Survival Essentials: The World's Loudest Whistle

A whistle is an essential piece of survival equipment. This lightweight and inexpensive piece of gear can provide the margin between life and death in the event of a backcountry mishap—especially if you're alone or separated from your group. And the louder the whistle, the better the odds that rescuers will find you.

Unlike the human voice, which is only discernible for a few hundred yards, the piercing sound of a loud whistle can be heard more than a mile away. What's more, you can only shout for a short period before your voice tires but you can blow a whistle in regular bursts almost indefinitely. (A series of three short blasts is the universal distress signal.)

Dozens of whistles are available. Most retail for $5 or less, weigh less than an ounce, and are compact and easy to carry. The loudest, however, seems to be the Storm Whistle, which has been recorded at volumes up to 130 decibels (equivalent to a roaring jet engine at 100 feet)—not something you want to test near your hiking buddies!

The Storm Whistle is bulkier than other survival whistles, due to its unique sound-amplifying chamber design (check out the Storm Whistles FAQ page for more). However, it's still very lightweight (0.75 ounce) and inexpensive ($6). A smaller and more compact version is available as well (the Windstorm Whistle, 0.48 ounce), though it's not as loud.

A whistle is only one element of a good, basic, lightweight survival kit, which should also include a fire starter for emergency warmth and heavy duty trash bags for emergency protection from the elements. For more, read my Equipped article Survive or Die: The difference may be only a few ounces of essential gear.

"Equipped" is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Matt Heid.