Hands-on Gear Review

Black Diamond Eldorado Review

Top Pick Award
Price:  $700 List
Pros:  Bomber, great durability, compact footprint, lighter than average weight, fantastic overall balance of strength, weight, and livability, best two pole model to get rained or stormed on in, ample guy points
Cons:  Poor ventilation, slightly tricky setup, insufficient guylines included
Bottom line:  All-around uses are this model's forte - perfect for summertime mountaineering, light enough for multi-day ski tours, but still robust enough for when the weather turns gnar.
Editors' Rating:   
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Floor Dimensions (inches):  87" x 51 in.
Peak Height (inches):  43 in.
Measured Weight (tent, stakes, guylines, pole bag):  5.06 lbs
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond

Our Verdict

The Black Diamond Eldorado is our Top Pick winner for All-Around Alpine Performance. It has a sturdy three-layer ToddTex ePTFE membrane with a face fabric that has proven to be more durable than many polyurethane coated fabrics found in other single wall tents. Compared to lighter and more compact bivi-style tents, durability, storm-worthiness, and interior space are reasons to choose the Eldorado. This is a great 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 3-season backpacking on a regular basis, but it remains what most of our testers consider an excellent blend of being lightweight, yet durable and respectably comfortable for hanging out.



RELATED REVIEW: The Best Four Season Tents of 2018


Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Ian Nicholson

Last Updated:
Tuesday
April 10, 2018

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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 while still being exceptionally storm-worthy and comfortable to hang out in. You can certainly buy lighter and more compressible models, but if it rains or is super windy you'll be much happier to be in this tent rather than models like the Black Diamond Firstlight or MSR Advance Pro. There are few tents as well-rounded as this one — light enough to consider bringing for summertime mountaineering and multi-day ski touring while being sufficiently stormproof 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 inserted into reinforced corners and plastic twist ties that wrap around the poles, helping to keep them in place. The poles are exceptionally well supported by the walls of that tent itself, providing the foundation for the strength of this tent. Here's how we rated its ease of set-up compared to the other tents we reviewed.


Setting it up can feel a little burdensome at first, but with a bit of 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 that pitch from the outside, like the MSR Advance Pro 2 or The North Face Assault, and overall the Eldorado takes a little more practice. Despite a similar design, it is much 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, but we don't think this is a significant detractor.

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 like the REI Arete ASL 2.


The pitch of this tent is bomber and is drum-tight when it's set up. The fabric is sturdy (and along with the rest of the Bibler/Black Diamond tents) is likely the burliest outer fabric in our review. This 4-season tent offers full-on expedition style protection; its only drawback here is the lack of a third pole, which can provide a little more strength, headroom, and increased capacity to handle heavy snow loads. The Hilleberg Jannu and MSR Remote 2 are just a little stronger, and the Black Diamond Ahwahnee offered more headroom. That said, for over 90% of users, two pole tents like this one are fine because they are lighter and still very strong, especially for trips in the lower-48.

Despite only being a two-pole design  the Eldorado is pretty darn storm worthy 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 only being a two-pole design, the Eldorado is pretty darn storm worthy 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.

The additional strength of a third pole is likely only necessary for high altitude mountaineering where you leave a tent pitched at a higher camp, or would be in grave danger without shelter when you came down from a summit attempt. While heavier, this model is WAY more weather resistant than the Firstlight or Black Diamond HiLight.

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's an average to slightly above average amount of living space in the Eldorado compared with the other two-pole single-wall tents.


The Eldorado sports 31 square feet of interior space, more than all the other two pole shelters in our review.

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.

When it's nice out, leaving the door of the Eldorado open (with optional bug netting window) works great, but during wet storms when we were forced to zip it all the way up, it handled condensation so-so. There is only one tiny covered vent in the room of the tent, and you can only leave the door ever-so-slightly cracked open because a wire-stiffener in the door flap creates a very small awning. The ToddTex ePTFE fabric handled moisture and condensation as well as any single wall tent in our review, which helped make up for not having excellent venting. Overall, the Eldorado is much comfier to hang out in than the Black Diamond Firstlight, MSR Advance Pro, Rab Latok, or Black Diamond HiLight, but it is also nearly two pounds heavier.

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.

Durability


Durability is the primary reason to choose the Eldorado; like all the other Bibler/Black Diamond tents, it 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).


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 model has proven the test of time; it's ultra-durable for a single wall tent, and it is more durable than the MSR Advance Pro or BD Firstlight.

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 4 lbs 8 oz. At an average packed weight of 5 lbs 1 oz, this shelter is still lighter than average among the contenders in our review.


You can certainly buy a lighter bivy-style tent, like the MSR Advance Pro or the Black Diamond Firstlight (both 3 lbs 5 oz), but this one is far more versatile, comfortable to hang out 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 an excellent compromise for climbers who want a light and small shelter, but also want something they could spend storm days hanging out in because it's not quite as cramped.

There are two very small vents on the bug netting. While we like a lot of things about the Eldorado  we don't think these vents did very much.
There are two very small vents on the bug netting. While we like a lot of things about the Eldorado, we don't think these vents did very much.

Versatility


This tent is not super adaptable in the traditional sense, but works well at a wide range of four-season activities, particularly for the types of trips most people want to embark on.


Though you can't pitch the tent many snazzy ways, its small footprint makes it possible to pitch it nearly anywhere, indeed an advantage during alpine climbing and mountaineering. It is versatile enough that you could take it up more expedition style routes such as those 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, as well as on multi-day ski tours.

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.

Best Applications


The Eldorado stands out because it's pretty good at everything. It's a general mountaineering tent that has been on many of Alaska's and the Himalaya's hardest routes, but it's still light enough to consider taking for summertime mountaineering adventures or multi-day ski tours (though it might be a little overkill for those applications). The one thing it isn't great for is winter camping, because of its small size and lack of included vestibule. This model has poor venting options and would be a straight-up bummer to use on a rainy coastal hike.

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


At $700, this model is on the expensive side of the tents we tested but isn't out of the question. It becomes a bit spendier if you decide to buy the optional $160 vestibule. For pretty much everything except pure summertime mountaineering and maybe multi-day ski touring, we think the vestibule is a worthwhile addition. While more expensive than all the other two pole single wall tents, the Eldorado helps assert its value because it's easily the toughest and the most storm-worthy.

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 type of 4 season tent. It's one of those models that's good at everything, but not perfect at anything. If you want something that's not too heavy but is still a little more comfortable and will hold up better in less-than-perfect weather, then our Top Pick for All-Around Alpine Performance could be the model for you.

Ian Nicholson

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