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Do you Carry an Emergency Whistle When Hiking?

Hiking on the AT with my trusty Fox 40 Whistle
Hiking on the AT with my trusty Fox 40 Whistle

I always carry an emergency whistle (a Fox 40 Classic) when I go hiking, one that I tie onto my backpack’s shoulder pad. It’s much much louder than the pathetic whistles that many backpack manufacturers include on sternum straps.

Whistles are much louder than the human voice and their sound carries much further than shouting if you need help. I’ve used them to locate hikers that I’ve gotten separated from and they’re far less tiring that calling out to someone.

The Question:

Do you carry an emergency whistle when day hiking or backpacking?

  • Why do you or don’t you carry one?
  • Have you ever used it?

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105 comments

  1. I always carry a whistle when out hiking. While I’ve never used it in a emergency situation, I use the whistle for communicating with team members when bushbashing off track in the New Zealand bush.

    On the subject on how far sound travels either using a voice or whistle, some youth SAR people did some testing in the NZ bush.They found that yelling and a couple of whistles were barely audible out to 400m, while some other whistles were only good for around 200-250m.

  2. Yes, I have a whistle in my emergency kit. Never used it, but for the weight it is definitely worth it, especially when I’m hiking solo. I figure I could whistle SOS if I ever fell into a gully or sprained an ankle and needed to call for help rather than wait for someone to come along. Good point that it could be used if you get separated from your group… especially in challenging/dangerous terrain. In general, groups should stay within visual or shouting distance, with an experienced hiker bringing up the rear, but of course that doesn’t always happen.

    After my last multi-pitch rock climbing “adventure,” I’ve decided that my partner and I should carry whistles on our harnesses and agree on a set of signals. Many times we’ve been out of sight of one another and the distance was too great or the wind was to loud for us to hear each other shout, and I didn’t know whether I was on belay, or whether he was still climbing happily or in trouble. Communicating via rope tugs only works when the rope is not stuck on something or rubbing along 50m of rock!

    One time we could have used a whistle while hiking was when one of our group got off-trail and stuck when scrambling up a steep boulder field – he couldn’t reverse his path and couldn’t move up or sideways without risking a nasty fall. When we noticed he was missing, we shouted down to him and only faintly heard his reply (which mostly consisted of four letter words). If we hadn’t stopped to shout and listen at that moment, we would have continued out of shouting range very quickly and then would have had a lot of trouble finding him!

  3. • Yes, whistles are on the draw-strings for the tops of my packs, so they are always there.
    • The whistles are the cheapest and lightest gadgets that I carry for safety.
    • No, I haven’t used them. Or only for demonstrations. I hope I’ll never put myself in a position where I have to whistle for help. The two-tone whistles (without a pea) are very loud, so I’ll put it in my mouth then cover my ears before I blow.

    Curious: if you did use the whistle, what pattern of whistling did you use? For instance, did you blow morse code, such as S-O-S? Or, did you blow for for 30 seconds and then wait for five minutes? Did it work for you? How long was it before someone responded? What were the conditions (or your story)?

    • Yeah, I’ve used it but mainly on bushwhacks where we can’t see each other because we’re in such dense foliage. It’s good to keep the group together.

      We work out the signals beforehand, but it’s usually just a blast and response. In an emergency, I use the three blast signal, but have never had to use it.

      I’ve also used it to alert large wildlife to my presence when hiking solo in terrain where they are likely to be interrupted by my presence, such as summer berry patches, as well as to scare off bears in camp at night.

  4. Yes, I carry a whistle – in the waist pocket of my pack at all times. No, I haven’t had to use it.

  5. Yes and a ball compass both on strap like yours.

  6. I usually have one. I mostly use it when I’m hiking with a group of various speeds. I’ll work out call-and-response signals so the group can keep in contact if we spread out.

    Only ever used it in one emergency, but it did me no good. I bonked on a super hot/humid day. I stopped to take a break, but ended up deciding to bail. I whistled, but my group was already too far ahead to hear. I ended up hitching back to my car, then driving to the other end of the trail to leave a note on one of our shuttle vehicles. I also sent text messages, in the hope that they would stumble into cell phone range before they got too worried by my absence (they did). I probably should have whistled sooner, but I really didn’t think I was going to have to get off trail.

  7. Yes. Had a bear step out ahead of me when I was backpacking with my son. He wasn’t close but we blew our whistles just to be sure.

  8. I attach one to my pack every trip. I have not used it in an emergency but regularly use it in during group hikes as a way to keep the group from spreading out too much. With scouts I will usually take up the rear and the person in the front is required to have a whistle as well. One whistle repeated every 4 seconds is a signal for the front to stop. Two short whistles is for the front to come back. Three short whistles is an emergency and to head to the source of the whistle. Like Dan, sometimes the group has gotten too spread out and if in a mountainous area, the terrain can block the sound, negating the effect of the otherwise loud whistle. I agree that the little sternum strap whistles are worthless.

  9. I always have a whistle in my pack be it for hiking or hunting. Coming from a world of white water kayaking I learned a whistle can be heard a lot better than a voice, which can come in handy in a high wind or other loud environment. If I am in trouble a whistle is less likely to be ignored than, say, 3 gun shots in October/Novemeber

  10. I don’t but I probably should start.

  11. Yes I do, sounds carries for about a mile supposedly. I have never had to use it though!

  12. Always carry a whistle and a mirror along with a basic compass and fire building kit. I am of the mind you just never know when you might have to spend the night in the woods.

  13. Yes, I always carry a whistle and have used it many times. When hiking in a group it’s the best way to signal to the front of the line to slow down in case of emergency or just because the line is getting too spread out. Everyone in the group should have one for that reason. Without it, it’s too easy to get too separated, especially in dense woods/brush.

  14. I carry one for the same reasons mentioned.

    I have only used it once.
    I once used repetitively while crossing a busy boat channel in a sea kayak in the fog. It saved me from getting run over by motor boats.

  15. Since 1962, My Boy Scout Model with the hand braided Lanyard I made for it as a Cub Scout project, up until about 10 years ago when I switched to a All-In-One Plastic model with a; Whistle, Magnifying glass, Thermometer and Compass.

  16. Not many people are saying no, so I’ll take the charge. My guess is people fear saying no will come off as irresponsible, but I can tell you I very rarely see whistles carried by other backpackers.
    When I first started backpacking I literally carried all the bells and whistles. At one point I actually had bear bells and a whistle. I guess I was living by the Boy Scout model of always be prepared. It didn’t take many exhausting climbs to realize I needed to down size. I didn’t get lighter equipment (at first), instead I ditched anything I wasn’t going to realistically use. The whistle didn’t make the cut.
    Generally speaking, I don’t see it as a big value add on popular, well-marked trails like the AT or LT. Although I’ve gone 24 hours between seeing people on the LT, I imagine if I were hurt someone would come across me before I missed my first snack.
    Last winter I did an 18 mile overnight on the LT with a friend of mine. There was about 6 feet of snow on the ground and past the first 3 miles the trail was completely unbroken. When there is so much snow, the blazes are generally at your knees if you can see them at all. The unbroken trail made it extremely difficult to stay on trail.
    We had good gear and my friend was a master hunter / tracker from North Dakota. He had extraordinary navigation skills and I learned a lot watching him with a campus and map. That’s not a trip I would probably do again, but if there was ever a situation where I should have brought a whistle, that would have been it.

    • Most people don’t hike the AT or LT.

      • To be honest most of my hiking isn’t on the AT or LT these days either.

        I don’t have a good argument against taking one, I’m just pointing out that this audience is very pro-whistle, when the reality is 90% of the hikers I pass by don’t have one.. At least visibly

        I fall in with the 90%

      • Why do you think it’s a pro-whistle audience? Besides the obvious?

      • Ah huh, I see what you did there.

        It’s a pro-whistle audience because the folks who read hiking blogs are probably the most diligent hikers.
        The fact that I can’t come up with a single negative to carrying a whistle illustrates the point that there is no down side and the upside could be lifesaving.
        That said I don’t see it as a necessary hiking tool. In 8 years of hiking fairly extensively all around the country and in Europe, I’ve never thought, “I wish I had a whistle”
        That said, I’ll probably dig out my whistle and tie it to my shoulder strap. As the saying goes it’s better to have it and never need it, than to need it and not have it.

      • That wasn’t intentional comment voodoo and you’re probably right about this audience. i do think whistles are useful though and that there’s no downside to carrying one. Like I said, they’re probably best for group hiking or places where people are “around” since they’re low range compared to electronic forms of communication.

  17. Not on land, only at sea as part of my life vest. I never had a situation where it would have been useful. So far I can’t imagine a realistic scenario where the whistle is the best option. Yelling does the trick just fine in close range, and for more range and signaling air support use visual signals and radio.

  18. My REI Flash pack has one built into it, so I bring one along in that case. Only time I’ve used it was when goofing around with the scouts.

    My Deuter day bag doesn’t have one, so I don’t carry one then. Odd, since my day hikes usually entail rougher terrain/miles than my overnight hikes.

    I imagine, in an emergency, a whistle would help alert other hikers in the vicinity, but I’m not usually in popular areas. A cellphone will have to do for now!

  19. I do carry a whistle, I’ve never used it though

  20. I used to carry a dedicated whistle, but stopped when the sternum strap buckle of all my backpacks began to have a built-in whistle. I’ve only tried it as a test, never for real.

  21. I do not carry a whistle outside of the one built into the strap.

    I should probably add it to my night hiking or bushwacking checklists.

  22. No. I do not. I think they look goofy. Of course it’s a good idea,but I just don’t.

  23. Mine is black and blends in with my backpack straps… don’t want to look goofy.

  24. I have a high pitched whistle inside of my medkit.

    I carry it just in case something bad happens. It is louder than shouting, and I can blow it a lot longer than my voice will hold out if I was just shouting.

    I’ve never had to use it (thank god) and I hope I never have to, but for the minimal weight it costs, it gives me good piece of mind.

  25. Carry one as part of my EDC, so yeah, definitely while hiking.

  26. Yup, as others have mentioned, molded into the clasps on my pack.

    We’ve held an annual New Year’s Hike with friends and family out in the woods of central or northern Michigan since 1957, usually about 20-25 people attend. Hike out through the snow, cook burgers, revel, then hike some more for the payoff (chocolate). We have kids from 6 mo to 70+ years out with us. Standard issue for all the young’uns is a nice loud whistle and requisite training. One year an 8-year-old disappeared, but he was soon located when we heard the whistle.

  27. Yes I carry one . No I haven’t had to use it . To some ( casual / beginners in particular ) a whistle is easily dismissed until something as simple as separation from a partner occurs . Once on a weekend day hike my girlfriend and I lost track and sight of each other ( guess I got a bit winded and slow ) on Wildcat Mountain , Warrenton Va. She being a teacher happened to have her school ID. lanyard w/ whistle attached . Lesson learned . I didn’t use mine , I knew where I was and that there was little chance of her getting lost on such a simple loop trail system but she did then realize a whistle’s importance when in the woods . I actually think of it as a piece of edc along with small pocket knife , flashlight Bic lighter etc . Luckily I’ve not been in a situation where my safety depended on it’s use so far .

  28. Johnny Walker Black

    I’ve carried one before, and it’s still in my first aid kit. I’ve never had to use it, to scare a bear or otherwise.

    If you don’t have a man-made whistle you can use the cap of an acorn to make a very loud whistle!

  29. I learned to whistle with my fingers…more ultralight. Knowledge weighs nothing, right?

    I do carry a Vargo Titanium Whistle around my neck at all times outdoors in case my fingers are already crossed for good luck to get me out the situation I needed the whistle for anyways.

  30. If we count the built in whistle on the pack’s sternum strap, then I always have one. I’ve never used it, so I’ve never thought about getting a more “serious” whistle.

  31. The ones on the sternum strap aren’t the best but you have to blow pretty hard to get any kind of decent output. As such, I got my son an ACR two-tone that would be much easier for him to use at least than the one on the strap plus he has it when he’s not wearing his pack.

  32. I used mine once when I was with a group and some of them behind me stopped to take photos and I had no idea where they were after waiting at a trail junction for about 10 minutes. I don’t think they heard the whistle, though. I finally went back and found them.

  33. I do, but I’ve never needed to use it.

  34. I have a built-in whistle on one of my packs. If I am not carrying that pack I don’t carry a whistle.

    I’ve never used it. I do 99% of my hiking/backpacking solo, though, so I could see using it if I had a hiking partner and we got separated.

  35. I always carry one. I’ve never used it.

  36. Yes! If you become disoriented just once, you’ll forever appreciate the peace of mind this simple, lightest weight “accessory” provides.

  37. I have a Fox 40 but it doesn’t make the cut when I’m packing. I’ve never used it or the one on the sternum strap and frankly don’t see the need to carry it.

  38. Almost always, either attached to my pack or close by in an accessible pocket. In Nova Scotia, Canada, it is mandatory to have one when in a small boat so there is always one attached to my PFD. Once you get in the habit of always having one handy when canoeing or kayaking it’s not much of a stretch to attach one to your pack.

  39. I carry a lightweight, plastic whistle, attached to my compass. Like several emergency or first aid items, I’ve never had to use it.

  40. Yes. One is incorporated into pack sternum strap and I have one on my hygiene kit, just incase I would fall off a bank while taking care of business :-)

  41. Yes. One is on my pack strap (the all-in-one variety), one is in my pocket. I figure if I ever need a whistle, I’m really going to need it.

  42. Yes we all carry multipal whistles. There is one on the shoulder strap of all of our packs and attached to the strap of a hiking pole. We use single blast as a location, a double blast as a”come here” and a triple or long blast as trouble. Alway carry while mountain biking and canoe, kayak trips. Never had to use for emergencies. Always gift them to little kids.

  43. All of my packs have a whistle on the sternum strap and my emergency kit has a backup whistle. I hear people say that the sternum strap whistles are useless but they are still much louder than your voice. On the farm we always whistled to request help. I would say it was good for 200 yards unless there was equipment operating.

    I figure if I stumble and fall off the trail I will more likely be able to blow a whistle for a longer period of time than yell at the top of my lungs.

    If my voice can be heard for 100 yards and a whistle travels 200 yards then a whistle is 4 times better in a search situation.

    I have not had to use a whistle in an emergency but I did use one on scout hikes to stop the front hiker and allow the group to bunch back up.

  44. I do, it’s part of my first aid kit. I take a lot of side trips to go fishing which leads me away from the main trail, or any trail, for a good part of the day. So it’s good to know I have that as well as a few other safety tools in case something happens.

  45. Yes, a Vargo Titanium Whistle, about 1/10 of an ounce and loud.

    Vargo Titanium Emergency Whistle with Cord

  46. Always. I keep a Fox40 Micro on my multitool/keys.

  47. Yes, I carry one. I’ve used it only to get my group’s attention when a car was coming. It’s pretty cheap insurance.

  48. I have one built into the sternum strap buckle of my backpack. Was hiking in Shenandoah Nat Park. I was averaging over two bears a day. I got complacent and stopped worrying about giving them their space. One mother finally bluff charged me to protect her cubs. I immediately stepped back when a voice in my head said, “Don’t do that”! I made my self big by spreading out my arms with my hiking poles – think Gandalf “You shall not pass”. Then I remembered my little whistle. As soon as I blew it the bear turned and ran.

  49. In addition to the sternum strap one, I also have one bundled with my multitool and firesteel.

    Never had the pleasure of having to use one.

  50. My pack comes with one attached.

  51. My daughters make fun of my “rape whistle” that’s in my first aid kit in my pack. I always have my first aid kit with me. I’ve never needed the whistle and rarely the first aid kit. So yes, I carry not one, but two whistles. One is part of my firesteel.

  52. I’m not gonna lie. I’ve never carried one, or even thought about it up until now. Oops!

  53. Yes, I always have a whistle when hiking, as do my wife and daughter. Why? Why NOT? They weigh practically nothing, and you just never know. If the pack I’m using has a whistle as part of the sternum strap buckle, that’s the only one I’ll take. It may not be the greatest, but I can make it work in an emergency if needed. If the pack doesn’t have a built-in whistle, I’ll clip an ACME Tornado to the shoulder strap to take along. Thankfully, I’ve never had to use one in an emergency and hope to never have to.

  54. Storm whistle. I haven’t used it an emergency ever, but have used it often to signal/acknowledge over distances that shouting won’t work.

  55. Always have one on the sternum strap of my pack. Never had to use it though.

    As for decibel (loudness testing) I would probably agree that I can yell louder, but the reason I take one is whistles take so much less effort.

  56. I carry a spare hamster.

    That way, since there are three of us (counting the spare), we never have a tie when voting on which way to go.

    I also enjoy sharing nibble bits with my pals (never underestimate the value reflecting back to the giver, of generous beneficence).

    And, of course, I never have to go hunting for someone to hold up the other end of the conversation, though teaching hamsters to squeak on cue can be tedious, and since they’re so small and have such tiny minds, conversations have to be kept light.

    Should things get desperate however, my little buddies could feed off my corpse for weeks before having to hike out on their own. They appreciate that level of confidence.

  57. I never go out without a whistle, and it is around my neck whenever I am outside of my sleeping bag. I’ve been in some foggy, indistinguishable forests when I went out for nighttime relief. I take my whistle.

    Mine is a bright orange Storm. I put my fingers in my ears before I blow it.

    I’ve used it to alert Scouts that are too far away from the group. I used it once on the Pacific coast to get some Scouts back from a bit of beach that was slowly getting smaller with the tide. They heard it over the surf.

    We’ve had a couple of very lucky rescues locally in the last few years. Both were close to the trail but unable to get back up. Both were discovered by volunteers after multi-day SAR searches. Both would have been back home the same evening if they had whistles.

    A few grams more for the loudest whistle made? Not even a question.

    • I carry a whistle on my pack shoulder strap always, no doubt. And give to a less experienced partner if they don’t have one.

      I have used it twice:
      1) the first time when I saw glowing eyes looking at me while night hiking, my first ‘Steven King howling’ experience-they did move and wasn’t eaten (right around Thunder Hill)

      2) when I saw signs of someone possibly in distress on some cliffs on the AT in SoVA in the pouring rain (whistles aren’t always for you!!!)…

      Good safety measure to include in your kit.

  58. Yes. Always. Never had to use it yet.

  59. Yes, I have one of those pathetic whistles on my sternum strap :) I guess I should maybe get a better one.

  60. I carry an old police whistle in the event it’s needed. I have read where a persons vocal cords will play out after many shouts for help. With a whistle you are able to whistle as long as you have the air to blow into it.

    Thanks Again SectionHiker for the Hyper Mountain Gear Cuban Fiber pack that I won and Philip for the prompt ship to me.

    Can’t wait to use it on the PCT this summer.

  61. I carry one of those combo whistle+mini-compass+tiny_signal_mirror and match carriers. I wear it around my neck and under my shirt (why you won’t see me wearing it). I have never used the whistle (I only count on the whistle and match container working), but I use the matches every overnight trip I go on.

  62. Yes, I always carry 2 whistles – one in my pocket and one on the sternum strap of my pack. The one in my pocket, along with a compass, is always with me just in case I get separated from my pack in fall or something. No, I have never had the opportunity to see either one of them, thank god!!!

  63. A whistle?

    No, always bring with me my Globalstar satellite phone. Based at least on my needs, its the multi-tool for both emergency and everyday comms. Now that they have the new network up and running again, Globalstar is probably the best thing going as far as any subscription based services go.

    I tossed my Iridiums earlier this year, the dropped calls on Iridium 9555 and even my old 9505a was just too much to tolerate. Feels like the network is nearing the end.

  64. I don’t, but I carry a GPS emergency beacon. A small whistle is probably worth it’s weight in gold too, good call.

    • Yeah – sat phones and PLBs are only good if the guy 100 feet away from you has a sat phone or listens to the SAR band radio. Whistles fill the niche for low tech, close in communications.

  65. Yup. I have multichamber whistle which I attach to my shoulder strap near mouth level for easy access in case I am injured. Never had to use it, but it’s a cheap ounce of insurance.

  66. The shoulder strap of my backpack has an integrated whistle, so I carry it by default. I’ve never used it, and hope never to have to!

  67. I usually carry a pair of two toned whistles. One is on a breakaway lanyard I wear around my neck or fasten to the outside of my pack and the other is in my “kit”. This way I always have a whistle for me and one for a companion. I’ve never had to use my whistle and plan not too. They make great gifts for young hikers too.

  68. In the last ten years, we’ve had two local rescues where a whistle would have made a huge difference. The hikers were close to the trail but unable to get back to it. One couple was found by SAR after five days, the other hiker by an untrained volunteer after six days.

    They were extremely lucky. But they would have been home the same day if they’d carried whistles. These are busy trails, with lots of day hikers and runners.

    http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/SAN-JOSE-Couple-rescued-after-being-lost-5-days-2483959.php
    http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/general-news/20101207/in-hindsight-deputies-say-they-should-have-mounted-hiker-search-sooner-friends-say-authorities-should-have-organized-volunteer-effort

  69. Yes, I actually carry a combination whistle, thermometer, compass. While I have not used the whistle I used the thermometer and compass all the time. For the trails I have hiked thus far the compass is fine, but I also carry a better one.

  70. Always have a whistle for emergency use. International standard is one blast = where are you, two blasts means come to me and three blasts means I need help. You will most likely never need to use the three blasts but it is common to have to use the one blast and two for remote canoeing or hiking. It can make the difference between life and death in some situations so it is good insurance. Like all gear – KNOW HOW TO USE IT! The FOX40 is probably the best around but do get a loud one so it gives range. I also always have a compass anywhere one could get lost at all even for hours and always my little emergency pill bottle of emerg goodies especially fire starter.
    I love all the comments. Thanks all.

  71. I am amazed by all the response on this. On a recent trip we split up to look for a good campsite. I when I found a one I tried to call everyone in using the built in whistle on my sternum strap. No one heard it. Before I had the built in whistle I carried a storm whistle. I am going back to it.

  72. Yes, always carry one. Because experience in SAR showed me their value in locating casualties in adverse conditions. Only ever used mine to give the 3 blast acknowledged signal in response to a 6 blast distress signal.

  73. Always carry a whistle, you never know when or where you may need to attract attention.
    Old time Scottish Mountain Rescue had whistle signals:

    ! long blast going left
    2 long blasts going right
    3 long blasts returning to base position (New sweep,going home etc)
    4 long blasts repeated every minute COME TO ME

  74. I only have the ones on my sternum straps but after reading this, I’ll spring for a more robust one. A decent whistle is cheap, light, and useful. I’ll add it to my kit (and a few more for the family).

  75. Yes – everyone should carry a whistle when going out. Not only is it louder and carries the sound further, but also your voice will go hoarse quickly from yelling for help, and a whistle will keep you audible for rescuers. When we went camping as kids my dad always made us carry a whistle in case we got separated. I carry a whistle that has a compass on the side, plus I sometimes carry an REI Tri-Power Safety Whistle if I’m going really remote.

  76. yup! I have only used once when my partner carried on ahead and missed one spectacular view. Because he was way above me, when he turned around at the sound of my whistle, he was able to see the view with me in it and snap a pic! Thanks, whistle!

  77. I always carry a whistle. My Outdoor Education program required all program participants to carry one, and I have never gone back! Have not had to use it yet, but I never notice it on trips so I continue to carry it.

  78. Yes. My wife and I usually hike with our dog. We trained her to come to the whistle as a puppy. While still a puppy she would chase deer. ( no longer) We always had the grandkids carry a whistle too. Used the whistle once when the kids took the wrong trail and we need to call them back.

  79. I too carry one in addition to the sternum strap. Only for signaling if I was to get lost or needed help. Never thought to use it to locate fellow hikers.

  80. Yep sure do. Never head out without one. I have never been in a situation where I had to use it but better safe than sorry. Each of the kids have one too and have been trained on the importance of using one when lost. Better safe than sorry.

  81. In all honesty I do not consciously carry one, it is built into my SOL knife.

  82. Yes, It’s attached the outside of my survival kit.

  83. Always. Good to read about people having kids carry them too, and using them for signaling. It’s also important to have everyone in yer party know what to do if they hear one. Simple plan is best.
    Remember that 3 signals is a distress call. 3 tweets in this case. Repeated with rest between. Also, 3 fires. 3 flashes of mirror. Etc.
    Speaking of mirror…. do yoy carry one. Simple signal device that (sun permitting) will signal further than any other device and give your exact location.
    I carry the Coghlan’s Six-Function Whistle. W/ glow compass, mirror, magnifying glass, thermometer & led light. Heck, there’s 4 of the 10 Essentials right there!

    Packman

  84. Yes, I carry one along with the boys.. Never used it, but my wife feels better. It’s an REI whistle. The boys have Storm whistles.

  85. Everyone should have a whistle on their pack. They weigh practically nothing, they don’t take up any space, they don’t cost anything, they aren’t something that you have to worry about breaking(unlike, say, a pair of binoculars around your neck), and they can make all the difference when separated from a group or trying to signal rescuers.

    I’m not an overly concerned hiker, and I don’t lug everything but the kitchen sink for “just-in-case” purposes. But even if you never use it, you’ll hardly know it’s there. It also beats carrying an air horn for bears, and will work just as well. I’ve never heard anyone offer a convincing argument for not carrying a whistle(or even try to, for that matter). I’m convinced it’s because such an argument doesn’t exist. Small, light, cheap, indestructible, multi-use, and it might save your life, or at the very least, find the group you got separated from.

    In regards to Minx’s mirror question: absolutely. I’ve got a Suunto compass(don’t know which model; had it forever) that’s got a mirror and a magnifying glass on it, and a ruler edge along the side. Makes my compass multi-use as well, and it adds maybe half an ounce to the overall weight. With my base weight of around 22-23lbs(I’m not a Nazi about slimming down my pack; it could probably stand to lose some weight here and there), I wouldn’t even notice it if I swapped it out for something else. I use the mirror often enough(mostly for picking stuff out of my teeth or cleaning up in the mornings) that I’d consider it an essential piece of gear.

    If you’re packing with a group and everyone has whistles, make sure you take a few minutes at the trailhead or something to work out a system for communication. One short blast means “I can’t see the group”, and two short blasts means “we’re right over here.” One long blast means “Danger!”(being that someone has injured themselves seriously or spotted a bear or mountain lion). Three short blasts in succession is a universal SOS signal to rescuers. In the event that someone is separated from the group, have a protocol in place to ensure everyone knows what they’re supposed to do(the group holds position and continues to signal while the stray hiker makes their way to the sound). It’s not enough to carry it; everyone has to know what to do with them, too. Otherwise, it’s just dead weight(even when you’re only talking about a couple of grams).

  86. Always — it’s louder than a human voice, carries further and doesn’t tire as quickly. And thankfully, I’ve never used one.

  87. only if i’m travelling with kids. and then i’ll use a slide whistle or a superlight pea-whistle i took off my football coach when he got too cocky.

    i had a particularly bad experience once with a hiker whistle, which i believe actually summoned a bear. it was Autumn and the bear in question was staggering around, for whatever reason. our neighbor insisted that he had seen bears on his land over the years in getting drunk from moldy blackberries and pyracantha. that neighbor himself, however, was known to celebrate the fermentation process on a regular basis.

  88. Bringing a whistle hiking seems to be primarily superstitious unscientific tradition based on the comments. If you’ve never needed it, never heard of anyone needing it, sounds like you’re just bringing it because…?

  89. I have Fox-40 whistles attached to both my 24 and 72 hr packs. In addition I carry a 3X5 USGI emergency signal mirror and a dual band amateur radio. The radio and/or cell phone can be used to summon help, the mirror flash can be seen for 50 miles and can be used to signal aircraft and the whistle is used to alert search parties to your location once they are in close proximity. None of these items add much weight to my pack and are with me whether it’s a day hike or longer outing.

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