Emergency whistles have an important role in any outdoor activity. They are used to signal for help, locate missing people, and deter predators.
As with all of your gear, a whistle needs to be on the same level in regards to quality. This means striking a balance between cost and performance when choosing one.
Cheaply made whistles won’t perform well in adverse conditions and expensive whistles aren’t always made of the best quality materials.
There is a surprisingly large amount of research to do before purchasing such a simple object.
This article will teach you about what makes up a good quality emergency whistle and highlight the innovation and best products that manufacturers have to offer.
Table of Contents
What To Look For in a Whistle
You’d be surprised at the differences between whistles. A signaling whistle, for example, will be much louder than one you hear from referees in gymnasiums.
Let’s take a look at some of the considerations when you go to buy your next emergency whistle.
How Loud Is The Whistle?
The main thing that sets a survival whistle apart from the other types is how loud they are.
It makes sense, for the whistle to be effective it needs to be incredibly loud. The ability to throw the sound is important too.
Some whistle manufacturers claim that you can hear their products up to a mile away.
The whistle uses a combination of sound chambers and resonators that the whistle has. The higher the number, the louder the whistle is going to be.
In your search for whistles, you’ll come across the term decibel a lot. Decibels are a measurement of how intense a sound is.
Generally, anything above 125 decibels will damage our hearing either immediately, or over time with repeated use.
Most emergency whistles will fall between 110 and 150 decibels. You can imagine the amount of sound that’s needed to damage your hearing, this is ideal for a survival whistle.
Is It Pea-less?
Older-style whistles like those you see in sports often have a little rattle to them. This is because of the little metal ball that is inside.
The ball is used to distort the airflow and cause the whistle to have a variety of tones. This is why the sound is so distinct when used in some sports like football and hockey
The downside to these whistles is that they are usually quite large, and less loud, with any physical damage affecting the ability to produce sound.
Pea-less style whistles are now used in pretty much every emergency whistle. They are quite slim compared to their counterparts.
If you are prone to dropping your gear then a pea-less whistle is your best bet since you have to damage it significantly to cause any adverse effects.
Anything you take with you that needs to work in a survival situation needs to be durable.
If your whistle is made of plastic then be sure that it can withstand cold temperatures without breaking if dropped.
Make sure to look out for metals like stainless steel or titanium that are resistant to rust. Corrosion can eat through the body of the whistle and destroy its ability to make a sound.
Survivalists are always on the lookout for gear that can perform more than one task. This cuts down on weight and volume which means you can travel lighter.
Many manufacturers have cleverly added ways to get more out of your whistle. You can find whistles that act like Ferro rods and others that can help guide you with built-in compasses.
The Best Survival And Emergency Whistles
|Very loud at 142dB||So loud it includes ear plugs|
|Range is over 2 miles||Quite large for a whistle|
If you want the loudest whistle on the market then I would imagine you wouldn’t have to look much further. This whistle boasts a 142dB sound that covers over 2 miles.
The earplugs that come with it are much needed since the sound falls within the range of being able to damage our hearing instantaneously.
The pea-less design and durable construction make this a great product for survival purposes. It works in all weather so you can still get a signal out even if it’s raining out.
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2. S.O.L. Survive Outdoors Longer Slim Rescue Howler Whistle
|100 dB sound||A shorter whistle means you can lose it more often|
|1+ mile range|
|Compact for easy carrying|
This compact whistle was designed to work in wilderness settings. It has a ridiculously high-pitched whistle for its size that can be heard quite a ways away in the bush.
Additionally, the company also sends you two of the whistles in case you lose one or want to gift it to a fellow survivalist. Another all-weather design with the pea-less aspect of this whistle.
3. Markwort Storm Safety Whistle
|Used by police, military, and first responders||Range is only ½ mile|
|Works in all weather conditions|
|Works underwater with up to a 50 feet range|
This is a great all-around whistle that works in a variety of situations and environments.
It can be used while diving and will still make a substantial amount of noise underwater. It’s why these whistles are used by a lot of emergency services.
It measures 130dB which is incredibly loud thanks to the dual-chamber design. This allows the sound to build up more before leaving the whistle.
The construction is orange plastic which makes it stand out in a lot of terrains.
4. Sonik Blast CMG
|Cushioned mouth grip||Can be a shrill sounding whistle|
|No moving parts||Takes a lot of air to use|
|2 chamber peal-ess|
If you need something loud, the Sonik Blast CMG gives you 120dB with a long-range. It has durable ABS plastic which will take a tumble or two.
If it does end up in the water then be happy because it automatically cleans itself underwater.
A lot of good whistles will have a pea-less design because they are not as durable. Anything with moving parts can be prone to break. This is especially apparent in the winter with slush and ice buildup.
5. Acme Tornado 635 Pealess Whistle
|Incredibly affordable||Altering the tone is tricky|
|Tough and durable||Could be louder|
|Established company – over 130 years|
This is one of those products that works in a pinch and is durable enough to have as a backup in your kit. The Acme Tornado has a high-pitched sound that cuts through even the loudest sounds (think rock concerts).
Durability with this whistle is high as it’s made from high-quality plastics. It is a pealess watch which increases the durability factor. This is an effective product for anyone who spends time in the natural world.
6. Nitecore NSW10 Emergency Whistle
|Extremely durable titanium construction||Expensive for a whistle|
|Slim and sleek design||Users have to blow hard for louder sound|
|120dB of sound|
Nitecore makes a whistle with unique materials and innovative design. Shaped more like a little kazoo the NSW10 whistle pumps out around 120dB in a slim form factor.
It has a single sound chamber which increases the high-pitched frequency.
The pealess design makes it great for all weather conditions and environments. The titanium used prevents rust from forming and gives it a boost to the durability factor in case you drop it.
7. Gerber Bear Grylls Fire Starter
|Included ferro rod||Ferro rod is pretty short|
|Waterproof storage compartment for dry tinder||Whistle is essentially two pieces put together|
|Comes with a survival guide|
The Gerber Bear Grylls fire starter may at first seem like a product that is a little gimmicky but it does have redeeming qualities.
The built-in Ferro rod is good for 8000+ strikes which generally lasts the average person about 1000 fires.
There is also a waterproof storage compartment for some tinder such as cotton balls or small shreds of birch bark.
Some users claim that the whistle isn’t as strong as they would like, which could be due to the two-part construction.
A single construction whistle is generally better since there is no room for air to get into any small gaps. This also improves the durability factor since you can’t lose one piece of the device.
8. SOG Flint Survival & Defense Tool Safety Whistle
|Carbide-tipped glass breaker||Ferro rod is pretty short|
|Built-in ferro rod|
Another strong testament to an emergency whistle that can perform multiple jobs. SOG has included a carbide-tipped glass breaker for any emergency where you’re trapped behind a window.
If you need a fire started then the integrated Ferro rod will get the job done in a pinch. It’s best to use this tool as a “just in case” thing because you cannot replace the Ferro rod in the device.
9. Coghlan’s Four Function Whistle
|Between 4-6 tools depending on the model||Basic compass has no declination|
|Great for orienteering in a survival situation|
Why only have a whistle when you can have a whistle, compass, magnifying glass, thermometer, signal mirror, and LED light all in one package?
It is as fun as it sounds and it can provide some crucial equipment in emergencies.
The potential downside is that having a lot of tools built into a whistle could be detrimental to the quality. However, using this tool in emergencies will probably be fine for the short term.
10. SHARPAL 101N 6-In-1 Pocket Knife Sharpener & Survival Whistle
|Incredibly useful tools for survival situations||Should be considered for the entire package, not just as an emergency whistle|
|High-pitched whistle is great for signaling||Could be louder|
You’d never think that a survival whistle would exist that also performed 5 other tasks.
Sharpal has come up with an innovative way to signal for help, keep your knives sharp, and start a fire with one tool.
Before we dive into the other features it is important to note that the whistle is a good quality high-pitched sound.
Sharpening your knives is easy with the coarse, ceramic and serrated sharpening options. This gives you the ability to sharpen a broad range of knives and hooks.
The removable ferro rod works up to 5000+ plus strikes. It’s a tool made for survivalists and is great to keep in your emergency kit.
11. Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Bracelet with Emergency Whistle
|100 dB of sound||Whistle isn’t loud enough for everyday use|
|12 feet of paracord|
Any outdoor enthusiast will quickly tell you that you can never have enough cordage.
Paracord bracelets have existed for a long time and they are handy to have in situations where you need just a little more paracord. This is often the case when creating a bushcraft shelter.
The integrated whistle only gives out about 100 decibels of sound which is not exceptional compared to some of the other models.
However, it is a pealess whistle and that speaks to something about its durability.
12. Vargo Titanium Emergency Whistle
|Durable titanium construction||N/A|
|Includes reflective lanyard|
Saving the best for last, the Vargo Titanium Whistle does one job and does it very well.
It has a durable construction that with proper care can last a couple of generations. There’s a pealess design so that it works in all conditions, even when wet.
This small whistle packs up easily and it weighs less than one ounce. As far as reviews go there has been no negative feedback on this product and the quality checks out. This is a great emergency whistle to have in your bug-out kit.
Frequently Asked Questions
For such a simple tool there is a surprising amount of research you can do on them. Here are some of the frequently asked questions beginners have when buying an emergency survival whistle.
A pea-style whistle has a little ball that helps break up the air going through it to make a sound. These are commonly found in whistles that are used by coaches for sports.
A pealess whistle doesn’t have the ball and is usually found in survival whistles since they work when wet.
Yes, more sound chambers mean that more sound can be produced by the whistle. If you want a loud whistle then look for one with multiple chambers.
How loud your emergency whistle should depend on the citation. If you are using it for search and rescue or in a storm you want something north of 120dB.
If it’s for signaling in close quarters then 100dB and above will work just fine.
There’s a Whistle for Everyone…
Emergency survival whistles are an essential part of any outdoor kit. They are handy in a variety of situations and hardly take up any space in your pack.
Ensure that the equipment you choose is ideal for the environment that you’ll be in.
Since most of them are inexpensive you can pretty much choose one specifically for your situation and come out with a good quality whistle.
Perrin is an adventure guide and naturalist currently living a nomadic life in the Canadian wilderness. His education and expertise is in wilderness survival and wildlife tracking. He enjoys teaching people about the outdoors and has managed large groups on expeditions.
With several accredited certifications, including being a wilderness first responder and a leave no trace expert, Perrin believes it is important for all of us to reconnect with the natural world.