Years ago, when our two girls were still living at home and accompanying us on the occasional summer hiking adventure, we bought them each a small emergency whistle. I don't think they cost more than couple of bucks, and maybe less. As you can imagine, the girls drove us nuts for a few minutes in the car with those whistles, and then promptly forgot them.
Years later, P found them again. He's a big believer in whistles, and so when we started to do more hiking on our own, he fbrought them out. M wears one tied to the shoulder strap of her pack, and P carries his in the camera case he wears on his belt. We forget about them most of the time. The don't weigh anything, and they are now just part of our equipment.
But twice in the past three years those whistles have come in very handy. The first time was on a day hike in the middle of a pack trip. We were following a rather sketchy trail up a lonely canyon, and there were all sorts of side trails and use trails to confuse us.
Now P always hikes faster than M, so he was ahead...and realized that he hadn't seen M for a while. We do try to keep some kind of visual contact as we go, but when turned around to look. there was no sign of M. And no sign was not a good sign. So he hiked back a hundred yards more or so. Still no M. And then he began to get worried, and noticed all the use trails, and realized that:
1. We were an hour away from camp, and we had not really talked about where or how long we were going to hike.
2. We were up a canyon six miles from the nearest trailhead.
3. We might not have been lost, but niether of us knew where the other one was....and niether of us knew to go forward or back to start searching.
Not a good scenario.
So P started yelling for M. No answer. None.
The scenario just got worse.
And then he remembered the whistle. And sure enough, he blew it twice, and then waited. After a few seconds, he heard an answering whistle, coming not from above him as he expected, but from underneath the bluff he was standing on. And within minutes, we were back together again, and hiking away. Greatly relieved.
All of this came to mind last week, when we were hiking a lightly used trail in the Hoover Wilderness. At one point the trail gets quite confused, and P waved to M at that point, to tell her he was taking the lower trail. But when M got to that point, she was confused. And she remembered her whistle--and started to blow.
Which was perfect, except she didn't wait for a response, she just kept blowing away. Which P interpreted to mean that she was in some kind of serious trouble. And he sprinted back up to trail to save her from ...well. All's well that ends well.
And in the wilderness, there really is no substitute for whistle.
And in the wilderness, there really is no substitute for whistle.
Well, not to disagree politely, but I will. There is a substitute - If you're actually intending to be together, then stay together - don't one of you decide to go rushing off, and only think about it once you can't find the other one.
Both scenarios show a bit of a lack of thinking ahead - and had you been sligthly further out of reach, (so the whistle wouldn't be heard) you'd then be saying you'd have needed a two way radio, etc.
Similarly "interpreting it to mean you are in serious trouble" - if you're going to use an audio signal don't interpret - agree ahead of time and stick to it. (i.e. three blasts 15 seconds apart means trouble - answer that with one blast)
Never can hurt to bring a whistle (have one built into my pack on sternum strap...I think this is becoming common). And I have to agree with the above post...luckily both situations turned out ok but I'm pretty sure there's a step in the LNTB guidelines about planning ahead...seems like neither situation was planned out well.
Loc: Meadow Valley, CA
We used whistles a year ago on a snow trip. Coming out, we all spread out and the trails all took off here and there by people making their own way in. We located the one lady in short order. Hard to decide which trail to take as they all looked to have the same amount of traffic.
Loc: Puget Sound, Washington
I always carry a whistle, especially canoeing, because you can whistle louder than you can yell. And despite the criticisms of the others, I recognize a whistle as a piece of emergency equipment in the event the best laid plans go awry. Try to use a ball-less whistle. Those little things can get lost and then the whistle is useless (kinda like having a spare tire in the trunk of the car that is flat.)
A whistle is one of my 'essentials'. All our kayak vests have a knife and big whistle. A whistle will cut through whitewater noise better than screaming your head off. A whistle will save your vocal cords when you call for help. I can send morse code on a whistle and have!
However, Phat is right. Don't EVER separate unless you file exact flight plans with each other and even then, it's best to not separate out in the boonies.
I am really "old school" about keeping a group together. So I agree with Phat. There appears to be a new trend of "casual groups" that just meander down the trail each to his own. There no longer is a "leader". Sort of like herding cats. I do not go out with or take people with me anymore who do not agree to stick together. I am a die-hard "trail mother" and am highly anxious when I cannot count all my "trail chicks"! I carry a whistle when solo because I cannot scream very loud. I have also blown my whistle when I heard a bear outside my tent. Not sure if it did any good at all.
When leading a group, we certainly follow that plan--although we will have one person in the lead, and another "leader" at the back...allowing people to hike at their own pace in between.
When it's just the two of us (and we've been married 33 years and hiking together longer than that) we are a bit more casual about staying right next to each other. And in all those years, these are the only two times we've used the whistle.
But seriously---if you're hiking with your long term partner or wife, you really try to stay within what....ten feet of each other? twenty?
Loc: Maine/New Jersey
My roommate and other recreation major friends got these things from school. I have seen similar ones in hobby shops/camp stores, where its a whistle about 4 inches long, but one end has a compass on it, and unscrews to hold weatherproof matches. Not sure of the weight, but a neat tool. Them rec majors just find neat gadgets to use on the trail, whether they are worth the weight or not....not imo
Edited by GDeadphans (07/16/1007:13 PM)
"To me, hammocking is relaxing, laying, swaying. A steady slow morphine drip without the risk of renal failure." - Dale Gribbel
Loc: Fairbanks, AK
I find this very interesting because I'm trying to get through to my husband that I don't care if he hikes at a different speed. Go ahead, I'll catch up eventually - heck I'd prefer to hike into an already set up camp!
I hike alone because he gets frustrated waiting for me on hills (don't know what it is about them, but dang.)
I agree with your advice about staying together. I wish I could convince my wife to do so.
A couple years ago she got too far ahead of me and made a wrong turn. She is bad with directions and got so confused she went back the way we came from without even knowing it. Took her an extra hour to finish what should have been a two hour circular hike. I was worried.
When we bicycled across the US in 1976 she got ahead of the rest of us (3 of us, 1 of her). She was the only one who knew the route. We ended up taking different routes and didn't find her for 3 days. I was really worried that time.
By the way, you are good with computers. As I am writing this the screen keeps scrolling away from me so I can't see what I just wrote. Any idea what causes this? It scrolls up when I type a letter but then scrolls down as soon as I quit typing.
Great story and thread balzacom. We've got one whistle that's molded to a cylinder with matches in it that's buried in the pack -- pretty pointless -- I'm starting a search for two heavy-duty (but light) whistles to attach to the straps on our packs.
Have you used that scroll down arrow on the far right to expand your "writing area" when you post? Click it several times to make the area larger and it works up to a point. I noticed that this glitch started up a while back -- used to not do it. (And there might be a better solution the moderators know of . . . )
I do not think it matters if it is your spouse or a group- you need to stay reasonably together. At least have several designated "meet up" points during the day - the logical place is at every trail junction. Here is my concern. Everything seems fine until it goes wrong. You get to the end of the day and the other person is missing. What do you do? Hunting for someone when you are already done for the day and tired is not very appealing. Sitting there and worrying is not appealing. And what if the missing person has the tent or stove? Yes, staying together is trying at times, but for me the alternative if things go wrong is much worse. You can always slow down the fast person by giving them more gear to carry. If you simply want to hike your own pace, then find someone with a matched pace or go solo.
If you choose this method of hiking separately, then each person should be self sufficient with food and shelter and you should have a solid plan on what to do if you get separated.
I think that assuming that simply by carrying a whistle you avoid the chance of getting seriously separated is a false sense of security. PS- I have seen some groups who carry hand-held radio communication devises- often families with kids. this is better than a whistle.
Loc: Portland, OR
I forget where i read the following story, but it impressed on me that a whistle is a worthwhile emergency tool.
The story was from an SAR volunteer. He was participating in a search for a missing hiker. The terrain had numerous boulders. As he passed one of these he heard a wheezy, low whistling sound, so he left his path to investigate. The missing hiker was tucked out of sight a short distance away, asleep, with a whistle in his mouth. Without the whistle, he would not have been found at that time, and most likely that sector would not have been revisited. Now I always double check that I have a whistle with me.
[quote=wandering_daisy]I do not think it matters if it is your spouse or a group- you need to stay reasonably together. At least have several designated "meet up" points during the day - the logical place is at every trail junction.
I agree completely.
I'm not sure I explained our system well, so let me clarify. We don't just hike on our own and hope we meet up. We do try to keep within some kind of visual contact. But as you know, every trail has its tight turns and long straightaways. I usually check at the end of those straight sections to make sure my wife is with me. If she is not, then I will wait until I see her coming along the trail again.
And at the top of every climg, or about every hour ro so, we'll stop together to have some water, chat about the trail, and talk about the next section. It allows us to hike at our own pace, and still stay together.It's a system that has worked for us for many, many miles and about 35 years.
What led to the whistle stories were two situations where I waited and she didn't appear. I knew she had to be within about 1/4 of a mile because I had just seen her a few minutes before. And thus the whistle.
I do NOT recommend a whistle as any kind of a remedy for bad planning or stupidity. I do strongly recommend them to be used as we do...to signal in the wilderness when your voice might not carry so far.
I have at least two reasons for wanting to keep my wife in view while we are hiking. I mentioned her poor sense of direction in an earlier post. The other reason is for safety.
She is a short little fireplug of a person. If a cougar was looking for prey she would be perfect.
We've also had a few encouinters with bees and bears. She tends to freeze up when action would be a better strategy. She froze after stepping on a wasp nest and they were, literally, stinging her to death. I ran over and pulled her down the mountain to safety and removed the remaining stinging critters. She got about 2 dozen bites.
I'm also pretty good at scaring black bears away and I carry the bear spray. She isn't and she doesn't.
Thanks for the suggestion. The blue scroll down arrow on the right didn't help but the black one at the top right did.
So it appears that the scrolling problem only appears when I reach the bottom of the alloccated space. The black arrow makes the space bigger and things are fine again.
I'm going to be less long winded in my replies and avoid this scrolling problem all together.
Not sure exactly what's happening based on your description, but if your entire browser window is scrolling down then maybe a key (down arrow) is stuck on your keyboard?
Anyway, I don't think there's anything wrong with "casual groups" if that's what everybody agrees to. It can be frustrating to have to slow down one's pace to wait for other people, and I imagine it's equally frustrating for them to try to hurry unnaturally. Granted, this may not work for close-knit groups or those whose members aren't sufficiently self-sufficient, so to speak. Just put the slower people in the front to set the pace of the group and suffer behind them--it's your fault for planning it out that way ;-)
However, once you plan it, I agree with phat you need to stick to your plan and not separate the group.
I consider a whistle an indispensable part of my gear (when hiking or scuba diving). I think it will carry farther than a voice and is an unnatural, high-pitched sound that almost everyone will associate with people needing help.
Regarding hiking togeher or not, well, that's just the thing.
If I'm with someone I generally do either two modes of operation
1) (and this is always the case with someone new, or new to me) Stay in sight of each other.. always.
2) Be packed independantly, walk independantly, but have a plan. essentially this is two solo trips. I will do this with people I know. and then it's agreed ahead of time with agreement of "I will probably end my day either here or here." Typically in this case we are camping in the same spots - and part of the "plan" is the knowledge of "I am not going to worry about you at all today, unless you don't show up in the place we have agreed upon". The assumption here on both parties is that we will look for the other one if they are overdue, and we *better show up* where we agreed upon or we're giving the other person cause to be concerned.
Some groups need to stay together, some can split up. The rule I use is that if you step off the trail you need to leave your pack on the trail. It is a bad problem if you are struggling to catch up with someone that is waiting for you, but actually behind you.
Off trail you need a safety bearing. For example if we are separated then hike to the east road and we will meet where it crosses a specific landmark.
"In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not." Yogi Berra
I second this, WD (regarding the practice of stopping at trail junctions and regrouping, not allowing the group to get separated). It's how we've always hiked, even on day hikes (trained by Sierra Club group backpacking) and we are now trying to instill this in our 17 year old twin nephews, who seem to race ahead oblivious to the presence of trail junctions...very frustrating. We're going out with them this weekend, so we'll have to keep tight rein on them!
Last week in Desolation Wilderness I was offtrail above Lake Aloha with an 18 year old daughter of a friend, near Lake LeConte, when we heard a guy yelling every 5 minutes or so. It sounded like a drunk rowdy guy, so didn't pay much attention until he was in view, and (not seeing us) yelled out "Somebody help me - I'm lost!". He was quite distraught, not drunk - his buddies had left him way behind and in the rear (he was photographing for the group) without a map or compass, and he'd gotten way off the trail unintentionally. I advised him to go back and then down towards the lake to find the trail, but he apparently went up instead, because later when we were down at Lake LeConte he appeared again, this time wanting to see our map because he'd come to a cliff! He was trying to get to the north end of the lake where they'd agreed to meet, but had missed the trail where it crossed a small snow field on the left, instead following a faint use trail that took off to the right towards LeConte then petered out. But rather than going back to find the main trail, he apparently headed up to the right (Aloha was to the left). A bad combination of poor group tactics and individual inexperience, it seemed. We got him aimed to the trail/lake (lake was within plain view), and I assume he made it OK, though we kept listening for his yells the rest of the day and evening. It was a good object lesson for the young first-time backpacker with me, at least!