Category Archives: Gear

SPOT Gen3 on sale..


I am a big fan of sattelite messengers and the SPOT Gen3 is on sale at Cabelas for $75.

I run a DeLorme InReach on the SAR team and an ACR ResQLink while hunting, but have handled the SPOT. At only 4 ounces and $13 subscription fee per month, it is some of the best survival insurance out there, when paired with a trip plan.

Cabela’s SPOT sale

Survival 101 Graduation Special…

SAR Logo WL 062014

At the Virginia SAR Conference this year, I had the pleasure of meeting Trisha Fitzgerald, the owner/operator of SAR Gear Plus. Trish has decades of SAR experience under her belt and after watching portions of my class has extended a special offer to all Survival 101 grads.

20% off orders over $100

If you are interested, email me for the coupon code. Include your name and class number in the subject line. Example: Bo Cephus 32/40

And thanks to Trish for making the woods a little safer!!


Bowhunters Pro Shop…


This is Jeff Ledbetter. Not only is he the owner of Bowhunters Pro Shop in Maryville, but he is the friendliest store owner I have ever run across. And that is no exaggeration..

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Assuming that other hunters might be interested in upcoming tracking and survival classes,, I ventured in to ask about putting out some brochures. Thirty minutes later, I left with a new friend, some cool stories, and a T-shirt!

As soon as the budget allows, I will be headed back to pick up some arrows for the old recurve.

And speaking of recurves, they are still alive and well in Jeff’s shop..

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Along with a full offering of compounds and crossbows…

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Arrows and accessories…

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And ranges to sling your arrows..


Not only can you buy a bow there, but you can shoot it at the practice range, get professional lessons, and compete in monthly 3D tournaments. They have a full service repair shop, can build you custom arrows, and tune your bow.

In our world of mega-hunting stores, it is refreshing to walk in to a shop, shake the hand of the owner, and receive undivided attention. You won’t find that at the national chains, but you will at Jeff’s store. It’s small business at it’s finest.

Stop in sometime if you are already slinging arrows or if you want to get started off on the right foot..

Bowhunters Pro Shop 1421 W Lamar Alexander Parkway Maryville TN (865) 984-6111


Knox Tactical – Finally…


Two weeks ago, after visiting every gun and surplus store in my wife’s Florida hometown, I lamented to my wife:

“I just wish there was a gun or surplus store that actually had good gear. It is like they don’t even use this stuff. If they did, they would know it was crap”

Fast forward to today and everything changed. Knoxville Tactical on 7609 Blueberry Rd is that “good gear” store.

When an early birthday check arrived, I call up my shooting buddy to see if he could escape from work and daddy duties to quench my thirst for a mag pouch I had been eyeing on the internet. With four women in the house, three of them under the age of two, it didn’t take much convincing.

The funny thing nowadays is that guns don’t really excite me as much as good support gear. I have had all the “cool” toys at work, but it is rare to find a store that you can actually get your hands on quality accessories . Usually, I am relegated to late night sessions perusing SKD Tactical, but now I am going to have to find excuses to drive over to north Knoxville. Same internet price on the mag pouch, but I got to handle it and try it out with my mag.

In Florida, I walked into a police supply store and asked..

“Do you have any HSGI Taco pouches for rifle mags”

“Is that a brand?” was the confused clerks reply

Contrast that to Knox Tactical, where I walked into a wall of them first thing..


If you haven’t seen a HSGI Taco pouch, they are the ticket if you have multiple caliber guns.

Here is the pouch with an AK mag..

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Here is it with an AR mag..

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And here is the pouch with a Gunsite Scout mag..

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“One mag pouch to rule them all” should be in their marketing plan!! You can have one plate carrier or chest rig set up with them and run different weapon systems. That solves a lot of headaches if you are like me and bounce between calibers.

Knox Tactical also has THE best selection of medical gear that I have ever seen in a brick and mortar store. Chinook Medical was my online supplier for the past fifteen years, but now I can support a local business that has a great selection for blow out kits or IFAKs.


For less than the price of lunch, you can set your car, workplace, home, or backpack up with the gear to handle  vehicle accidents or any other trauma. There are no excuses not to stock up. “Watching someone you love die, sucks!”, was my friend’s sober reminder when he pushed medical skills and gear.



There is a “Survival” section with a variety of firestarting gear and some emergency food..


Clothes, packs, pouches and more..


A large selection of Bravo Company products, Magpul, and of course guns..



I have been told that I am hard to shop for and it is hard to find stuff on my wish list. Knox Tactical had five out of seven items right there! Maybe six, but I forgot to check the flashlight case.

Oh well, gives me an excuse to go back soon..

Edited to add: I got some great prices on used gear, if you want to help finance my next trip. first two safarilands SLS are for 229 w/o rails. The other 2 are for 229R, top right ALS only, and bottom right SLS with QLS, two platforms and extra mount.  Mag pouches for Glocks. Message me if interested.

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One Pack to Rule Them All – Part II – Cold Cold World Valdez…


The other day, I sat down to start my fire for lunch and I gasped in horror when I discovered that the fatwood stick that I have been carrying for 2 years was missing out of the mesh pocket of the Flash 45!!

Fatwood is easy to come by in my area, but having started hundreds of meals with this stick, I was  a little heart broken. My successful day on the front lines of the War on Swine had taken a sour turn and I cursed the open top mesh pockets of the Flash 45 for my loss and swore to break out Ole Faithful the next day.

Well, when I got picked up that afternoon, I found my beloved fatwood stick in the bottom of the pack cabinet on the boat. Relieved, I still decided to switch back to Ole Faithful, my custom built Cold Cold World Valdez pack, for a little while.

Back in 2010, I  found Cold Cold World packs through an online search of alpine packs. It seemed like a perfect fit when I found out that Randy, the owner of CCW, was willing to customize.

So I started off with the Valdez, his 40 liter pack.


I wouldn’t be climbing, so I asked to ditch the ice axe loops, daisy chains, ski slots, and crampon straps. In their place, I added a front pocket for my ticket book, a real hip belt with MOLLE compatible webbing, and MOLLE webbing on the sides, both low and high. Nowadays the pocket carries my radio, a saw, and my fatwood stick. The webbing holds my water bottle pouch and a roly poly pouch that I usually stuff with tinder, but can add another water bottle if needed.



One of my favorite aspects of this pack are the compression straps, seen here compressing two different loads. This, along with the slim profile, allow me to crawl through some hellacious rhododenron and laurel thickets, lovingly referred to as “Rhodo” and “Laurel Hells”. The 500 D Cordura has held up great under the abuse of daily work. The color scheme of coyote and olive drab blends in well, without being overtly camo for family vacations and other travels.

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At 2 pounds 4 ounces empty, I stuff a 4 ounce bivy pad in the designated sleeve and still have a lightweight, ultra tough pack that can double as a lower body bivy bag with the storm collar extended and a 3/4 closed cell pad.




The top lid has two pockets, one on top and one underneath. It is removable and I had two loops sewn on to allow use as a fanny pack if needed.




The Valdez is extremely well built and has a few finer touches, like the yellow lining of the pockets for better visibility while searching for contents and the reverse adjustment of the shoulder straps.

My only gripe would be that the torso length is a little short for my frame. This isn’t by accident, as the pack is designed for climbers wearing a harness. This worked out great when I was wearing a duty belt, but I no longer need that feature since I am only toting a rifle. With heavier loads ~ 30 pounds, this means it can be a little heavy on the shoulders, but my typical load is 15 – 20 pounds, and it handles that well.

I love this pack so much, that when my wife tried to take it to Florida last month, I gave her my “only one ever built” and “if something happened to it, it couldn’t be replaced” speech. Luckily, she caved under the pressure and took one of my other packs.

That story is only partially true. My buddy Jake, a LE Ranger in Yosemite, also had one built after mine. Jake’s pack has seen some cool stuff too and hopefully he will weigh in his experiences in the comment section. In fact when you read this Jake, send me a pic of your pack with El Cap in the background or something else cool.

Is the CCW Valdez the “One”? It is pretty damn close for my needs. All I need is some high tech fabric, 10 more liters of space, and some integrated water bottle holders.

The search continues…

Part 1 of “One Pack to Rule Them All” –

Class 22/140 – The Plastic Meltin’, Bivy Pad Sleepin’, Pennsylvania Game Wardens..


It didn’t take a genius to figure out something was up when a couple military vets and a bushcrafter at the Pennsylvania Game Commission Academy asked me what was the highest temp I had recorded in a super shelter.

“100 degrees when I tried to cook my buddy Jake” I replied

“We’re gonna break that” said the foursome that would be sharing a fire with me later that night

“I believe you” is all I replied

And break it they did… Roasting themselves at 140 degrees for un-explainable reasons that only other Type A’s jacked up on testosterone would understand. Maybe they missed the heat of the desert, but for the first time ever, I witnessed the plastic melt from the inferno they created in front of their shelter. And while the 22 degree night should make hypothermia a concern, hyperthermia was on my mind.

This class also had a couple other firsts for me..

It was the first time teaching with renowned tracker Rob Spieden of Rob is so good with tracks, he eats them for lunch..



First time instructing inside for the lecture part…

Andrew teaching survival class (1)

And first time having 32 students that would need shelter and bedding material…


When Rob told me how many cadets and members of the PA tracking team we would have, I thought  “Damn, that is a lot of bedding material”

I knew we could manage the fires by building group shelters and a couple singles for samples, but to build a good bed that insulates you from the ground you need a lot of natural bedding.



But I didn’t worry too much, because I had a trick up my sleeve… well, really it was in my pack.

Experienced in the workload of making natural beds, years ago I started using cut down foam pads to replace the framesheet in my packs. I later found out that alpine climbers had been doing the same thing for years and they called them “bivy pads”.

Fast forward to my LE Ranger years and you would find me sitting on mine for every poaching detail or surveillance op, something that the game warden cadets will soon understand.

If you are injured, all the natural bedding is wet or absent, or you don’t have time to build a bed, a bivy pad is a great lightweight option to supplement your natural bedding or as a stand alone pad in dire straits. This multi-use pad can also provide flotation in your pack if crossing bodies of water or it can be used for a host of improvised splinting options.


Bivy pad in use by cadets, supplementing natural bedding..


So here is a quick tutorial on how to make a bivy pad for your day or patrol pack.

First, measure your pack to find the inside dimensions. The example I will be making is  for a pack 10″ wide and 19″ long.

Buy an army surplus pad. If you are in my area, go see Eva at Foothills Army & Navy One pad costs $11 and will make two bivy pads.

Measure, cut, and score (partially cut) your pad so it folds flat into three sections.


Seam showing 2/3 partial cut (score)



Cut off the extra width..


At this point, you are good to go. I have used a scored, partially cut pad, for years, but if you want extra security, you can gorilla tape the seams. Make sure to tape the open cut while folded, allowing it to fold and lay flat when opened.


So that gives me a torso length pad in my patrol pack at all times. Once my pack is empty, I can throw in under my legs or under worst case conditions, all 200 pounds of me can  curl up and fit on it.



“Wait a minute.. that pad in your pack is different than the one you just made” you say

You are correct. The game wardens could get the military pads for $1 through government channels.  The folded pad you see in my pack is a $24 Gossamer Gear Nightlight

Fifteen years ago, my prototype pad was a cut down Ridgerest that folded length wise. It is out in the shed somewhere, but here are a few other options. L to R – BPO pad, Gossamer Gear, pad from CCW pack, Z-rest cut to 6 panels. You will also see the size, square inches, and square inches per ounce.


Here you can see their folded size, weight, and R-value. (Those are straps on the BPO pad to keep it flat for the picture)


Folded thicknesses..


And pad thickness..


You can see why the GG pad is riding in my pack. Thicker, lighter, and a higher R-value. While the Z-rest folds better and has a marginally higher R-value, the denser foam on the GG has held up better.

I always say, “Once you know how to make a friction fire, you won’t ever go into the woods without a lighter”

Natural beds are the same. When you understand the importance of sleep, the workload of gathering enough bedding, the heat robbing effects of conduction and merge them with the realization that you may be injured or unable to build a sufficient bed, you will be hard pressed to argue against carrying four and a half ounces of lightweight “life insurance”.

Whether is is a commercial product or a homemade version, a bivy pad in your day pack helps fight against conduction and can make an awkward “Big Spoon, Big Spoon” night tolerable.


Congrats to the soon to be graduates of the 30th class of the Pennsylvania Game Commission!!

May your careers be full of action, your bivy pads serve you well, and I pray you don’t get assigned to the same county as Rosie-Vic!!


One Pack to Rule Them All – Part I…


We don’t have TV…

And I have an hour commute…

And maybe one day my body will fuse with my pack, so I better make sure I like it….

These are all reasons I use to justify my obsession with finding the perfect pack and the insane amount of time I have spent thinking about them. To my knowledge, there is no known cure for Packophilia, unless you own a company that builds them.

I still remember my first. She was a blue, Coleman Peak 1 that I bought used when I was fourteen. She didn’t care that it was my first time or that I was a little pudgy, She was there for me in the good times and the bad.  The gentle, curves of her plastic frame and the summer escapade we shared at Philmont are still etched in my mind.


She was faithful and true, but we grew apart as technology and my body changed. Though I will never forget her, I had to move on.

My late teens and college years saw a series of short, failed relationships, with a heartbraking theft during a trip to the Smokies. After that, I bounced from one to another, never really connecting.

I rebelled at one point, running around with a Roycraft pack frame, three sticks lashed together, until my boss caught me on the job with her. I even ran around with an “all natural” barkpack that shows back up in my foraging classes.


When I started carrying a pack for a living, things got real. I was now influenced by my environment and lifestyle. My desires changed and no longer did I seek the robustness or novelty of my earlier years, but I now yearned for something sleeker, lighter, and tougher.  One that could handle the ups and downs of a tumultuous relationship, that would border on abuse.

I had a wandering eye and started lusting after some of the lightweight packs the thru hikers carried on the annual hippie migration north. Their packs wouldn’t be able to handle the briars, but I stole the concepts and started pulling out the frame and adding a cut down sleeping pad for emergency use.

Lightweight, tough, with a sleeping pad as part of a “virtual” frame, I though I had a pioneering love story until one day a store owner said…

“Dude… do you not know about Alpine packs?”

All those years spent modifying and tweaking, and right under my nose ice climbers had perfected the concept of a lightweight, tough frameless pack with a bivy pad. Damn… I really thought I had something special.

So I had a custom one built 5 years ago that I carried up until last week, with a brief Andininsta interlude. I will showcase those in another episode, but wanted to start with the Flash 45 because it is on a sale that may end this weekend. It’s not an alpine pack, but the result of the ultralight influence on backpacking.

At 50 liters(~ 3000 cubic inches), only 2 pounds 4 ounces, and $89, it is a smoking hot deal.

While the Flash 45 is not the perfect pack for me, it is the perfect deal for someone looking for a lightweight, medium volume pack.

So for a tough, 2 pound, 50 liter pack $89 can’t be beat. In fact, I have been waiting for a year for it to go on sale. Pictured to the right of the pack is the 4 ounces of stuff I have cut off so far.


I gained that back when I added my bivy pad, but I won’t hit the woods without it.


I dropped the weight down below 2 again by pulling out the aluminum/delrin frame, but with only one compression strap on each side, it does not have the rigidity to work well frameless, based upon my one day experiment.


I usually don’t review a piece of gear so soon after buying it, but I believe the sale will end soon and you could get stuck with the $130, lime green version.

With only a week on my back, it has already seen  off trail use, been submerged, hauled 20 pounds of corn along with my load, been rained on, snowed on, sleeted on, through briars, and a couple rhodo thicket. So far, so good, but I will give you my initial impressions.


  • Lightweight for it’s volume. Same weight as my CCW, but 10 more liters
  • Longer torso length than my CCW, which was my major complaint.
  • Comfortable
  • Eighty nine dollars!!


  • Only one side compression strap
  • Elastic mesh on sides will probably may not make the cut
  • Water bottle pockets and back pocket are all interconnected
  • Black is a sucky color for the woods. It stands out. Lime green accent too. I will be spray painting it at some point.

I will do a review here in a couple months of how she is standing up under the abuse of Team 20mile.

I know she is not the “one”, and she understands that. We can still enjoy our time together and she will get to see stuff most packs only dream about. When I move on, she will be guaranteed to stay in my life as she has already proved worthy.

Foothills Army Navy..


Not everyone needs a rubber ducky pool thermometer in December, but I do..

Well, really it is not for me, it is for Survival 101 students so I can gauge the temperature of the creek for the “man in the creek” drill. Luck would have it that the local pool shop had a good selection and even luckier was that there is an Army-Navy store right beside it.

Tucked off Foothills Mall Drive in Maryville, you can find a nice selection of military clothing and outdoor gear. I was happy to find brown polypro glove liners, which I hunt in all winter. Most outdoor stores just have black or blue, so I was happy to find and buy them.


I got to talking with the friendly owner, Eva Murphy, and found out that after running a surplus store in Billings, Montana for 20 years. Eva said that they started out as Civil War memorabilia collectors and the store evolved from there. Wanting to escape the frigid winters, They migrated to Tennessee and Foothills Army Navy opened up five months ago.

Being a small business owner myself, I told Eva I would give her a shout out on the blog tonight.


Like any surplus store, you will be able to find plenty of knives, a mix of new and used equipment, and a variety of tactical and outdoor gear.


What did I personally like that I saw? Well, gear that I have actually used and carry. They had a good selection of polypro and fleece..



My favorite firesteel, orange please..


Mountain House meals for your emergency pack..


Wool pants..


And the patrol bag from the military sleep system sold separately (or the whole system)..


Now what I am going to say something that will probably bring the wrath of every internet survival expert out there crying me to be hung by a paracord noose and flogged with firesteels..

If for some magical reason I was thrust into the vortex of unreality where I could only have one item to survive outside right now, it would be a sleeping bag, not the all mighty knife.


It took decades for that simple lesson uttered by Mors Kochanski to our class 15 years ago to sink in, but after experimenting, researching, and seeing wilderness emergencies first hand, it has taken root.

Take Dimwiddie’s ordeal for example.. Laying in his sleeping bag for four days kept him alive, but if he only had a knife, Rangers would have found a corpsicle.

While I teach people to build shelters and fires if they are caught out unexpectedly, I always drive home how many calories it consumes and how hard it would be if their wrist or leg was broken.

What if they threw a lightweight, synthetic sleeping bag in a dry sack and stuffed it down at the bottom of their pack with a bivy or tarp? Coupled with a good puffy jacket, the 40 degree bag will now get them down below freezing, Hopefully they replaced the backpack frame sheet with a cut down sleeping pad to insulate from the ground as well, and now they have a solution that works when injured, conserves calories, and will afford better sleep.

Two and a half pounds of lifesaving insurance for $40. Sure there are lighter, better synthetic bags on the market, but they are 5 times the price. Quilts and woobies are other great options, but if you move much in your sleep, you will wish you had a bag, and once again, more expensive.

I have bought several of these over the years and they are floating in both our vehicles and in our packs. Good gear for a great price.

If you are out and about in the Maryville area, stop by and welcome Eva to the area..

Foothills Army Navy  – 821 Foothills Mall Drive Maryville, TN 37801     (865) 977-0090


Whistlemania V – Come Sail Away…


As the final rounds of Whistlemania begin, we start to get into the real tests of performance, those of distance, and this week’s test is for all the water lovers out there.

If you follow Survival Weekly on this blog, you have probably noticed more water rescues and fatalities as the weather warmed up. Common sense dictates that when it gets hot, more of us like to cool of in the water or play on it. Most fatalities are from drowning, so wearing a lifejacket is your best plan and ataching a whistle to said lifejacket may aid in a timely rescue.

Some of you have probably also heard that sounds carries better over water. In addition to the lack of obstacles, cooler air above the surface of the water actually slows the sound wave down causing it to bend, delivering more sound waves to the listener. Here is a quote from an article over on American Boating Association’s page:

According to Howard Shaw, Ph. D. and Cheryl Jackson Hall, Ph. D., “Experience suggests that sound, like light, travels (more or less) in straight lines. However, to the contrary, sound actually tends to curve downwards over a lake’s surface.”

“Sound traveling along straight lines would disperse quickly into the space above the lake. Instead, sound that “should” rise up and be lost typically curves back down to the lake/ground level. Therefore, it sounds louder than it “should.” This is a well-known and easily demonstrated observation, measurable out there on real lakes.”

Test: Paddle out to known distances and by the process of elimination, determine the maximum ranges for the whistles. Distances were determined by GPS and tests were done at 1/4 mile, 1/2 mile, 3/4 mile, and 1 mile.

The conditions were sunny with a high temp of 87 degrees. Initially, the was a breeze blowing towards the observers, but conditions during the 1/2 mile to 1 mile tests were calm.

Ambient noise from birds, locusts, and waves was present and tests were temporarily stopped to allow for boat traffic to pass. The observers were positioned on the point of a peninsula that extends halfway across Calderwood Lake for their listening post and were asked to comment via radio if the whistle could be heard and if it could be confused with other noises.

Three blasts of each whistle were done at each distance until a couple of kayakers appeared out of nowhere to rescue me. After that, I switched to two blasts and each whistle was given a second chance at the distance it failed.

Below is a picture of the test site with the orange arrow being the observers a mile away. Our lakes in the mountains are narrow and long, so the possibility of sound funneling can be addressed by someone smarter than me in the comment section if you wish.


The observers: Special thanks goes to Brian and Laura Osgood, Sierra McAllister, and Dr. Ken Miller of the Blount County Rescue Squad. While patrolling Highway 129, a.k.a. The Dragon’s Tail, I managed to catch them in some down time and they were happy to wade into the melee of rescue whistles. These are real world rescuers and this team comprises a good mix of hearing ability. Dr. “Hunk” Miller, age 72, has significant high frequency hearing loss from years of shooting, military service, and women screaming about his good looks.  He was wearing his hearing aids during the test, as he would on an actual incident.

Sierra, age 18, like all young adults may be guilty of cranking up the tunes too loud, but as expected had the keenest ears. Brian and Laura, both in their mid 40’s, represented what we all considered to be the average hearing ability of a responder.

I have had the pleasure to work with the BCRS professionals on several incidents on the Dragon’s Tail and one remote rescue in the park that required the use of their vessel and can’t say enough about their dedication, skill, and professionalism. Every year, BCRS provides nearly 32,000 lifesaving volunteer hours and consistently places in the top three in statewide rescue competitions.

If you or anybody you love rides motorcycles or drives sports cars, these are the men and women that will be saving their lives on the Dragon if the unthinkable occurs. They do all this and more with a volunteer staff and relying solely on donations from the community for their operation!!

BigPig Outdoors would like to thank the Blount County Rescue Squad for their service in the community and their assistance in Whistlemania and has made a $150 donation to their organization as a token of our appreciation and will be teaching a free survival course for their staff this winter.

If you, your family, or organization have found the information from Whistlemania valuable, I urge you to click on the link below and contribute any amount to their cause. Even if you can only donate the price of an average whistle, it all helps.

Make a Donation Button

Donations may also be mailed to:

Blount County Rescue Squad
P.O. Box 218
Alcoa, TN 37701


The battle for the open water champion begins…

Well almost… Starting at 1/4 mile Doc Miller could not hear a majority of the whistles. To save typing, assume that Doc Miller didn’t hear any of them unless noted and that includes the 1/4 mile tests.

“Heard up to” – Means that all three observers without hearing damage could hear it at that distance, unless noted differently.


Jetscream Micro – Heard up to 1/2 mile. Failed at 3/4 mile.

ACME 660 – Heard up to 3/4 mile. Failed at 1 mile.

Fox 40 Classic – Heard up to 3/4 mile. Failed at 1 mile.

ACME Tornado 635 –  Heard up to 3/4 mile. Observers commented that it could be confused with a car horn. Failed at 1 mile.

Hammerhead – Heard up to 3/4 mile. Observers commented that sound was faint. Failed at 1 mile.

Tin Whistle –  Heard up to 3/4 mile. Observers commented that sound was faint and bird like. Failed at 1 mile.

Fox 40 Mini – Heard up to 3/4 mile by 2 out of 3 observers. Failed at 1 mile.

AMK or SOL or Fox 40 Micro –  Heard up to 1/2 mile. Failed at 3/4 mile.

ACME Tornado 636 –  Heard up to 3/4 mile. Failed at 1 mile.

SOL Slim Rescue Howler –  Heard up to 3/4 mile. Observers commented could be confused with bird. Failed at 1 mile.

ACR – Heard up to 3/4 mile. Failed at 1 mile.


Coghlan’s 5 in 1 Survival Aid – Heard up to 3/4 mile. Failed at 1 mile.

Zipper Pull Whistle – Heard up to 1/2 mile. Reported as faint. Failed at 3/4 mile.

Coghlan’s 4 in 1 Whistle – Heard up to 3/4 mile. Reported as bird-like. Failed at 1 mile.

Sternum Strap Whistle – Heard up to 1/2 mile. Reported as faint. Heard by 2 out of 3 at 3/4 mile. Failed at 1 mile.

LMF Swedish Firesteel Army 2.0 –  Heard up to 1/2 mile. Reported as faint and bird-like. Failed at 3/4 mile.


Windstorm – Heard up to a mile. Rated as a 2 out of 3 on loudness at that distance. On several blows, the pea got temporarily stuck and required another blow to free up.

Hammerhead Mighty – Heard up to 3/4 mile. Failed at 1 mile.

Lifejacket Whistle – Heard up to 3/4 mile including Doc Miller!! Heard at 1 mile by all except Doc. Rated at 1 mile as 2 out of 3 for loudness.

FOX 40 Eclipse – Heard up to 3/4 mile. Failed at 1 mile.

Storm – Heard up to 1 mile. Rated a 3 out of 3 for loudness. Doc Miller heard this one at 1/2 mile, but no further. On several blows, the pea got temporarily stuck and required another blow to free up.

Scotty Lifesaver – Heard up to 3/4 mile. Reported as faint. Failed at 1 mile.

ACME Tornado 2000 – Heard up to 3/4 mile. Failed at 1 mile.

FOX 40 Sonic Blast – Heard up to 3/4 mile. Failed at 1 mile.

UST Jetscream – Heard up to 3/4 mile. Failed at 1 mile.

Whistles for Life – Heard up to 3/4 mile. Failed at 1 mile.

Promo whistle – Heard up to 3/4 mile by 2 out 3 observers. Reported that it sounded cow-like. Failed at 1 mile.

FOX 40 Sharx – Heard up to 3/4 mile. Failed at 1 mile. Doc Miller heard this one at 1/4 mile, but no further.

ACME Cyclone 888 – Heard up to 3/4 mile. Failed at 1 mile.

ACME 649 – Heard up to 3/4 mile, including Doc Miller. Reported as being bird or horn like. Failed at 1 mile.


BigPig’s Canoe Paddling, Sunburned Head, Whistle Blowing Observations:

  1. I have done some unsanctioned testing during classes in the woods and the difference between open water and the woods is surprising.
  2. At a distance of 1 mile, all observers could hear me yell and stated it was louder than the whistle. My voice would have gone out if done repeatedly, but an occasional yell along with whistling is a good plan.
  3. The average age of rangers in the Smokies and BCRS volunteers is in the mid-30’s. High frequency hearing loss often accompanies aging. Consideration needs to be given to the fact that a lot of our young veterans return with hearing damage and many serve among the ranks in Search and Rescue organizations.
  4. Both low frequency whistles, the Lifejacket and the ACME 649, were heard by Doc Miller up to 3/4 mile away. As stated earlier, even with the use of his hearing aids, he could not hear the other whistles with the exception of the Sharx at 1/4 mile and the Storm up to 1/2 mile.
  5. Our testing day would represent ideal conditions. Wind and waves would surely decrease the observed distances.
  6. I underestimated the Lifejacket whistle. It is old and ultra cheap, but gave a great showing.
  7. Don’t carry the Promo whistle if you plan on getting lost in dairy country…


Stay tuned as Whistlemania continues when we move back onto the land and head into the woods for the distance test…

Catch up with previous rounds:

“Gamemaker” Gabby prepares the contestants…