Wack Packs and 4.5 Star Bathroom Experiences: A Shop Visit to Oveja Negra

Many moons ago I was looking for a place to park my car as a shuttle vehicle in Salida before the beginning of  the second DFL the Divide trip  when a friend suggested, “See if you can park at Oveja Negra.”  A few Instagram messages later and I had secured a parking spot behind their shop in downtown Salida, CO. When we returned at the end of the trip – unkempt and raucous – we were nonetheless treated to showers and a tour by the incomparable Lane. Her tour was full of ghost stories and other fun histories of their historic building. Coming back so many years later to similar open arms is truly a lovely thing.

Oveja Negra has been a mainstay in the bikepacking baggage world for quite some time but has truly shined through with its array of WACK PACK bags that use remnants and spare fabric to create a rainbow tapestry bag.  All their bags are sewn in-house with as many parts manufactured in the US as possible (97% made in the US and hopefully closing that gap with a Denver 3D printing company soon), to minimize environmental impact and ensure companies are likewise investing in their communities.  Stephanie and Lane are the bosses here so if buying from a woman-owned operation is important to you, then look no further.

On my most recent visit with these black sheep sewers, Oveja Negra had relocated from their old shop I’d previously become acquainted with but, don’t worry, the ghosts were properly released before moving out.Through a harrowing tale of landlord shitshowery, Oveja Negra ended up at their new spot and finally owns and controls their entire sewing operation.

As soon as I showed up, I’m greeted eagerly by Lane and Stephanie (who is now a co-owner!) among a sea of sewing machines and a tidal wave wall of bags waiting to be sewn. Lane brags though, somewhat distraught, that the colossal amount of totes represents a “shit ton” of bags needing to be sewn.  To which she follows up with, “Know anyone who wants a job?!”

I hear they have great benefits and, I mean, it looks like a pretty sweet spot to work if you gotta.

I luckily scampered in just in time for Stephanie and Lane to be calling in the winners of their raffle to support Ukrainian refugees.  One lucky winner scored a plethora of bags inspired by Ukrainian flag colors and a bunch of other goodies.  Through the fundraiser, they were able to raise 17k!    

The sewing floor is busy and I don’t want to bother people too much while they work by sticking a camera in their faces.  Lane even jumps on a machine to help a newer employee with some bags and brags that she is still the fastest sewer they have, which given the amount of energy she exudes, definitely tracks. The room is littered with lovely little bits of decoration from a thong-adorned inflatable gummy bear to a mustachioed deer head that ceremonially holds their business license.  Every corner is decked out with art and all things colorful, which makes the WACK PACK lineup even more understandable.  One wall is stocked with limited edition bags from years past and an extra special lineup of ultralight bags ala #tinyfuckingframebag with Bicycle Pubes.

The totes are labeled in colorful tape and the bag hardware is likewise stored in a colorful pattern, making what could otherwise be a very bland manufacturing space so much easier on the eyes. Every corner is full of tchotchkes and stickers and the more you look the more cute details appear.

When you see the space, the wack-pack bags, just seem to make all the more sense. The bags are more than just a means of using scraps to make a bag and recycle; it is a reflection of the Oveja spirit.

Lane took us upstairs to show off the webbing storage and regale me with another ridiculous tale. I learned that if you want to buy nylon webbing made in the US you probably will wind up buying it from a military contractor and if you want to get something other than black or camouflage colors you’ll need to buy it in 30,000-yard increments. 

With Oveja Negra growing to a size where they can use that amount of webbing and wanting more fun options for their WACK PACK bags they were able to get webbing in whatever color they want AND get to name the color.  So they get to call up a military webbing contractor and ask them for a few thousand yards of Tenacious Teal or Barbie Car Pink, which just makes me giddy to think about.

If none of this has awed you yet, please turn your attention to Colorado’s premier 4.5-star bathroom experience at Oveja Negra HQ.  Now if you happen to be in Salida I’d recommend you to stop by and snag a bag or a few of the many amazing patches and stickers available for your shopping pleasure. At the least to meet some of the lovely humans behind the bags, but if none of that appeals to you then maybe the bathroom stop will get you there.

To drum up some hype, Oveja Negra is currently getting set up with a printer that will allow them to print WHATEVER you want on your bag in the future. Want your family photo so you can remember what you have abandoned in hopes of a wilderness bikepacking experience printed on a stem caddy? Done. Your favorite John Prolly sunset photo on a frame bag? Done.  How about Lane and Stephanie’s faces when Brenda flashed them to get the below photo? Done. Stay tuned, I can only imagine what these miscreants will do with this power and technology.

Many thanks to everyone in the shop who let me roam around with a camera while you worked and especially to Lane and Stephanie who helped me out so many years ago and welcomed me back with big hugs. There is a lot of love and personality in this shop and everything that comes out of Oveja Negra.