Safety: The Whistle Works Wonders

Some of the best safety devices don’t cost a ton of money, don’t take up a lot of space, and aren’t that hard to operate. Take for example, the simple whistle, which I believe is the best “self rescue” tool other than a personal floatation device (PFD).

I carry a whistle wherever I go in the outdoors. When I’m fly fishing on the river, even when I’m walking and not rowing, I have a whistle in the pocket of my vest. When I am rowing a boat, I have a safety whistle clipped right to my PFD. I wear a whistle on my scuba diving buoyancy control device. Even when I’m fishing from a canoe or motor boat, the whistle is attached to the PFD.

Why is that?

The whistle is the single best signal for cutting through the noise of the water. It also speaks in a universal language–when people hear a whistle, they know something’s up. The number one reason to blow a whistle is to say, “I’m here, and I want you to come and help me,” whether you’re lost or you’ve had an accident.

Say, for example, you’ve fallen out of a boat on a lake or on a river. You can yell until your voice gives out, and that’s not going to grab attention nearly as well as the shrill peel of a whistle. I’ve been on drift dives when the pickup boat could not find the divers after they resurfaced, and a whistle is what saved the day.

Even when you are walking along a rocky riverbank, if you happen to twist or break an ankle, that whistle is what will grab somebody’s attention. Odds are, your voice won’t carry over the sound of the rushing water for much more than a few hundred feet at most.

And then, of course, there are simply times when you’re out there in the great outdoors, and you want some of the other critters that live there to know exactly where you are. Once you see a big Alaskan brown bear stand up in the alders close enough that you’re looking up at its eyes, you’ll appreciate the value of a whistle and some extra space.

Trust me on this one. I like plastic whistles that won’t rust around water. Pick whatever style you want. You might not appreciate it until you need it. But when you do, you’ll be grateful.

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Kirk Deeter

Kirk Deeter

Kirk Deeter is an editor-at-large with Field & Stream, and he co-wrote The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing with the late Charlie Meyers.