Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Above average durability, average livability, sharp peak sheds snow well, compact footprint, respectable weight
Cons: Poor ventilation, trickier than average to setup, insufficient guy lines included, comes with low quality stakes.
Best Uses: Alpine climbing, high altitude mountaineering.
The Black Diamond Eldorado is an expedition worthy two-person single wall tent. 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 with respectable weight, packed size and comfort is the primary reason to opt for the Eldorado over other lighter but smaller bivi tents. Its a great quiver of one alpine tent for most mountaineering and alpine objectives in the lower 48 with Alaskan possibilities. It isn't as adaptable and you wouldn't want to use it three season backpacking if it was raining out.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Ease of Setup
The Eldorado pitches from the inside with with slightly finicky twist ties. Its harder and less convineint than most other tents to set up and takes a little practice. With practice we found it wasn't a big deal and could be done quickly especially when compared to the Black Diamond Fitzroy. We didn't like the twist ties as much as the Velcro closure that many of the other internal pole tents use. A host of other tents pitch from the outside with pole sleeves or clips that are much faster and easier. This is why we give the tent 7 out of 10 points in this category. Other tents, like the Sierra Designs Convert 2 receive 9 points.
The pitch is super bomber and the tent's fabric is very strong, and along with the other Bibler/Black Diamond Tents, its likely the burliest outer fabric in our review. The Eldorado full-on offers expedition style protection. Its only drawback here is the lack of a third pole, which can offer a little more head room and increase it's capacity to handle heavy snow loads. The Mountain Hardwear EV 2, for example, is a little stronger. But 99% of the time our testers prefer two pole tents because they are lighter and still very strong. 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 the Eldorado is WAY more weather resistant than the Firstlight.
There's an average to slightly above average amount of 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 and the "it's snowing on me" feeling when moisture vapor from your breath freezes and fall s back on you. We find that we sleep much better in tents with more air circulation. Those are also safer for cooking in.
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, the Eldorado 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 an I-tent (the slightly smaller version of the Eldorado) well over 200 days and its still going strong. The Eldorado has proven the test of time. It's ultra durable for a single wall tent.
The tent weighs a minimum of 4 lb. 8 oz. The Mountain Hardwear Direkt 2 weighs nearly half as much!! The Eldorado is suitable for carrying your tent on-your-back type routes but if you are looking for a pure bivi tent there are lighter and much more compact options. The Eldorado is a nice compromise for climbers who want a light small tent, but also want something they could spend storm days hanging out in.
The Eldorado is not very adaptable. It has poor venting options and would be a straight-up bummer to use on a rainy coast hike. Though the tent much be pitched in the same configuration every time its small footprint makes it possible to pitch it nearly anywhere. It is versatile enough that you could take it up more expedition and mountaineering routes like Denali or Cascadian volcano but 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 over-kill because of its burliness. Basically a great moderately light expedition style and alpine climbing tent if durability is your top priority and livability is a factor but not super important.
At $600 the Eldorado is on the more expensive side of tents we tested, but 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 the Eldorado is at least certainly the toughest and the most storm worthy.
The Bottom Line
Though proven on countless epic suffer fest climbing exploits around the world, the Eldorado ranks in the middle of the pack of the 24 tents we've tested. For pure light weight 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 than the Eldorado. What does the Eldorado have over those tents? Better livability and its more durable.
Black Diamond First Light
Black Diamond Ahwahnee
Black Diamond Gear Loft - $17
— Ian Nicholson, Chris McNamara
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Most recent review: November 4, 2014
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