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Hands-on Gear Review
Black Diamond Eldorado Review
Cons: Poor ventilation, slightly trickier than average to setup, insufficient guylines included (but amble guy points)
The Black Diamond Eldorado is an excellent all-around alpine climbing tent that remains expedition worthy. It uses a super tough three-layer ePTFE membrane with a durable face fabric that has proven to be more durable than many other polyurethane coated fabrics found in most other single wall tents. Durability, respectable weight, packed size, and comfort is the primary reason to opt for this model over other lighter but smaller bivy tents. This contender is a great quiver of one alpine tent for most mountaineering and alpine objectives in the lower 48 with Alaskan/Andes/Himalayan possibilities. It isn't as adaptable as some models we tested and you wouldn't want to use it three season backpacking, at least on a regular basis, but it remains what most of our testers consider an excellent blend of being fairly lightweight, yet super strong and respectably comfortable to hangout in.
RELATED: Our complete review of four season tents
Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings
Ease of Setup
The Eldorado pitches from the inside, with the ends of the poles being inserted into reinforced corners and plastic twist ties that wrap around the poles. helping to keep them in place. As a whole, the poles are extremely well supported by the tent walls themselves, providing the foundation for the strength of this tent. Setting it up can feel a little burdensome at first, but with a little practice it gets MUCH EASIER. If the weather permits (AKA not too windy), our testers even prefer to set up it up while standing up instead of crawling inside the tent while it's laying on the ground. We do think this tent is slightly harder and less convenient than most other tents to set up and it takes a little more practice. Despite a similar design, it is easier than the Black Diamond Fitzroy, which uses twice as many poles (but is also stronger). We didn't like the twist ties as much as the Velcro closure that many of the other internal pole tents use. Overall, a host of other tents pitch from the outside with pole sleeves or clips that are much faster and easier.
The pitch is bomber and the tent's fabric is extremely strong, and along with the rest of the Bibler/Black Diamond Tents is likely the burliest outer fabric in our review. This four season tent offers full-on expedition style protection; its only drawback here is the lack of a third pole, which can offer a little more strength, head room and increase its' capacity to handle heavy snow loads. The Mountain Hardwear EV 2 and Hilleberg Jannu for example, are a little stronger. 99% of the time our testers prefer two pole tents because they are lighter and still very strong, especially for trips in the lower 48. The additional strength of a third pole is likely only necessary for ultra badass high altitude mountaineering where you leave a tent pitched at a higher camp, or would die if it weren't there when you came down from a summit attempt. While heavier, this model is WAY more weather resistant than the Firstlight.
There's an average to slightly above average amount of living space in the Eldorado compared with the other two pole single wall tents, but the ventilation is well below average. The Nemo Tenshi offers much better ventilation, which can greatly reduce condensation. When its nice out, leaving the door of the Eldorado open (with optional bug netting) works great, but during wet storms when we were forced to zip it all the way up, it handled condensation just so-so. The Eldorado is much nicer to hangout in than either the Black Diamond Firstlight, Rab Latok or Mountain Hardwear Direkt 2, but is also nearly two pounds heavier, but isn't quite as nice to hangout in as the Black Diamond Fitzroy or Mountain Hardwear EV 2.
This is the primary reason to choose the Eldorado like all the other Bibler/Black Diamond tents: they are bomber. Unlike PU coated fabrics that many single wall tent manufacturers use, this contender uses a three-layer construction that is not prone to hydrolysis (chemical breakup of the coating). Delamination will likely happen eventually but we don't know anyone that has experienced a problem with this. Tester Ian Nicholson has used a Black Diamond I-Tent (the slightly smaller version of the Eldorado) well over 200 days and it's still going strong. This model has proven the test of time; it's ultra durable for a single wall tent and it is more durable than the Direkt2 or EV 2.
The tent weighs a minimum of 4 lb. 8 oz; at an average packed weight of 5 lbs 1 oz, this tent is still lighter than average among tents in our review. You can certainly buy a lighter bivy-style tent like the Mountain Hardwear Direkt 2 or the Black Diamond Firstlight (both 3 lbs 5 oz), but this one is far more versatile, comfortable to hangout in, and will hold up better in a storm. It is just light enough that it's suitable for use during carrying your tent on your back type routes, but if you are looking for a pure bivy tent, there are lighter and much more compact options. This model is a nice compromise for climbers who want a light and small tent, but also want something they could spend storm days hanging out in because it's not quite as cramped.
This tent is not super adaptable. It has poor venting options and would be a straight-up bummer to use on a rainy coast hike. Though the tent must be pitched in the same configuration every time, its small footprint makes it possible to pitch nearly anywhere, certainly an advantage while alpine climbing and mountaineering. It is versatile enough that you could take it up more expedition and mountaineering style routes like on Denali, Mt. Logan or the Bolivian Andes, but will also work great in places like the Wind River Range, Tetons or on a Cascadian volcano; it will also excel where a slightly lighter tent is desired.
High altitude and general mountaineering tent that has been used on many of Alaska's and the Himalaya's hardest routes. Its an okay choice for ski touring but a little overkill because of its burliness. It's basically a great moderately light expedition style and alpine climbing tent if durability is your top priority and livability is a still a factor, but not as important.
At $700, this model is on the more expensive side of tents we tested; if you decide to buy the optional $140 vestibule, the Eldorado gets to be on the much more expensive side real fast. While more expensive than all the other two pole single wall tents, it is at least certainly the toughest and the most storm worthy. It's equal in price to the Mountain Hardwear EV 2, which includes a vestibule, but with the Eldorado it's sold separately. The total price is still less expensive than Hilleberg Jannu, which will cost you $935.
The Bottom Line
Though proven on countless epic suffer fest climbing exploits around the world, the Eldorado is really a generalist, all-arounder type of tent, being good at everything, but not perfect at anything, and thus ranks in the middle of the pack of the 27 tents we've tested. For pure lightweight alpine climbing, the Eldorado's best application, our testers almost always reach for the Mountain Hardwear Direkt 2, which weighs roughly 1.5 lb less, or the Nemo Tenshi, which has much better ventilation. What does the Eldorado have over those tents? Better livability, superior strength, and a higher level of durability.
Black Diamond First Light
Black Diamond Ahwahnee
— Ian Nicholson, Chris McNamara
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: July 18, 2016
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