In my opinion, every person should always have a whistle on them. Well, almost always; at least whenever it is practical to do so. One never knows when they will be somewhere where they need to attract attention. Whether stuck in an elevator in the city, buried under debris after severe weather, or lost in the woods, a whistle is much more effective than any person’s voice, and requires less effort to boot. It may even be possible to avert a potential violent confrontation by making a lot of noise before the potential turns into actuality.
And by ‘on them’, I mean a reasonably small, flat whistle on a cord or chain around the neck. This insures that the whistle is really there and immediately accessible when needed. A pocket can be ripped or picked or inadvertently turned upside down, and even if the whistle is still there, what are the odds that nothing else will be in the pocket, making it harder to get the whistle out. A kit bag or box or belt pouch or pack? That may be ok if you have it with you and have the time to fish in there to find the whistle. It is still not as good as around your neck. One acceptable alternative would be to have a bracelet with a buckle which has a whistle built into it. Another would be on a chain attached to your clothing, as long as it was not likely to catch on anything.
The best whistles are, or at least used to be, made of metal, but that may not be the best choice in all situations. If it is really cold and you put a metal object to your lips, it may freeze there. Classic whistles are also medium sized and not at all flat. Plastic would seem to be a better choice for unknown situations, being smaller, lighter, cheaper and more tolerant of poor environments, and there are many good choices available, some of them quite flat. If you really want metal, one solution is to get one with a rubber covering for the mouthpiece. Or keep it close to your body to keep it from reaching freezing temperature.
The classic whistle has a ‘pea’ which rolls around inside the whistle. This does not make it louder; it just makes the sound more intermittent, which is a bit more distinctive against other noises. Since the pea needs a 3 dimensional chamber, these whistles are by no means flat. This also may not be the best choice in a poor weather or wilderness situation, as the ‘pea’ could stick due to dirt or water, or freeze. For that matter, there are some people who are concerned that the ‘pea’ can collect and grow bacteria. Thus, whistles without a ‘pea’ may be a better bet.
The self-proclaimed loudest whistle is specified to produce 130 db (decibels, a measure of relative sound level). This is the ‘Storm’, which is unfortunately big and ungainly. There is a more streamlined version, the ‘Windstorm’, but they don’t seem to make a claim for a particular sound level, which is a bit of a concern. One source rates it at 115 db, which would be adequate. Less bulky than the Storm, it still is by no means compact or flat, and there are smaller whistles which are as loud or even louder. If it would fit, I would have a Storm in my pack or belt pouch, but I would still have an ‘almost as good’ whistle around my neck.
The next best class of whistles claims 110 to 122 db; this is probably the class you want to select from, for everyday carry at least. Since most don’t have the ‘pea’ to make the sound distinctive from a pure tone, many have multiple sound chambers to produce a tone with lots of harmonics, which serves the same purpose as the pea, distinctiveness.
Many of these high-tech whistles are pretty small, which is good for every day carry. Some good choices include: Fox 40 Micro (the smallest in this class, 110 db), Jetscream (the claimed loudest at 122 db) and a nameless one made for various companies to put their own name on (see it at whistlesforlife.com, 120 db). The latter one is the biggest of the 3, and combines multi-chamber with a ‘pea’ for the most unique sound; keep the arguments for and against the ‘pea’ in mind when making your decision. All of these can be found for well under $10.00. There are a couple of slightly more expensive models from Fox 40 to consider, the Sharx (120 db) and the Sonik Blast (‘over 120 db’).
The Sonik Blast MAY give the Storm a run for its money, being ‘2nd or 3rd loudest’ yet not as bulky; it probably is a bit thick for every day carry. The Sharx looks like a good contender against the Jetscream. All the Fox 40 models have a split ring which makes it easy to attach to a cord or chain, while the Jetscream comes with its own ‘micro’ lanyard which is next to useless. You could thread your own lanyard or chain though this, or hang it via a closable hook, or just remove the short lanyard (by prying open the clip on the end of the lanyard) and thread your own cord or chain through the same hole. In the latter case, this would lay flat better than the Fox 40 models which would have the cord coming in perpendicular to the whistle.
The ‘nameless’ one with the pea, as expected, has the most unique sound, but the bulge of the pea chamber on the back might make it less pleasant to carry. The key ring and clip would make it impractical to carry around your neck for any length of time, but they can be removed and a smaller ring or chain or string could be put through the hole. On the other hand, the clip gives you some additional options for where to carry it and still have it immediately accessible.
I would probably go with a Sharx or Micro or Jetscream as being the easiest to carry and resistant to bad environments. But any of these would serve well.
NOTE: A future post will have hands on experience with the Storm, Windstorm, Sharx, Sonik Blast and some Acme models as well as a sound comparison of all of models listed. Stay tuned!
Here is a side view of some of these whistles:
From left to right is a ‘classic’ whistle, the ‘no name’ whistle, the Jetscream and the Fox 40 Micro. The last two would appear to be the most comfortable worn around the neck and the Sharx would probably be nearly equivalent, although possibly a bit thicker.
Note that there are smaller and/or cheaper whistles available, including tubular ones in either plastic or aluminum or steel (remember the dangers of metal in the cold). If size or cost is a concern, some of these would be a possible choice.
As mentioned, another option recently popular is the whistle built into a buckle for a bracelet. These are not as loud as more conventional whistles, and tend to be difficult to get sound out of. I can’t get reliable sound blowing into one straight on; only if I insert into the side of my mouth and blow do I get a good tone. Not optimal, but certainly better than nothing. And if you ‘always’ wear your bracelet, you always have a whistle with you.
One improved version of the whistle buckle is the Banshee metal buckle from Knottology, which is no louder but very much easier to blow than the plastic ones. Oddly enough, it is loudest with a medium breath, and blowing harder actually causes the sound to diminish. Metal, yes, but if you wear it against your wrist until ready to blow it, that should keep it from getting cold enough to freeze to your lips or tongue. It is heavier than the standard buckle.
Here is a view of some of these options compared to the ones pictured above:
From the left top to bottom is a small tubular whistle, a standard buckle whistle (the place to blow is the little nub on the top) and the Knottology buckle whistle (which you unbuckle and blow into the end).