the sleep out of your eyes and seize the right tab if you happen to wake in a daze at midnight.
Vortex Pump Sack — One of many Greatest Out There
I was a pump sack denier in an effort to cull as many ounces as potential. However after seeing how a lot moisture they hold out of your pad, and the way a lot time you save throughout inflation, I’ve been toting them alongside most of the time.
The EC’s Vortex locks onto the pad securely. And it inflates the pad in as little as two and a half pumps. Mild-headed inflation classes be gone!
That is by far one of many easiest-to-use pump sacks I’ve examined. It has a slender opening to blow air into and inflates to max capability with just some puffs. Rolling it down is a cinch, and the sack stays firmly connected to the valve.
You may forego the pump sack to avoid wasting area and weight. Simply know: the “lay-lowness” side of the valve makes it considerably tough to inflate your complete factor by mouth. It’s undoubtedly potential, however not practically as straightforward as utilizing the big facet valves on pads like Therm-A-Relaxation’s NeoAirs.
Drawbacks of the Tensor Excessive Situations
NEMO’s Tensor Excessive Situations serves as a reminder that high quality innovation continues to be potential this late within the outside sport. It represents a brand new chapter in thermal effectivity. It’s definitely probably the greatest pads available on the market for ultralight missions in frigid circumstances. And, in my view, $250 for this stage of efficiency is aggressive and downright inexpensive.
In mild of that, it’s admittedly tough to ding. This pad genuinely blew me away by how comfy, quiet, light-weight, and packable this factor is.
Our nitpicks with this pad are trivial contemplating what NEMO has completed, nevertheless it’s our job to notice them. In brief, its incapacity to simply roll up into its stuff sack is our greatest quibble. When you have a pleasant open floor it’s simpler, however in a crowded backpacking tent — and significantly on a wobbly portaledge — it’s tough to get all of the air out and roll it as tight because it must be. Including the pump sack to the combo makes this even more durable.
Moreover, the face material is on the slippery facet. I discovered myself sliding off a lot of instances throughout the night time. Different pads of comparable insulation and stack peak function grippier surfaces. Lastly, I want the Lay-Low valve was a tad simpler to inflate by mouth.
What’s the Competitors — If Any?
There aren’t many backpacking pads that stand as much as the Tensor EC. Those who do tip the scales with heftier weights and pack sizes. Exped’s Extremely 7R (7 R-value; 1 pound, 6 ounces) and Dura 8R (8 R-value; 2 kilos, 1 ounce), Therm-a-Relaxation’s NeoAir XTherm NXT (7.3 R-value, 1 pound), and Sea to Summit’s Ether Mild XT Excessive (6.2 R-value; 1 pound, 9.6 ounces) are maybe the closest competitors for light-weight backpacking.
None of those contact the warmth-to-weight ratio of the EC. Some use down or artificial insulation to crank up the warmth, packing on ounces and bulk. For next-level heat at a mind-boggling weight, the EC is subsequent to none.
NEMO Tensor Excessive Situations Overview: Who Is It For?
Do you want an 8.5 R-value pad for many of your backpacking adventures? Until fixed high-altitude alpine missions are your modus operandi, the reply might be no. Is it good to have such insulation for just-in-case freezes or stretches of chilly trails on longer journeys? Sometimes, sure — significantly when it weighs a scant 17 ounces.
Have been I to do the CDT or PCT once more, that is most likely the pad I’d not less than ship forward of me for the snow-laden Sierra Nevada, Cascade, and San Juan ranges. It might have turned many a shiver bivy right into a heat, full night time of sleep.
The Tensor Excessive Situations pad is for die-hard adventurers going through unmentionably chilly circumstances on ultralight targets. At the price of some usability and luxury, it retains pack weight to a naked minimal whereas delivering one of the best warmth-to-weight ratio of any pad presently available on the market. After numerous cozy nights nestled above the Nemo Tensor EC, the opposite pads in my closet ought to be apprehensive. This will have simply change into my favourite backcountry mattress when the mercury drops.