The Best Emergency Whistle for Outdoor Survival

There are plenty of ways to use a whistle. Whistle while you work, give a catcall, or end the play on the field with a whistle. These are all useful, but one of the most useful ways to use a whistle is to stay alive. Emergency whistles were made just for that purpose: to help you survive if you end up needing to signal for help.

There are plenty of brands and types to choose from when it comes to emergency whistles. This is where we come in. We’ve researched the best whistles, tested them, and the results are in: the overall best, a budget loud option, and the loudest option. If you need a whistle that will hold its own in a survival situation, one of our suggestions will get you heard.

Contents (Jump to a Section)

SOL Slim Rescue Howler Whistle

The Best Emergency Whistle

SOL Slim Rescue Howler

Small, Loud, and Effective

Piercingly loud, but lightweight and small enough for any and every kit.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Survive Outdoors Longer (SOL) makes plenty of outdoor products, but some of their simpler options are the most effective. The Slim Rescue Howler is an exceptional value, coming in a two-pack so you can pack them in several kits. The old adage ‘two is one and one is none’ definitely applies when we’re talking about last-resort emergency whistles.

The SOL Slim Rescue Howler is extremely lightweight at less than a fifth of an ounce and is much more compact than other 100+ decibel whistles. The quality and construction are solid, making it our top pick for an emergency whistle. Grab this whistle for your kits knowing that you are not wasting space, carrying load, or budget.

Windstorm Safety Whistle

Budget Loud Whistle

Windstorm Safety Whistle

Loud, Small, and Inexpensive

Cheap doesn’t mean timid in this case- this whistle puts out some serious decibels.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

The Windstorm is the newest iteration of the proven Storm whistle, which was the loudest whistle for a long time and used by many, from the US military to Space X. For its price, this whistle is still the loudest value without contest. If you are looking for LOUD on a budget, this proven whistle has you covered.

It is lightweight, fits in your hand like a roll of quarters, and is a high-visibility yellow so it is easy to spot if you misplace it. If you are looking for an easy budget option for any kit, this one will get you heard in an emergency.

HyperWhistle Loudest Whistle

Loudest Whistle


Loud, Louder, and Loudest

This three-frequency whistle is the loudest on the market and can be heard for miles.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

This ear-piercingly loud whistle took the crown about five years ago for the loudest whistle and moved the bar up pretty significantly. Before that, the Storm Whistle (the original version of our budget pick) advertised that it was the loudest, but that is no longer the case. It’s more than loud enough to scare people and animals and to be heard for miles.

The HyperWhistle is third-party tested to over 142 decibels, and corroborated by several testers so it’s the real deal and not misleading advertising as we see all too often. The whistle weighs under an ounce, can be used in any conditions (including underwater), is buoyant, and is high-visibility orange- all making it the ideal whistle for your survival kit.

Everything We Recommend

SOL Slim Rescue Howler Whistle

SOL Slim Rescue Howler

Piercingly loud, but lightweight and small enough for any and every kit.

Where to Buy

$7* at Amazon (2 pack)

*at time of reviewing

Windstorm Safety Whistle

Windstorm Safety Whistle

Cheap doesn’t mean timid in this case- this whistle puts out some serious decibels.

Where to Buy

$9* at Amazon

*at time of reviewing

HyperWhistle Loudest Whistle


This three-frequency whistle is the loudest on the market and can be heard for miles.

Where to Buy

$17* at Amazon

*at time of reviewing

The Whistles We Compared

Our research narrowed the field down to the several survival whistle brands and types that we tested: SOL, Coghlan’s, Windstorm (and Storm), HyperWhistle, Nitecore, Vargo, Noopel, and more.

There are a lot of brands that make whistles these days with a wide range of prices and quality/durability. In a survival situation, you want your emergency whistle to be dependable, so we focused quite a bit on durability and quality. You can see our full list of review criteria below in the What to Look For section, with an explanation for each.

We obviously steered clear of cheap recreational whistles, because the performance and the durability are not going to be where we need them. We also did not consider any electric-assist whistles or air horns. Lastly, we have a couple of whistle combos that we tried (whistles bundled with firestarters, compasses, etc), but they were not impressive enough to make the final cut. There were still plenty of options to consider in the outdoor survival space.

What to Look For

  1. Value
  2. Loudness
  3. Effectiveness
  4. Durability
  5. Versatility

The best whistles have several important features to look for.

When you get the right blend of these, you can find a reliable whistle that will help you reach help in the event of an emergency. Below, we break down what each of these features means for a truly dependable survival whistle:

Value: Cost vs. Benefit

The amount of money you spend on something like a whistle shouldn’t blow out your budget. Having one is better than having none, but the same applies to other tools and gear you may need for an emergency. Budget according to your risk and your needs rather than just spending lavishly.

On the flip side, you don’t want to go too cheap. A whistle designed for kid’s soccer doesn’t hold a candle compared with our budget pick. Don’t get stranded in the wild with a whistle that can’t be heard around the bend. When you are trying to signal somebody or get rescued, you don’t want to be relying on your dollar store find.

You never want to spend too much money on one resource, especially something like a whistle. It’s better to diversify your tools and preparedness gear to make sure you are covered for a wide range of scenarios. There is a sweet spot where you get high value out of the best features with not-to-high of a price, which is where our top pick sits.


How loud a whistle sounds does depend on how hard you can blow into it, but it also depends on the design of the whistle. Loudness for whistles, like many other things, is measured in decibels. There is a wide range that you can find, but you want one on the high end of the spectrum since loudness usually corresponds with distance (but more on that below). Our top picks were some of the loudest we tested:

  • SOL Slim Rescue Howler = 100 decibels
  • Windstorm Safety Whistle = 123 decibels
  • HyperWhistle = 142 decibels

Just because a whistle is loud doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the most effective or the best to use in an emergency though.


The effectiveness of whistles and various pitches and tones over distance is still something that is researched today. Loudness, in decibels, is certainly a large contributor to whistle effectiveness, but it isn’t the end-all-be-all measurement.

Many emergency whistles use multiple pitches by varying the airflow distance inside the whistle. A few use a ‘pea’ that rattles around inside the whistle to make it warble between pitches’. These changes in the whistle tone let the whistle be separated from other noises over long distances and make the whistle more effective overall.


One issue with whistles that use the separate ‘pea’ inside, is that the pea can become saturated with spit or water to be less effective, or in worst cases can cause jams for the whistle. This can be a durability concern, along with the material type of the whistle and the construction method. Plastic whistles need to be thick and weather-resistant to avoid cracking and deterioration in the elements.

All of our suggested whistles are thick-walled plastic, sacrificing metal durability for performance and lighter weight. Durability is not a concern, with military, LEO, and survival applications having already proven all three picks.


Being able to use your whistles quickly and in a wide variety of situations gives us versatility. Having the versatility to add your whistle to a keychain, lanyard, or pull string is expected. Being able to use it underwater, like the Windstorm and HyperWhistle is even more unique versatility. Versatility adds layers to your preparedness.

How to Use an Emergency Whistle

There are plenty of ways to communicate or get some attention at long distances, and an emergency whistle is a simple and effective last resort option. Sure, a cell phone is the most convenient. Satellite phone if you can swing it. Two-way radios work great as well. But when circumstances call for it, sometimes you just need a really loud noise.

People have been whistling to communicate over long distances for a long time, using just their mouths and fingers. Of course, engineers had to do one better, so they designed metal whistles (and eventually plastic), and then tuned the airflow and frequency to increase the decibels. Hand-held whistles are easy to use too since you just blow into them.

You may want to use some hearing protection (or cover your ears) with a few of the louder whistles, like the Storm or HyperWhistle.

Here is a nice demonstration of where the Storm, Windstorm, and HyperWhistle clock in at on an SPL meter :

Who Needs an Emergency Whistle?

Everyone can use an emergency whistle. Plenty of women keep loud whistles in their purses, but it’s not just for the ladies, fellas. When you are outdoors, loud noises have always been a good method to get attention or even communicate over distances, and a solid survival whistle can fit the bill.

Whistles are small and lightweight, so it’s no surprise that emergency whistles show up in several of our survival kit checklists.

We highly suggest putting one in these kits:

You should consider adding a whistle to these kits:

Whistles are useful beyond emergencies too, of course. A solid emergency whistle can be used at sporting events, while hiking or boating, and anywhere else where you may want to be heard outdoors.

How We Review Products: We research thoroughly before selecting the best products to review. We consult experts in the field for a better understanding of what makes the gear great. Hours on end are spent field testing gear in stressful conditions. We assign performance criteria and impartially rate each tested item. You can support us through our independently chosen links, which can earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. After our review process, some of the items reviewed end up in our giveaways.

Sources and References

All of our experience and the testing we do to determine the best emergency whistle is useless without listing our research sources and references. We leaned on these for the book knowledge that we paired with our hands-on testing and practical military and prepping experience:

Flamme, G. & Williams, N. (2013). Sports Officials’ Hearing Status: Whistle Use as a Factor Contributing to Hearing Trouble. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene. Issue 1, Pages 1-10. (Source)

Bong-Young, K., Jong-Bae, K., Kwang-Bok, Y., & Myung-Jin, B. (2018). A Study on Sound Transfer Characteristics of Whistle and Voice. International Information Institute (Tokyo). Volume 21, Issue 8, Pages 2149-2156. (Source).

Shadle, C. (1983). Experiments on the acoustics of whistling. The Physics Teacher. Issue 21, Page 148. (Source)

The Final Word

Whistles have been used for thousands of years for long-distance communication. When it comes to safety and survival, you want to keep it simple and effective- and it doesn’t get better than a proven emergency whistle.

To go along with your whistle, you should also consider a few other tools that can help you communicate outdoors:

We presented quite a lot of information, but as always: if you have any questions let us know and we would be happy to help. Our research and testing found that the SOL Slim Rescue Howler is the best option given its value, loudness, effectiveness, durability, and versatility. If you take our suggestion and grab one of our whistle picks- make sure you get used to it by learning how to use it.

It’s always a good idea to get used to your gear and resources before emergencies- an emergency whistle does no good if it’s broken because you didn’t inspect it!

Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.

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The Best Emergency Whistle

Rusty Collins

I am an engineer, Air Force veteran, emergency manager, husband, dad, and experienced prepper. I developed emergency and disaster plans around the globe and responded to many attacks and accidents as a HAZMAT technician. I have been exposed to deadly chemical agents, responded to biological incidents, and dealt with natural disasters. Check out my full story here: Rusty's Story

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