Back in 1955, a building inspector named Fred Morrison sold the rights to a flying disc toy to Whamo™ - the people who gave Mankind the hula-hoop. When I tell you that Whamo named Fred's creation the "Frisbee" - you now know the rest of the story.
Unfortunately for Mr. Morrison, and Whamo, too, for that matter, the flying disc would prove to be so much more versatile than merely a toy. Fifty years after its invention, the utility of the flying disc in the outdoors is becoming legendary. Here are twenty uses of this incredible and indispensable camping and kayaking tool:
The flying disc (FD) is one of the most indispensable tools I have at the campfire kitchen. It's size and shape make it the idea food prep' and serve tool:
Cutting Board - few things slip off the edge of the FD cutting board. Diced onions don't tumble off the side and the juice from sliced tomatoes doesn't spill over the edge. If the cuts make the surface too frizzy, pretend it's the hull of your rotomolded kayak and shave them away with a throw-away razor.
Serving Tray - Leave those slices of cheese or pieces of fruit right on the FD for a handy serving tray. It works equally well as a serving dish for steamed items, too.
Dinner Plate - There's no better way to eat spaghetti! A buddy of mine turned me on to the versatility of the FD one night when a group of us were kayak camping. We were one dinner plate short and my friend whipped out a Frisbee™ from his pack and said, "Here, use this." Since that meal I have always carried a FD specifically for that purpose. It's great for oatmeal and especially suited for pancakes.
Collecting Pail -- Maybe not as voluminous as an ice cream bucket or other pail, the FD still comes in handy for gathering a small portion of ripe berries, or a breakfast quantity of fiddlehead ferns.
Its uses are not just in the preparation and serving, either. Even before you start cooking, the FD comes to the rescue in many ways:
Stove Platform - Muddy ground, sandy soil or even a mantle of snow and ice are no match for the FD's utility as a platform base for your small stove. In fact, if you are filling your stove's fuel tank, place your stove in the concave side of the FD to contain any fuel that might leak during filling.
Wind Block - Those small stoves burn more efficiently when they are not buffeted by the wind or even a small breeze. Support your FD so its broad side is windward of your stove and you have a great windbreak as needed.
Fan the Fire - Like to create a few glowing embers with a real fire? No problem. In fact, fanning a fire with a FD is like using a bellows to force extra air into the heart of the firey beast. The only drawback to the FD around fire is, of course, its tendency to melt at higher temperatures. Be careful.
Fire Building - If you are a fire building purest and like to have your tinder, kindling, etc. all neatly stacked and ready to feed the fire, consider the FD. It's a handy tray that allows you to arrange your fire starting needs, in a compact and orderly fashion.
Being that the FD is made of polyethethene or similar plastic, it is unaffected by water. This adds still more versatility to its outdoor uses.
Water Collector - It's a shallow basin that can easily hold 2-3 cups of water. While a bucket is more practical for collecting run-off from a tent fly or rain tarp, the smaller FD is handy for collecting water from more restrictive places. One way of getting water in an emergency situation is to use a bandana to wipe the dew from grass and leaves. That saturated cloth is then wrung out over a dish or basin for treatment and use. The FD is the perfect receptacle for this method of gathering drinking water. (You can collect over a cup of water in less than 5 minutes using this method.)
Bilge Scoop - FD's with smaller lips/edges are perfect for scooping those last drops of water out of the bilge of a kayak or boat. It's like using a shovel with edges on the blade to skim water right down to the surface in many cases.
Tackle Holder - Fishing from a kayak can be very restricting, especially if you like to create your own lure combinations: attaching hoochie skirts to squid bodies and adding slip shots weights, etc. The FD can be a perfect utility tray that sits forward of you on your spray skirt.
Emergency Paddle - Ok, this one may be a stretch, but a little duct tape and a stout "Y" branch are all you should need to create an emergency paddle. I don't anticipate this particular contrivance to last too long, but if it can get you ashore or out of harm's way, its' served its purpose.
Emergency Patch - A trick to plugging a hole in the hull on a bigger boat is to press a flotation cushion over a hole in the hull to slow down leaking. Using the FD and some duct tape, and perhaps some additional pressure from a wooden jam, you might be able to seal a leak long enough to help.
Reflective Signal - All my FD's have reflective tape on the back or curved side. These adhesive-backed squares or tape strips are great for marking gear. I've used reflective tape, patches, even beads to mark equipment. Create your own patterns on the backside of the FD and face it in the direction of a strong, distant light source and it could make you easier to be spotted.
Fashion and style aren't a big part of my outdoor wardrobe so I personally don't think twice about NOT using an FD to keep my head dry - or shaded.
Emergency Visor or Rain Hat. Drilling a hole through opposite edges of the FD at its diameter and tying a retaining string to each edge produces a flattop rain roof for your head.
Changing Platform #1 - I can't count the times I've balanced on one foot while changing clothes outdoors. The ground's often too wet, dirty or cold so you imitate a flamingo while you change clothing or shoes. With the FD, you have a dry area to step onto while doing this common balancing act.
Changing Platform #2 - Although not a comfortable fit because of their generally small diameter, the FD can be used as dry seat when changing clothes. Sometimes parking even half a cheek on a dry surface can make all the comforting difference.
Hygiene Tray - This is basically an additional tray function. It's a handy carry-along tray for your toothpaste, brush and soap when its time for your daily or weekly camping hygiene routine. Make sure you rinse the FD well before using it again to slice tomatoes, especially if it was your soap dish the night before.
Two other emergency/survival tips that lend themselves to an FD are: 1) buy your FD in bright, easy-to-see colors. It them becomes a good signal-waving device; 2) safety/rescue tips such as which ground signal means what can be referenced in the field If you draw those signals onto gear with an indelible marker. The FD has plenty of space to write remindful hints and such.
The flying disc is a very versatile item as this partial lists demonstrates. They are still cheap enough - and often offered as promotional freebies - to have several as part of your outdoors gear inventory.
Mr. Morrison may not have gotten outdoors much or otherwise he might have retained ownership in that first Frisbee. But then again, he did offer the world the number one use of the multi-talented FD - one heck of a great way to have fun!
Tom Watson is an avid sea kayaker with 15 years experience in the North Pacific waters of Kodiak Island, Alaska. He is also a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in most of the popular kayaking publications. He is a frequent presenter at regional kayak symposia. Currently he is working on his third guidebook entitled "Think Like a Survivor" to be published by Created Publishing, International, for release in spring, 2005.