Minnie Burlton

I’m only five feet tall and can’t seem to find any ladies’ straight leg walking trousers. I have a pair of Rohan’s Thai Bags, but they don’t make them anymore and are falling apart! Can you help? Margaret Rawles

Minnie Burlton: I contacted Rohan, who said their Women’s Crossover Trousers would be the closest to the Thai Bags you have. Other outdoor manufacturers offer a selection of trousers in a short length, too, including Sprayway, TrespassRegatta and Craghoppers. Although you may wish to alter them further, they would hopefully offer you a better place to start.

Out of all them, Craghoppers offers one of the largest ranges, so check out their website at www.craghoppers.co.uk for their latest lines. Make sure you try any trousers on in-store before you buy, though, as there’s no short cut to trying on different cuts and styles and lengths to see what suits you best.

I’m a single mum with two young children on a tight budget. I want boots and outdoor kit for all three of us and wonder how to go about it and if I can buy anything worthwhile second hand? Mrs S Davies

Minnie Burlton: Personally, I would avoid second-hand items as it can be a hit-and-miss affair. You may be lucky and get a great deal. But, equally, you may also find you waste money and end up with items that aren’t any good and with no warranty to fall back on.

Besides, with so many online web deals and end-of-season sales, you don’t need to pay full retail prices. Check out www.gooutdoors.com and www.outdoormegastore.co.uk for good online deals, and high street shops such as MilletsMountain Warehouse and Trespass for kit that’s good value even at full price.

Ebay often has individuals selling gear which is new and still in its original packaging, but is a fraction of the original price – just be certain of your clothes and shoe sizes before purchasing. It may take some legwork, but there are definitely deals out there waiting to be had.

I have seen a few ladies wearing a walking skirt while on holiday, which seem to offer the best of a pair of shorts with a bit of extra comfort. Where can I get one? Dr Mary Griffiths

Minnie Burlton: They’re called skorts, and I’m a big fan of them! They offer a combination of a skirt’s feminine lines and shorts’ practicality, but they seem to be more popular in America than the UK. At the time of going to press, I found various skorts online. But as the weather warms up and retailers start to bring out their summer ranges, I’m sure there will be many more available.

Royal Robbins offers the Discovery skort at £40, made from a quick-dry blend of nylon and spandex that feels like cotton. Its lightweight fabric is wrinkle-resistant and gives plenty of stretch in the right places. Another good option is Columbia’s Silver Ridge skort for £45, which is slightly shorter on the leg and made from quick-drying, anti-microbial and sun-protective shell fabric.

For more options, www.milletsports.co.uk stocks a range of skorts by Nike, Head, Adidas, Wilson, and Asics that are primarily designed for tennis, running, hockey or netball, but they may be suitable for walking. www.amazon.co.uk is also worth a look.

I’m a very tall female walker and cyclist with a 38-inch inside leg. For years I’ve been searching for retailers who stock walking trousers and waterproofs that are long enough, but with very little success. Are there any out there? Dr Susan Peirce

Minnie Burlton: Longer leg lengths are hard to find. Unfortunately, a 38-inch inside leg in a women’s cut is not a high priority for manufacturers to produce. Sam Crouch at Cotswold Outdoors recommends Fjällräven. “They offer trousers with a raw leg length, which means they can then be tailored to fit,” says Sam. “Leg length will depend on size, but they are detailed on the website. For instance, a UK women’s size 16 has a leg length of up to 94cm (37 inches). Or a size XL/20 goes up to a leg length of 96cm, which is just short of 38 inches.” Craghoppers offers a longer leg (35 inches on their size 16), and Haglöfs has long-leg options on some of their trousers (up to 89cm/35 inches in a size L). Otherwise, Isle of Skye-based Cioch does a Perfect Fit option, with made-to-measure mountain jeans starting from £120, or £195 for their ladies’ waterproof trousers.

I always like to take a water bottle on my walks. Can you recommend one that’s good quality and leakproof? Ann Hutt

Minnie Burlton: There’s a huge number of water bottles on the market, so you’re spoilt for choice. The best-known brands include CamelBak, Lifeventure, Sigg and Nalgene, which all make decent bottles that hold fast against leaks. Beyond the basics, you can also get bottles with built-in storage for stashing your credit card, cash or keys (check out the Contigo Water Bottle Kangaroo, £20.69, from www.amazon.co.uk). Or there are bottles with holes in the middle so they’re easier to grip (Ronhill Wrist Bottle is good value at £2.99 from www.milletsports.co.uk). Katadyn (www.katadyn.com) makes excellent bottles with integrated filters, so you can filter water from streams or lakes on the go. Its MyBottle Purifier, £55, eliminates harmful viruses, bacteria and protozoa, and the internal carbon filter also reduces chemicals and makes water taste better. 

I’ve used many brands of walking boot over the years and am always dismayed by the flimsiness of the footbeds inside. Should I replace them with a more robust version to prevent plantar fasciitis and the other types of foot and ankle strain I often suffer from? Russ Sheaf

Minnie Burlton: According to Mike Sheehan, founder of Alt-Berg boots, 50% of people don’t need specialist footbeds, whether they’re off-the-peg or custom-made. They may help prevent foot strains and injuries for some, but for others they make no difference at all.

“Plantar fasciitis is more often caused by either the type of your foot (i.e. a high arch or supinated) or by excessive strain during ‘push off’, especially going uphill or if the foot is cold,” says Mike. “Most footbeds are focused on the rear part of the foot, so they have limited influence during ‘push off’. But it is impossible to generalize: there will always be exceptions.”

There are generally two types of footbed: orthotic, firm design and construction, which help to align the foot into a natural, neutral position; and cushioned, which absorb shock and give more spring during use. I often use Superfeet insoles, which you cut to fit, but Sorbothane work just as well. Sidas footbeds are moulded for a custom fit.

Is there a utility belt that can carry the load of a small backpack? Ian Williams

Minnie Burlton: There is and it's called a hip pack. Thery give you better stability by lowering your centre of gravity, while allowing more freedom of movement.

The Lifeventure Hip Pack comes in four sizes, from £12.99 to £23.99. The North Face Sport Hiker at £55 has two storage compartments, stretch water bottle pockets, and a removable padded shoulder strap. Opsrey make a lumbar pack called the Talon 8, £45, and Trespass offers the Waikaka hip pack for £17.99.

Is there any difference between nubuck and full-grain leather? I’ve just bought a pair of walking boots with nubuck leather uppers and want to work out the best way to protect them. Steven Green

Minnie Burlton: The difference between nubuck and full-grain leather is how the outer surface is finished. Full-grain leather is sanded or buffed to create a fine ‘nap’ of short fibres, which gives nubuck its velvet-like feel.

To treat nubuck footwear, it’s important to use the right products. Using treatments designed for full-grain leather can flatten the nap, which will cause the nubuck to lose its texture. Nikwax offers two products to clean and then protect nubuck: Footwear Cleaning Gel, a soap-based gel that gently cleanses waterproof footwear; and Nubuck & Suede Proof, which is designed to preserve the nap of nubuck, make the leather water-repellent and help to keep it breathable.

“When using any products to treat nubuck leather, it’s important to test a small area first as they may cause very light-coloured nubuck to darken slightly,” says Nikwax’s James Robertshaw. “Using a nubuck footwear brush can also help brush off loose dirt and maintain the texture of the outer surface.”

I’d like a pair of gloves that keep me warm and dry but also allow me to eat my lunch hygienically! Do such gloves exist? Pat Clark

Minnie Burlton: Perhaps mittens that can turn into fingerless gloves would solve the problem for you? If so, Marmot makes the excellent Windstopper Convertible Glove (£35), which is hugely popular with photographers and climbers, as well as walkers. Tog 24 also makes similar gloves, such as the Minty II Windstopper Mitts (£44.95) and also a fleece version – the Jump Adults Polartec Gloves (£25.95).

What footwear would you recommend to lessen the impact on my joints? I have osteoarthritis and have had a hip replacement. Penny Perrett

Minnie Burtlon: Tim Kington, boot expert at Cotwsold Outdoor, told me: "Some modern boots do have more cushioned soles. However, increased cushioning is often at the expense of more support or durability, so it's important to match the boot to the activity beign undertaken." The Lowa Renegade GTX Mid, Salomon Quest 4D GTX, and Scarpa Terra GTX all have excellent cushioning, Tim said. I'd also strongly recommend looking at a more supportive footbed, upgrading the one that comes as standard to a product like Superfeet Green - gel pads probably won't help. And always get boots professionally fitted.
Minnie Burton

Meet our experts

As a travel writer, I've explored from Africa to Antarctica, while persuing my passion for walking and the outdoors.

Minnie Burlton