- Bumble Beast -

Sprinter vans are another great way to go tiny and have an adventure mobile. Our good friend Ashley Hutchinson was searching for a van to convert and came across a used DHL delivery van for a screaming price. Prior to having the dream of converting and living small, Ashley grew up in the suburbs of Boston with her family who rather than taking elaborate vacations on cruise ships, they traveled by vehicle and went hiking, biking, skiing, rafting and exploring in New Hampshire and Maine.

After Ashley graduated from college she made the voyage to Lake Tahoe to be a "ski bum" for a year. Well that year went by and Ashley still calls Lake Tahoe home in the Bumble Beast where she and her dog Stoke take full advantage of the great mountain biking, hiking, beaches and skiing in the winter. The plan is to save up enough money to hit the road for a full year and explore Canada and Alaska.

Ashley said, "Maybe I’ll become an “adult” someday but until then I am thoroughly enjoying van life, or as I like to call it, doing my retirement years now instead of later when I will be less able to do the things I love."

With only 60 square feet to work with Ashley dived head first into her conversion. She used creative ideas with her conversion which included rock climbing holds on the back of the van for a ladder! The back doors are also beautifully decorated with a piece of art that Ashley's friend painted.

Two solar panels on top provide enough power to be completely off-grid and a queen size bed makes living in a small space seem cozy.

Van Specs:

-Make Dodge

-Model Sprinter 2500

-Motor size and type (i.e. Detroit V8 6.5L Turbo Diesel) 2.7L 5-cyl Turbo Diesel Rear Wheel Drive

-Year 2003

-Length 21.5 ft and 158 Wheel Base

-Interior Square Footage 60sqft

-Purchased From/Location Private sale on Craigslist in Sacramento

-Cost in materials for the conversion + - $6,000

-Is the conversion complete or still in progress? I don’t think the van will ever be “done”.  I am constantly coming up with things to add and ways to improve but as far as comfortable livability goes I would say it is done. 


Tell us a bit about how the idea to build a van into a home on wheels came about. I have lived in Tahoe for 4 years and in that time I have found myself spending every spare second outside.  It started to feel silly that I was paying rent to simply have a place to sleep and shower. A climbing trip down to Bishop sealed the deal.  The amazing adventure rigs we came across down there became my inspiration and I began shopping the day I got home



Ashley applying Elmer's spray glue to adhere bubble foil for the first layer of insulation.


Insulation complete! R-13 and foam board.

Who is involved or part of the crew with Bumble Beast?

Court Brock – brainstorming and building

Kevin Extrom – Electrical

Haley Davis – Artwork

My parents – unconditional support of this crazy little lifestyle!

Artwork by the talented Haley Davis. All of Ashley's favorite sports in one painting.


What materials did you use during your build? Any reclaimed/upcycled items? The countertop is an old kitchen table cut into 3 pieces and puzzled back together.  The rest of the van is pretty much 2x4s, 1x1s and plywood.


Paneling for the ceiling and walls.


Benches and storage.

What are your future plans with the van? I am currently saving up to do a year if not longer on the road, Canada and Alaska specifically.  Until then Tahoe will be my home base where I work at a bar to fill my piggy bank.


Walk us through your kitchen setup (stove, sink, water source, etc.) and what items you're using (make, model if applicable). My kitchen is simple but efficient.  The original plan was to have a stove built in to the countertop but in the end I went with a Camp Chef 2 burner stove that uses the 1lb propane bottles.  My sink is a small Moen with a Johnson WPS water pump/ faucet combo. I have two 7 gallon water jugs, one filled with fresh water that feeds the faucet and another for grey water that drains from the sink. When I am on the road I keep a spare 7 gallon jug of fresh water so I don’t have to refill as often.  One of the 7 gallon jugs typically last my pup and I 3-4 days.  My refrigerator is an Engel SR70 powered by solar.  It is small at only 60qts but I find I can stock up 4+ days of food easily. 


How many can the van sleep and how is the sleeping arrangement designed? The bed is queen sized so it fits 2 people comfortably and 3 if we want to get cozy.  Technically I suppose someone could sleep on “the couch” if they wanted but I imagine it would be pretty uncomfortable (it is an L shape). The floor however could easily sleep 1 or 2 people with sleeping pads, or they could sleep on Stoke’s monkey shaped dog bed ;-)

Climbing holds for a ladder. Genius!


What is your power source? (make and model of items your using).  Windy Nation Complete 200 Watt Solar Panel Kit with 1500W VertaMax Power Inverter for 12 Volt Battery Systems.

In lamest terms I have two 100 watt solar panels wired in parallel which run to a PWM charge controller which then connects to my two 6 volt AGM batteries that are wired in series to make a 12 volt battery bank.


What is your source of heat if any? (make and model of items your using) Mr Buddy Heater


What has been or is the hardest thing about living in your van? Since I do live in Tahoe full time I have to get creative with where I stay.  My giant yellow van doesn’t exactly blend in so not overstaying my welcome is important. 

Van repairs have also been a burden.  Mechanical repairs are not cheap and finding a Sprinter mechanic isn’t always easy. I am also no stranger to repairs on the conversion work itself.  Our amateur planning and woodworking skills have failed us but hey, that’s all part of the fun!


Where can people follow or find out more about your bus? (social media, website, etc.)

Instagram – @hutchski



Ashley rocking a Bus Life Adventure shirt!