Ask the experts

Find out what Walk magazine readers have been asking our panel recently and what our experts have recommended.

Whether you’ve got a question on gear, gadgets, hiking or health our experts are here to help!

I’m leading a small group of Manchester Ramblers on a walk in Mallorca, and I am getting mixed advice about taking walking poles aboard an aircraft. What are the rules? Ian Berry

Emma Salisbury: Walking poles are classed as ‘dangerous goods’ by international airline regulations, and come under the category of ‘pointed/edged weapons and sharp objects’. This means they can’t be carried on as hand luggage and must be checked into the hold. You could place them inside your hold baggage and check them in that way, or wrap them up with the tips securely covered and check them in separately. Some airlines charge for checking in sporting equipment, so confirm this with your airline. Enjoy the great walking on Mallorca!  

I’d like to buy an affordable GPS system that will give me roads, directions and walking routes, as I want to use it to create walks for my Ramblers group. I don’t have a smartphone but would buy one if it’s the best option. Trevor Letcher

Peter Judd: To plan walking routes, you’ll need a dedicated outdoors GPS unit with Ordnance Survey (OS) maps (most other maps are inadequate for walkers). The cheapest option is to buy the handset and maps together as a bundle. I’d recommend going for something like the Garmin Oregon 600 or 650 GB Bundle (from £370) – a touchscreen handset that comes with OS Landranger maps for the whole of Britain installed on a microSD card. It will record your tracks, which you can then upload to your home computer using Garmin’s free software (BaseCamp), where you can plan and share your routes with your fellow Ramblers. And when you download the route back onto your Oregon, it will issue directions as you follow it on the ground.

An alternative might be the new SatMap Active 12 GB Bundle (£450), which also comes with the complete OS Landranger maps. This long-awaited update for the Active 10 has an improved interface with a higher resolution screen, a faster processor and a barometric sensor. You also get free access to Satmap Xpedition on your home computer for route planning and sharing, which you can upgrade to OS Explorer and international mapping for an annual fee. You could use a smartphone with an OS mapping app, such as Anquet, Memory-Map or market-leading ViewRanger. However, a phone may not be waterproof, robust enough or offer a GPS signal without mobile coverage.

For almost a month, I’ve had a pain in my thigh when walking, particularly if bending the top of the joint, as if a nerve or tendon keeps slipping out of place. Please help. Jan Bentley

Dr Helen Casey: I agree your pain is most likely to be musculoskeletal but I can’t label the problem without examining you. Even then, it could be difficult to be sure without an X-ray or scan. As well as problems in the hip joint, pain in this area can come from the back or structures around the hip and groin. The most likely diagnosis depends upon factors, including your age, gender and other health conditions. If you have a history of cancer, you should see your GP, in case this is related. A physiotherapist can help with most simple musculoskeletal problems and will send you to your GP if they have concerns.

I’m going to do my first multi-day hike in the Highlands, staying in bothies along the way. What extra equipment should I bring with me? Will Gould

Minnie Burlton: A bothy is a basic shelter available for anyone to use free. You should find a wind- and water-proof building with somewhere dry to sleep. Spartan facilities are the norm and you’re unlikely to find any bedding, mattresses or blankets. Similarly, don’t expect toilet facilities, running water or electricity. Their facilities might be minimal, but their settings make up for it. Kit-wise, you should take everything with you as if you were camping, except the tent. (That said, since you can’t book space, if a bothy is full on arrival, you may wish you’d packed a bivvy bag or tent as a backup.) It’s worth researching the bothies you’re going to stay in. If there’s a fireplace or stove, you could bring fuel and lighters. Also, some bothies close for maintenance or during the stalking season. The Mountain Bothies Association has about 100 shelters in the UK. Its website gives details of all of them, as well as the bothy code of etiquette.

I’m a high-level amputee, meaning I use crutches only, after losing a leg to cancer. What multi-day hikes could I do with my wife, avoiding very mountainous terrain and distances over 10 miles a day? Steve Hansen

John Cuthbertson: The Disabled Ramblers has identified five-to-eight-mile rambles all over England and Wales that are suitable for mobility scooters and so should suit your needs, too. The New Forest holds miles of low-level routes that can be made into circular walks. The Malvern Hills also offer several rambles with wonderful views across the Midlands and Wales. Snowdonia has plenty of less mountainous routes and Newborough Forest on Anglesey offers great views across the Menai Strait to the mountains. We’ve begun publishing our walks on View Ranger to filter the routes using the wheelchair symbol. Our seven recent rambles in Devon are on there and I’ll be adding more during the winter. Visit Disabled Ramblers for details. We welcome ramblers of all physical capabilities and especially need able-bodied walkers to help our members with more difficult sections of a route.

After a number of walks, I noticed red blotches around my calves. I suspected some irritation from plants, but full-length trousers and breathable socks haven’t helped. What is it? Gabrielle Alam

Dr Helen Casey: From your description and the photograph, this is most likely to be golfer’s vasculitis, also known as Disney rash. It affects the lower leg and isn’t itchy, whereas allergic reactions and eczema tend to be irritating. Golfer’s vasculitis is most common in those aged over 50 and comes on after long walks, especially in hot weather. Usually the rash disappears in a few days and is completely harmless. The exact cause of the rash is not well understood but biopsies from sufferers in one study demonstrated inflamed, leaky blood vessels in the skin. A cool bath, soothing cool flannels and keeping your legs up can relieve symptoms. While there are no treatments available, some sufferers report that they are less likely to get a rash if they keep their legs cool when walking.

We have cleared and restored a local footpath, installing new waymarker posts along the route. The landowner objected to the signs and had the highway authority remove them. Is this legal? Brian Smith

Emily Shaw: It’s up to the landowner to put up their own signs, but section 27(1) of the Countryside Act 1968 gives highway authorities the power to erect signs anywhere along a footpath, bridleway or byway after consultation with the landowner. The landowner doesn’t have to agree: he just has to be consulted; some authorities wrongly think that they can’t do any signposting without agreement. Furthermore, section 27(4) gives the highway authority an actual duty to erect a signpost anywhere along a path where it appears to be necessary to do so ‘to assist persons unfamiliar with the locality to follow the course of the footpath’. So if, on account of the number of people who keep losing their way, it really is obvious that there needs to be a signpost, then the authority has a duty to put a post up en route and you should challenge their removal of the signposts citing this section of the law.
Emily Shaw

Meet our experts

As the Ramblers' Campaigns Administrator, I work to improve the walking environment and preserve footpaths.

Emily Shaw

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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

Dr Helen Crawley

Meet our experts

I'm Walk magazine's resident doctor. I'm a GP, Oxford Medical School fellow and visiting lecturer at Reading University. I'm a keen walker.

Dr Helen Crawley


Meet our experts

Formerly an Information Officer for the Ramblers, I am now a freelance journalist, author and access consultant.

Andrew McCloy