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Thermarest Neoair X-Lite vs. Nemo Tensor Ultralight | Average Hiker

Vertical Comparison of X-Lite and Tensor Pads
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Thermarest X-Lite vs. Nemo Tensor

Thermarest X-Lite vs. Nemo Tensor – everyone has their favorite.

The Thermarest X-Lite and the Tensor Ultralight (Insulated) are arguably two of the most popular inflatable sleeping pads in backpacking right now. I have always used the Thermarest X-Lite, but recently I decided to test the Nemo Tensor on my Benton MacKaye Trail hike.

Although the Tensor was a little heavier than the X-Lite, reviews indicated that the comfort and ease at which it could be inflated more than made up for the handful of ounces I would have to add to my overall gear weight.

This review will compare the two pads and highlight what I liked and did not like. There was a lot to like in both pads, and there were also a few disappointments.

For this review, I bought a new X-Lite. The Thermarest X-Lite has gone through some changes, and I wanted to make sure I was comparing apples to apples.

X-Lite and Tensor Spec. Comparison

 Thermarest Neoair X-LiteTensor Ultralight Sleeping Pad (Insulated)
Weight12.5ounces16.5 ounces
Length72 in72 in
Width20 in25 in
R-Value4.23.5
Thickness2.5 in3.0
Packed Dimensions9 in x 4.1 in8.0 x 6.0 in
Top Fabric Type30D Rip HT Nylon20D PU Polyester
IncludedPump Sack, Stuff Sack and Repair KitVelcro Strip, Stuff Sack, Vortex Pump Sack, Repair Kit
MaterialsNylon, PolyurethanePolyester, Aluminized Film
WarrantyLifetime
Better Sleep Guarantee
Lifetime

Table of Contents

My Sleeping Pad Requirements

My sleeping pad requirements are pretty basic.

  • Light Weight – As I get older, keeping the weight down is important.
  • Comfort – I’m a side sleeper, so I like a fairly thick pad.
  • Warmth – I sleep cold, and I’m a light sleeper. Adding a bunch of layers and staying alive through the night doesn’t work for me anymore. I want to be warm, not constricted, and get a good night’s sleep.
  • Performance – The pad should not leak air.

Thermarest X-Lite vs. Nemo Tensor – First Glance

Thermarest X-Lite vs. Nemo Tensor Side by Side Comparison of Packed Sleeping Pads

Out of the box, both sleeping pads were impressively small, but the Thermarest X-Lite was just a little smaller. This was not a big deal since the difference between the two was minimal. I was actually impressed there was such a small difference since the Tensor was a Regular, Wide.

I have to give Kudos to Tensor on their stuff sack. They have incorporated a small pouch inside the sack where the repair kit is stored. Little things get me fired up, and I was pretty excited since I always lose my repair kits. Nice!

Included with the X-Lite and Tensor

The X-Lite comes with a pump sack, stuff sack, and repair kit, pretty standard additions to any sleeping pad. The Tensor comes with the same but also includes a Velcro strap for the sleeping pad.

The Velcro strap is not needed for the Tensor. Nemo should save a few pennies and scrap the strap. The stuff sack really makes the Velcro strap redundant since the Tensor rolls up nice and tight and fits in its stuff sack easily.

I’ll mention one more time that a small pouch in the stuff sack of the Tensor holds the repair kit. That is just a great idea!

Thermarest X-Lite vs Nemo Tensor – Features

Both sleeping pads have some similar features – pump sacks, “cutting edge” valves, etc., but also a few differences. Even the similarities have differences.

Pump Sacks

The performance of the pump sucks varied quite a bit. I wish I could combine the features of each. The best pump sack award went to the Tensor. The tapered neck made it easy to get air into the pump sack, and the more “rubbery” material held air better. The valve was too tight when attached to the pad though.

It took about 6 sacks of air to inflate the Tensor pad and definitely made it an easier process.

The Thermarest X-Lite pump sack is just a bad design. It felt like the nylon sack did not even hold air. The drawstring neck did not help, even when I made a small hole to try and keep in the air. I finally gave up and inflated the sleeping pad much more quickly with the valve.

The valve was much easier to attach on the X-Lite pump sack, although almost too easy as it came loose a couple of times during some breezy conditions.

Valves

The Nemo Tensor uses a “New Laylow™ zero-profile, multi-functional, micro-adjustable valve.” Say that three times fast. The valve is flat against the pad and is two parts. You can open the top cap to bleed off the air and inflate the pad and pull out the bottom tab to deflate the pad rapidly.

I suspect that this is where the leak is occurring. Even with a little silicone, this is a very tight cap to open and close, placing too much pressure on the glue around the seams. There are other valve complaints on Nemo’s website, and hopefully, they will address them at some point.

The X-Lite uses its trademarked “WingLock Valve.” This valve is one-way when being inflated, and you can toggle it open for rapid deflation. The valve is not flat, but it is on the side of the pad in the top corner and not noticeable.

I find the WingLock Valve on the X-Lite much easier to use and the pad much easier to inflate by mouth than the Nemo Tensor. There is also much less of a stress failure point in the X-Lite valve.

Size

Thermarest X-Lite vs. Nemo Tensor Horizontal View of Sleeping Pads

I purchased the Nemo Tensor Regular, Wide. I wanted to experience being able to spread out across 25 inches without my limbs dangling. At the end of the day, though, it really made no difference. Since I’m a side sleeper, I just curled up in the middle of the pad, consuming the same amount of space as I did on my 20-inch pad.

If you are a back or stomach sleeper, you will find the Nemo Sleeping pad comfortable. You will probably also be a little warmer than a side sleeper since there will be more sleeping pad to absorb the greater amount of body heat.

Materials

The Nemo Tensor is made from 20D PU Polyester and uses an Aluminized film insulation technology. The Thermarest X-Lite is made from Nylon, Polyurethane and uses “Thermacapture” to radiate heat back to your body, along with their Triangular Core Matrix technology, which is two layers of triangular baffles to help minimize heat loss and give the pad more structure.

What does all this technology mean? Well, I found the Thermarest a warmer pad, and both pads fairly quiet. The Neoair X-Lite used to be incredibly loud, crackling, and crinkling all night. I got used to the noise, but nobody wanted to sleep near me. It is much quieter now.

Thermarest X-Lite vs. Nemo Tensor – Performance

Now for the meat of the review – performance. I always try to test my gear on my hikes and put it through its paces. In this case, I used both of these pads on my Benton MacKaye Trail hike, which was about 2.5 weeks.

Comfort

The X-Lite is very comfortable and warm, but it is always a little annoying to wake up with a frozen limb hanging off the sleeping pad. One of the things I looked forward to on my Tensor was not having the bottom of the sleeping pad taper.

I took the Aeon Li with me and failed to check its width. The Aeon Li shelter is 30 inches wide, and the Nemo Tensor is 25 inches. There was not enough room for my gear in the shelter without putting it on top of the sleeping pad. I try hard not to do that because of all the “poking” opportunities.

I did prefer the softer material of the Tensor. It just seemed a little plusher on my sensitive skin.

Both pads were equally comfortable for me as far as thickness, but I found the X-Lite more comfortable even though it is .5 inch less thick. I could better regulate the air pressure with the X-Lite valve – finding that perfect thickness more easily.

Warmth

While the Nemo Tensor is a half-inch thicker than the X-Lite, the Tensor’s R-Value is 3.5 vs. the X-Lite’s 4.2 R-Value. You might expect there not to be much of a difference in warmth since the two kind of off-set each other, but I was definitely warmer on the X-Lite.

I have used my Thermarest X-Lite down into the teens, and it has always kept me warm with a good sleeping bag or quilt.

Durability

Here comes the culmination of the whole review.

My first night on the Benton MacKaye Trail was cold. I woke up three hours into the night flat on the cold ground. I got out of my sleeping pad, checked the valve, blew up the pad, listened for hissing, and finally went back to sleep.

Three hours later, I woke up flat on the cold ground again! This went on the rest of the night, and every two hours, I would have to inflate the pad. This was my routine for the next three nights – ugh. I was exhausted by the time I reached Blue Ridge, GA.

In Blue Ridge, I got a ride over to Mountain Crossings and purchased a Thermarest X-Lite. It was too cold for another sleeping pad failure, and reading reviews, I realized the Tensor had valve issues. Mountain Crossings also did not have my Tensor in stock, but I would probably not have purchased it anyway.

Warranty

The Warranty is where Nemo and Thermarest differ.

Nemo has a Limited Lifetime Warranty as long as you purchase your sleeping pad from an authorized Nemo Dealer.

I reached out to Nemo and was told that I could not get a refund since I had used the pad, but I could try to work with the retailer where I had purchased the sleeping pad. I could also process a claim, but having them fix a known problem only to have it happen again was not appealing.

A sleeping pad failure can make a wonderful hike miserable for me, especially if I’m several days out from town and it is freezing.

Thermarest also has a Limited Lifetime Warranty, but they also offer a “Better Sleep Guarantee.”

The Better Sleep Guarantee states:

If you are not satisfied with your Therm-a-Rest sleeping bag or quilt, return it within three months of purchase with a copy of the receipt, and we will refund you. No questions asked. We believe a Therm-a-Rest sleeping bag will exceed expectations, and we stand by that belief. It doesn’t matter if you bought it through our website, from another website, or your local retailer, the Better Sleep Guarantee stands.

Lesson learned…

Thermarest X-Lite vs Nemo Tensor – Comparison Summary

  • Comfort – both sleeping pads are comfortable, but I found the X-Lite slightly less firm and more comfortable. This is a personal preference. It was also easier to adjust the air pressure on the X-Lite.
  • Construction – I had my first original Thermarest X-Lite for eight years with no issues and no holes – literally thousands of miles. My Nemo Tensor failed the first night.
  • Inflation – the Nemo Tensor definitely has a better pump sack, but the valve is tight. The Thermarest X-Lite has a poor pump sack and a much loser valve, almost too loose. On the other hand, the X-Lite is much easier to inflate with just the valve.
  • Materials – I definitely like the softer material of the Nemo Tensor. As far as sleeping pads go, it is almost “plush.” I also really like the repair kit tucked away in a small pocket in the stuff sack.
  • Warmth – As a side sleeper, I found the Thermarest X-Lite warmer with its higher R-Value and heat-retaining technology.
  • Packability – The Nemo Tensor packed up impressively small considering how much wider it was than the X-Lite.

Neoair Thermarest X-Lite vs. Nemo Tensor – Final Thoughts

Both sleeping pads have negative and positive features, but Thermarest makes a better sleeping pad for my sleep needs. Thermarest also stands behind their products which I often find with high-quality manufacturers.

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 Thermarest Neoair X-LiteNemo Tensor Ultralight (Insulated)   
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FAQ

How do you clean your sleeping pads?

I use warm water and diluted Dawn with a soft brush. I usually clean them in a bathtub.

Are expensive inflatable pads worth the cost?

For me, they are invaluable. My Neoair X-Lite lasted 8 years with no patches and is still going strong. A good night’s sleep when backpacking makes for a much better trip.

Can an inflatable pad get wet?

Most inflatable pads are highly water-resistant if not waterproof. I’ve floated in puddles on occasion when I made bad tent setup choices.


Average Hiker purchased these sleeping pads to review. When you buy through links on this website, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. If you have found this review helpful, please consider purchasing one of these sleeping pads through the links above. This helps support this website. I appreciate it – thank you

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2 thoughts on “Thermarest Neoair X-Lite vs. Nemo Tensor Ultralight | Average Hiker”

  1. Hello. Nice review. I use the Tensor insulated Reg Wide. Works great. One thing that’s always been on my mind when comparing mummy to regular is that , with R value taken into consideration, is that it seems by default a mummy should keep a person warmer due to less air space to heat up. I thoroughly enjoy the space of a Reg Wide and usually have the sleeping bag in quilt mode. I’ve been wanting to try an oversize bag and put a mummy style sleep pad inside. Anywho. Peace, ~RL

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