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Black Diamond Eldorado Review

All-around uses are this model's forte, but it's still robust enough for when the weather turns gnar
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $730 List | $729.95 at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Bomber, great durability, compact footprint, lighter than average weight, fantastic balance of strength, weight, and livability, ample guy points
Cons:  Poor ventilation, slightly tricky setup, insufficient guylines included
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
By Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 15, 2020
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78
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 13
  • Weight - 27% 7
  • Weather/Storm Resistance - 25% 9
  • Livability - 18% 7
  • Ease of Set-up - 10% 7
  • Durability - 10% 10
  • Versatility - 10% 7

Our Verdict

The Black Diamond Eldorado is our Editors' Choice winner for the best all-around 4-season tent. If you are only going to have one shelter that does everything well, the Eldorado takes the cake. There are stronger tents and lighter tents, but no model blends these two important aspects quite as nicely. Its strength has been proven time and time again in remote corners of the globe, but it isn't so heavy that you can't take it summertime alpine climbing in your local mountain range.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Black Diamond Eldorado is one of the most versatile models in our review. It strikes a fantastic balance of remaining reasonably light and compact, yet it's still exceptionally stormworthy and comfortable to hang out in. You can buy a lighter and more compressible model, but if it rains or is super windy, you'll be much happier in the Eldorado. Few tents are as well-rounded. It's light enough for summertime mountaineering and multi-day ski touring, but also stormproof enough for expeditions to the Alaska Range or Peru's Cordillera Blanca, or other winter ascents closer to home.

Performance Comparison


The Eldorado is a classic do-everything 4 season tent. It is strong enough for remote alpine climbs but still light enough for ski touring or summertime mountaineering. You can buy a lighter and more compressible model that might work better for short alpine climbs  but if you want a versatile model that is a bit more livable  the Eldorado is tough to pass up.
The Eldorado is a classic do-everything 4 season tent. It is strong enough for remote alpine climbs but still light enough for ski touring or summertime mountaineering. You can buy a lighter and more compressible model that might work better for short alpine climbs, but if you want a versatile model that is a bit more livable, the Eldorado is tough to pass up.

Ease of Set-Up


The Eldorado pitches from the inside, with the ends of the poles inserting into reinforced corners. The poles themselves settle tightly into the corners of the tent, and plastic twist ties wrap around the poles, keeping them in place. The advantage of this set-up is that the poles are well supported by the walls. During times of strong winds or heavy snow loads, the weight is evenly distributed along the length of the pole. This design is one of the key foundations attributing to the strength of this tent, which has been tested time-and-time again on expeditions.


Setting it up may feel a little cumbersome at first, but with a bit of practice, it gets MUCH easier. If the weather permits (AKA not too windy), our testers even preferred to set up it up while standing up (tent draped over our head style) instead of crawling inside the tent while it's laying on the ground. A challenging set-up is one of the few downfalls of this tent, and it does take a little practice to get fast at. To minimize how much snow gets inside when erecting it, care must be taken while pitching the tent.

The Eldorado  Ahwahnee  and Fitzroy have small plastic twist tie clips to hold the poles in place. While we thought these twist clips were secure  they were a little finicky  especially in cold weather with gloves on.
The Eldorado, Ahwahnee, and Fitzroy have small plastic twist tie clips to hold the poles in place. While we thought these twist clips were secure, they were a little finicky, especially in cold weather with gloves on.

Weather Resistance


The Eldorado is the strongest two-pole model in our review and offers comparable strength to several three-pole models.


The pitch of this tent is bomber and drum-tight once set up, and the poles are well supported by the fabric. Thus, any force from wind or snow loading will be distributed nicely along the length of the poles. The Todd-Tex fabric is ULTRA sturdy and offers full-on expedition-style protection. The side walls are steep, helping this tent shed snow during storms. Its narrow profile and relatively low peak height allow it to handle wind effectively. The six guy points are reinforced and placed at a nice height, maximizing their leverage in keeping the tent anchored in high winds.

Despite being a two-pole design  the Eldorado is stormworthy and has proven as such during hundreds of the world's most demanding ascents over the years. The internal poles are supported by the body of the exceptionally durable fly with six guy points for additional support. Photo: Camped out while climbing the North Face of Mt. Shuksan with Mt. Baker looming behind  North Cascades WA.
Despite being a two-pole design, the Eldorado is stormworthy and has proven as such during hundreds of the world's most demanding ascents over the years. The internal poles are supported by the body of the exceptionally durable fly with six guy points for additional support. Photo: Camped out while climbing the North Face of Mt. Shuksan with Mt. Baker looming behind, North Cascades WA.

This tent is plenty strong enough for use in the greater ranges in places like Alaska or the Himalaya. While its small interior size keeps it from being a good expedition tent on its own (maybe solo), it is plenty strong enough to handle fierce storms and long term camping in exposed locations. While not quite as strong as most of the four pole models we tested, it was as strong or stronger than most of the 3-pole shelters in our fleet.

McKenzie Long climbing in Patagonia with the Black Diamond Eldorado  one of the toughest single wall products available.
McKenzie Long climbing in Patagonia with the Black Diamond Eldorado, one of the toughest single wall products available.

Livability


There is a slightly above average amount of living space in the Eldorado when compared with the other two-pole single-wall tents. It sports 31 square feet of interior space, more than all the other two-pole shelters in our review, and is only a little smaller than many of the comfort-oriented expedition tents (but has a lot less headroom due to its narrow shape).


When it's nice out, leaving the door of the Eldorado open (with optional bug netting window) is fantastic, but during wet storms, when we were forced to zip it ALL the way up, it handled condensation better than most single wall tents but not all double-wall tents. To help with condensation, there is only one tiny covered vent in the room of the tent. You can only leave the door slightly cracked open since a wire-stiffener in the door flap creates a tiny awning.

This tent has just enough floor space for two full-sized Therm-a-Rests (shown here) with a little extra room to spare. It's big enough that it's okay to hang out in for extended periods of time  but not great.
This tent has just enough floor space for two full-sized Therm-a-Rests (shown here) with a little extra room to spare. It's big enough that it's okay to hang out in for extended periods of time, but not great.

The ToddTex ePTFE fabric handles moisture and condensation as well as any single wall tent in our review, which helped make up for not having excellent venting. This is because the Todd-Tex fabric has thousands of micro-hairs in it that help wick moisture to the outside, a design element not seen in any other single wall tent (besides the other BD tents which use the same material).

The Eldorado during an early season snowstorm  shown here with its optional vestibule which is sold separately for $160.
The Eldorado during an early season snowstorm, shown here with its optional vestibule which is sold separately for $160.

Black Diamond also sells an optional hooped (AKA poled) vestibule. While the price is a little steep, it makes this tent a lot more versatile. With the additional space, it makes the tent much nicer to hang out in; it gives you more room for your gear, and you can leave the main door completely open to help with condensation management, as it becomes completely covered by the vestibule.


Durability


Like all the other Bibler/Black Diamond tents, this model is 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) and is much more resistant to tearing.


Delamination will likely happen eventually but we don't know anyone that has experienced a problem with this. Tester Ian Nicholson has used the Eldorado well over 200 days, and it's still going strong. This fabric is thicker than most single wall models, making it more abrasion resistant and less likely to poke a hole through.

The Eldorado  pictured here on Mt. Shuksan  is one of the more durable products out there. Tester Ian Nicholson has used his well over 200 days. While it isn't the most packable nor the lightest  it is lighter and smaller than most models we tested and is bomber and surprisingly pleasant to hang out in. Camped out below the Sulphide Glacier  Mt. Shuksan  North Cascades  WA.
The Eldorado, pictured here on Mt. Shuksan, is one of the more durable products out there. Tester Ian Nicholson has used his well over 200 days. While it isn't the most packable nor the lightest, it is lighter and smaller than most models we tested and is bomber and surprisingly pleasant to hang out in. Camped out below the Sulphide Glacier, Mt. Shuksan, North Cascades, WA.

Weight/Packed Size


The tent weighs a minimum of four pounds eight ounces and an average packed weight of four pounds 14 ounces, which is a bit heavier than many two-pole shelters.


For the extra weight, you do get more interior space, more durable fabrics, better breathability, and far better strength and storm-resistance. This means the Eldorado is more versatile, comfortable to hang out in, and will hold up better in a storm. While it is a pound heavier, it's still light enough for carrying with you on a route, but if you're looking for a pure bivy tent, there are lighter and much more compact options.


This model is an excellent compromise for climbers who want a light and small shelter, but also want something they could spend storm days hanging out in.

There are two very small vents on the bug netting.
There are two very small vents on the bug netting.

Versatility


This tent works well at a wide range of four-season activities. Its small footprint makes it possible to pitch nearly anywhere, which is an advantage during alpine climbing and mountaineering, where your only options might be a rocky moraine, a tight space between boulders, or a ledge mid-route.


It's light enough for most people to consider taking on climbs and multi-day ski tours in areas with less extreme conditions like the Wind River Range, Canadian Rockies, Tetons, or up a Cascadian volcano, but is strong enough for use on Denali, Mt. Logan, or the Bolivian Andes.

The Eldorado (30.8 sqft) on the left is a little bigger than the BD Firstlight on the right (27.3 sqft). The Firstlight is  5" shorter and 3" narrower.
The Eldorado (30.8 sqft) on the left is a little bigger than the BD Firstlight on the right (27.3 sqft). The Firstlight is 5" shorter and 3" narrower.

For 3-season applications or use on lower-elevation approaches, this model is one of the best two-pole bivy style tents, mainly due to the breathability and moisture-managing performance of the Todd-Tex fabric. It was similar to the Nemo Tenshi, which offered several venting options.
This is a fairly lightweight and versatile product that excels at most alpine climbing and backcountry ski endeavors. There are lighter and more comfortable options  but the Eldorado strikes a nice balance between the two and will hold up fantastically in horrific weather.
This is a fairly lightweight and versatile product that excels at most alpine climbing and backcountry ski endeavors. There are lighter and more comfortable options, but the Eldorado strikes a nice balance between the two and will hold up fantastically in horrific weather.

Value


The Eldorado is expensive and is the priciest two-pole model. We think the fabric justifies it, as no other bivy-style model can match this model's strength or breathability. It becomes even spendier if you decide to buy the optional vestibule. While that is another expense, it does add some serious versatility, even if it lives in your closet, only making an appearance for poor weather adventures. The Eldorado asserts its value because it's tough, livable, and stormworthy.

This is one of the quintessential all-around 4 season mountaineering tents. Tried and true  it performs well at everything but isn't the absolute best at any one thing.
This is one of the quintessential all-around 4 season mountaineering tents. Tried and true, it performs well at everything but isn't the absolute best at any one thing.

Conclusion


Proven on countless epic suffer-fest climbing exploits around the world, the Black Diamond Eldorado is truly a generalist, all-around 4 season tent. You can buy lighter or stronger tents, but few models can match the across the board performance of this one.

Ian Nicholson