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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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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

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

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

  5. 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!


  6. 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.

  7. 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).

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

  9. 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.

  10. 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…?

  11. 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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