How To

    The Utility Of Plastic Flying Discs At Camp


    Image by Diego Trabucco, Shutterstock

    Ranking high among my essential camping gear inventory is my “camp” Frisbee — that classic, traditional saucer-shaped toy.

    More generically known as a “flying disc,” the Frisbee has been a staple of my outdoor inventory since my days as a Boy Scout. It’s one of the most versatile pieces of outdoor gear I have — and that doesn’t even include its value as a yard game pastime.

    The camp Frisbee is put to more uses in the field kitchen than pretty much anywhere else. Their slightly concave underside, rimmed by a short, solid lip makes them a perfect camp dish — flat enough to be used as a plate (either by itself or as a holder for a paper one), yet it’s curved enough to serve as a bowl. For stews or spaghetti, it’s especially practical, letting the meat chunks, noodles and sauces slosh around without your food sliding off your plate and onto your lap or ground.


    Image by Tom Watson

    Frisbees make great cutting boards, too. Besides a surface that is easy on your knife blade, the rimmed “plate” keeps all the veggies you’ve sliced or diced at hand. You can also prepare and serve bread, meat, cheese, whatever! While not as secure against spills as a higher-sided container, they are a handy collecting tray when harvesting berries. It can be a simple lid to keep the heat in a small pan or perhaps as a cover to keep insects off your plate of food.

    The round disc can be propped up to form a wind-break for a small backpack stove, or serve as its platform. It can also be used to fan struggling embers in a campfire.

    Finding a dry place to sit can be a challenge sometimes — but not with a Frisbee along. It doesn’t always provide a lot of area upon which to roost, but it can give you a small, dry area when needed. Likewise, doing a little foot hygiene/changing socks is easier when you can place your fresh peds onto a small but dry platform instead of on dirty, damp ground or snow.

    Frisbees have a utilitarian place in the paddlesports world, too. Although not a first choice bailer by any means, a rimmed disc can work to scoop some water from your canoe or kayak. It is also a handy mini tray for your lap on which to lay out an assortment of lures, swivels and such when rigging up fishing gear.


    Image by Tom Watson

    It can even come to your aid as a makes-shift paddle, especially when you’re up that certain creek without one. This versatile disc can be used as an emergency paddling aid, per-forming short directional strokes, for maneuvering a small boat through the water.

    In your tent, the Frisbee becomes a receptacle tray for small pocket items. With tents that have mesh netting hanging on the side or under the peak, you might be able to insert the disc so it lies flat — to serve as a circular mini shelf.

    Another consideration in the generic flying disc’s favor — they are cheap! You can some-times find promo/give-away discs emblazoned with a company’s logo. Choose bright, high-vis’ colors to use as an emergency signal – (mark your signaling Frisbee’s outer, domed surface with reflective tape).


    Illustration by Tom Watson

    Frisbee/flying discs take up very little space and unless you are an extreme minimalist when it comes to carrying excess weight, it can ride along in a side pocket of a day pack.

    Options are limited only by one’s imagination: Dog food dish? Emergency visor or rain “hat”? Padded and wedged against a hole/crack in a boat hull? And, of course, there’s always its primary purposes — a great game of catch or a round of disc golf while in camp.

    Tom Watson is an award-winning outdoor safety and skills columnist and author of guide books on tent camping, hiking and self-reliant survival techniques. His website is

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