Oveja Negra Portero: Review

The Oveja Negra Portero shines, on and off the bike.

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Oveja Negra is a bike-packing gear company out of Colorado that has been doing their thing since 2012. All products are designed and sewn on site by cyclists who prioritize quality over all else (according to their own words). The idea for the company began when the founder was living on a bike for months at a time while touring in South America.

I have personally used their bike-packing gear on my own adventures over the years with great results so when I heard they’d designed a general use backpack I had to give one a try.

Tech Specs

Length18″ – 28″45.7cm – 71.1cm
Volume976.4 – 1342.5 cu. in.16 – 22L
Primary MaterialsDimension Polyant X50, Cordura 1000D and 500D

Quality and Comfort 

As with all of my Oveja Negra bags I found the features and quality to have surpassed expectations for the price point – this bag is no different. The stitching is straight with no fraying, the zippers operate smoothly and the materials are of excellent quality. These bags really are a great value.

The X-Pac and Cordura used throughout the bag have a nice durable feel to them. The materials do an excellent job beading and repelling water. In fact my main use case for purchasing the Portero was for walking and cycling in wet conditions, and it does a great job here. I have had the Portero on many multi-hour jaunts in rainy conditions and it has always kept all of its contents dry.

I did note that the strap ends seem… incomplete? They are just folded over and stitched once which in my opinion gives it an unfinished feel. I prefer strap ends to be stitched back on themselves to form a loop and to avoid and raw edges.

I found the Portero to be very comfortable regardless of the load being carried. Compared to some of my other packs it doesn’t feel like it slides around much, no matter what type of clothing I’m wearing. This is a good thing since I use it both while walking and cycling which means various clothing fabric types, some of which can be slippery. The bag just kind of conforms to my back and stays put. Note that I have not used the optional hip belt and so far have not felt the need to do.

Although I opted for the sternum strap I don’t often actually feel like I need it in order to keep things in place since the shoulder straps don’t want to slide around my chest. It could also be the shape of the straps. It’s a different experience compared to the J shaped straps on my ULA Packrat which really require a sternum strap to be connected for optimum comfort and to stay put.

Organization and Access

In depth organization is not the Portero’s strongpoint. I think most people would understand that if they are looking at this type of bag but I wanted to point this out.

The no frills, bare bones approach actually means better water resistance, lighter weight, and more durability. In fact, Oveja Negro says they purposely stripped away “all the fluff”. Now, which parts are “fluff” is debatable, but the tradeoff is that in the long term there will be less “moving parts” to wear out. That said, it does have some nice features.

I appreciate the location of the front zip pocket as you can easily slide the backpack around while walking to access it. It does not have any organizational pouches or key holders, so you may want to bring your own.

The main entry point into the Portero is the roll-top. Oveja Negra added velcro here which helps hold the fabric roll before you snap it shut, but it also aids the user in lining up the top of the bag correctly for closure. The bag is well thought out in that regard.

On the inside of the main compartment of the bag is a large pouch for a hydration sleeve, a laptop, or your special papers. A 15″ Macbook does fit, though tightly. The compartment is also suspended a bit from the bottom of the bag, but since the Portero doesn’t really have any rigidity to it there isn’t much there to provide substantial protection for a computer. Again, this is probably not the bag you buy for that purpose, though you could make it work with a padded insert.

Due to the roll top design the pack volume is actually expandable from 16L to 22L, which is a great size in my opinion for cycling or even every day carry. So while you can load it up and still have a comfortable carry it still does a great job while more lightly loaded. It’s hard to explain but the pack adapts to its load well and never feels too full or not full enough to where it flops around.

There are side compression straps to keep the internal load from shifting and to help hold longer items in the side pockets. I’ve used them to help hold an umbrella I have stuffed in the bottle pocket.

There is also webbing on the front where you can clip things. I’ve added Hero Clips and have also used it to strap a hand sanitizer holster.

The side pockets are great for tall thin items. I use them for smaller coffee thermoses , water bottles, or spare gloves. I suspect they may have been designed with cycling style water bottles (such as a Camelback Podium) in mind. On my pack they are green on the inside making it a bit easier to see things sitting on the bottom of the pocket.

What’s Perfect

  • It’s really comfortable to carry. I’m a big fan of the straps and the fact that the bag does not slide around. Whether empty or full it never feels awkward on my back. The relative tall but skinny profile lends well to my long torso. Even one shoulder carry feels stable, not like I’m fighting to keep the bag from falling off.
  • Terrific water resistance. I have no problem putting an expensive electronic item inside this pack and taking it out for a five mile walk during a rain storm. The roll top design keeps water out of where it shouldn’t be and the materials shed water very well while still feeling durable. And the bag weighs only 19 ounces!
  • Durable materials and construction. I recently had an incident while wearing the Portero. While hiking I slipped on wet grass which resulted in a fall down an embankment while sliding on my back. The pack emerged no worse for wear, though the same couldn’t be said for my leg…

What’s Not

  • There is no back ventilation. It means you might get a hot sweaty back in some conditions. This is pretty common with any backpack though some seem to be better than others. The Portero is on the hot side due to the material being used and the fact that it pretty much doesn’t shift around while you’re wearing it. The lack of much stiffness in the back panel means it also conforms somewhat to your back.
  • The external water bottle pouches are on the small side with no stretch. A 32oz Nalgene bottle is a no go – maybe this is too much to ask of a bag designed by cyclists? Most surprisingly, for a pack optimized for wet conditions, there are no drain holes so they can collect water and debris. It seems like it would be a simple solution to leave a small hole in the pockets for drainage.
  • One thing I noted wearing the pack while cycling is that the rolled top of the pack obscures my rear vision somewhat in traffic. It sticks out past my shoulder obstructing the view of oncoming cars. I probably wouldn’t have even mentioned this if this pack wasn’t made by a cycling specific company and I’m not sure what the solution here would be – it’s just something to be aware of.

A Note on Service and Repairs

I have to mention that when I was taking the final pics of the bag after a month or so of use I noticed something wrong with the stitching. It seems the there was an issue with the alignment of the fabric when it was sewn and as a result it came apart.

I quickly sent off an email to Oveja Negra who apologized, sent me a return label, and about two weeks later I had a brand new Portero with zero issues. I also sent them a bike-packing bag I had that was chewed by a mouse which they also repaired for free. So although this was an unfortunate incident, customer service was top notch. It’s also worth noting that this was my first time I’d ever had to contact Oveja Negra for an issue – I own a half dozen products from the company.

Wrap Up

In closing, I wanted a bag that was comfortable, carried both small and large loads well both while walking and cycling, and that performed well in the rain. This bag knocked those requirements out of the park.

On the very subjective topic of aesthetics, I think the Portero just looks super cool. The Multicam Black material and general design of the pack go very well together.

Due to both of these things I find myself wanting to carry this pack even when I’m not sure I have a reason to. It is so adaptable and comfortable to carry that I don’t know its there most of the time.

While no pack is perfect – and the Portero is yet another example of that – the Oveja Negra Portero does a great job of carrying what you need and keeping your items dry. Its pitfalls won’t make you blink an eye since the positives always seem to outweigh the negatives. I’m a big fan!

Disclaimer: The Portero was purchased privately. The contents of this review was not shared with Oveja Negra prior to publishing. Our reviews are unbiased and never modified to keep a brand happy.

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