This disc is accessible for any skill level, easy to throw, durable, and comfortable.
The Discraft UltraStar isn’t sparkly or decked out with wild colors or lights. In fact, of the 11 discs we tested, the UltraStar was one of the simplest—but that’s part of its appeal. It’s a USA Ultimate–certified disc that comes in a variety of basic colors. At 175 grams, the UltraStar is lighter than most of the other discs we tested and allows for easy throwing and catching. In our tests, amateurs loved this disc as much as the pros did, ranking it above all the other models in the group, saying it had a consistent flight and a nice rim for easy handling. The Discraft also withstood heat, cold, rain, mud, dog chewing, and weight better than most of its rivals, performing exactly the same in the air before and after durability testing.
The Pulsar is a durable backup option for a solid price.
If the UltraStar is sold out or unavailable, we recommend the Innova Pulsar as a great second option. In fact, most of our amateur testers couldn’t tell the difference between the two discs at all. Also 175 grams and a certified USA Ultimate disc, the Pulsar has similar contouring to the UltraStar. It’s impressively stable, and the plastic felt slightly softer than that of most other discs we tested. The Pulsar held up well during durability testing, although the softer plastic meant it was more susceptible to dents and dog chewing. The only limiting factors to this disc are the thicker rim, which can feel awkward for throwing if you have smaller hands, and the fact that the Innova requires more power to throw far than the Discraft, but both drawbacks went barely noticed by anyone other than our professional testers.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $27.
This nontraditional disc easily flies hundreds of feet.
The Aerobie Pro is a different kind of flying disc altogether: Made of flexible plastic, it measures 2 inches wider than its competitors and has an open center. A soft rubber rim makes the Aerobie Pro easy to throw and catch, and it’s an appropriate option for children and dogs. Most impressively, this disc requires virtually no skill to enjoy—both our pro and amateur testers easily threw this disc 200-plus feet. While all of our testers loved how different this disc was, two things were clear: Throwing the Pro is unpredictable, which can make it hard to catch, and you’ll need a lot of room to play with this thing.
The Nite Ize Flashflight LED Light Up Flying Disc is almost double the cost of the other discs we tested, but it comes decked out with LED lights for nighttime play, and we love it. This middleweight disc (185 grams) got the highest overall enjoyment score from our amateur testers, wooing them with its ability to balance out midflight and surviving durability testing like a pro. Despite being dunked in water, run through the dishwasher, and tossed in the freezer, the LED lights (which run on 3-volt lithium batteries) kept on shining for more than 24 hours, too.
Why you should trust us
I interviewed several prominent flying-disc experts about the features of good discs, why Frisbee is such a beloved sport, and how I should engineer my tests.
Those interviews included a conversation with Steve Teer, a national disc-dog champion who has spent almost 20 years competing in disc-dog sports. “I have won numerous tournaments and titles and even qualified for 12 World Championships with four different dogs,” Teer said. “But that pales in comparison to the friendships and journeys that my pups have taken me on. I used to be pretty shy and now I thrive on performing for thousands of people.”
I also spoke with Johnny Dwork, a well-known national freestyle flying-disc champion who majored in flying-disc entertainment during college. “I had learning challenges as a child, but that came to an end as I transformed myself into a teenage world champion athlete,” Dwork wrote in an email. “[Frisbee] inspired me to become disciplined, professional and highly creative… so it’s fair to say that Frisbee changed everything for me.”
I learned the ins and outs of college ultimate competition from Monisha White, a member of the 2016 Ultimate Championship–winning Stanford Women’s Ultimate team, Superfly. I also spoke with Claire Revere, captain of the championship-winning Whitman College Women’s Ultimate Team (the Sweets) and a member of the USA Ultimate Flight test pool. Both women explained that ultimate is a self-officiated sport, meaning that the athletes themselves serve as referees during their own games, calling fouls and violations, and contesting calls. “For this system to function, players are required to compete with a high level of integrity,” Revere said.
As for me, I’m a journalist with degrees in psychology and science reporting who has written about a number of outdoors, food, and healthcare topics over the years. While I’m not a flying-disc professional by any means, I’ve been playing Frisbee recreationally for most of my life.
Who should get this
Flying discs likely got their start at Yale University almost 100 years ago, where legend has it that students played catch with pie plates from the local Frisbie Pie Company. According to an article in Time, the students used to yell “Frisbie!” as they played to warn people of incoming discs, and the name stuck. In the late 1940s, several entrepreneurs started selling these pie tins on the beach and in parks, and the toy slowly caught on. Then, in 1957, Wham-O bought rights to the Frisbee—both the name and the toy itself—and started engineering a durable, plastic version of the pie pan. The company would eventually go on to sell millions of discs, popularizing the game among many Americans who had never heard of it before. Remarkably, the flying disc is still one of America’s most popular toys: The CDC reports that in the US, more flying discs are sold each year than baseballs, basketballs, and footballs combined.
We learned from experts and our readers that people buy discs for many different purposes: for ultimate games, disc golf, disc-dog sports, children’s games, recreation at the beach, and more. But within each of those categories, the list of criteria for what makes a “good” disc varies widely, so we focused on finding the most foolproof and fun flying disc for nonprofessional adult players.
If you’re an ultimate player, you probably already have a favorite disc—and in my interviews, I quickly discovered that this question has an interesting back story. Up until the 1980s, Wham-O discs reigned supreme for most American ultimate players. In fact, the Wham-O “80 mold” Frisbee, which was lighter than today’s discs and made of soft plastic, was the official disc of USA Ultimate for years. But then something changed: In the late 1980s Wham-O decided to keep costs down by altering the chemical composition of the plastics in its discs. This change made the discs more rigid and less popular, allowing competitors (such as Discraft and Innova) to sneak onto the scene. In 1999, ultimate leaders staged a vote over which disc should be the official disc of the ultimate competition community. In a close, seven-to-six vote, the Discraft UltraStar beat out the Wham-O “80 mold,” officially pushing Discraft into the ultimate spotlight.
(As long as we’re talking corporate maneuvers, you should also know that the term “Frisbee” is trademarked by Wham-O, and the company is sensitive about it. That’s why we use the generic term “flying disc” whenever we can in this guide, even though most folks—okay, just about everyone—would call the thing we’re talking about a “Frisbee.”)
For this guide, there’s not much to be said about which ultimate discs are the best. USA Ultimate regulators have already done the work in picking their best discs for the game: Several discs meet USAU championship-play standards, including the Daredevil Gamedisc, the Discraft UltraStar, and the Innova Pulsar. (The Wham-O disc dropped off that list a few years ago.) As such, we decided to knock ultimate off our criteria list to narrow down the field. Some ultimate-certified discs are popular with both amateurs and pros, though, so we kept those overlaps in our testing pool.
If you play disc golf, you need different discs for different shots (putters, maximum-distance drivers, control drivers, and more), just as you would in a standard golf game. In general, disc-golf players tend to use smaller and denser discs that increase or decrease stability and distance, too. But experts warned us that you should avoid these discs if you’re just looking to play a nice game of Frisbee in the park with friends, so we knocked those off our list, as well.
Similarly, if you want to play disc-dog sports with a four-legged friend, you’re likely looking for a slow-flying disc that’s made of more pliable material to prevent injury and resist your dog’s bite. Most disc-dog discs are lighter than sport discs, too—so again, if you’re looking for a flying disc to take to the beach or the park, you won’t want one of these. Off the list they went.
If you’re looking for a disc for children to enjoy, you probably want something that’s softer and more pliable to prevent injury. Kids discs also tend to be smaller and built to travel shorter distances, which can be less fun for adult players. Although kid-friendly discs aren’t the best fit for an adult-focused recreational flying disc, we do comment on them a bit in this guide.
How we picked
I started this guide by talking to our experts about the criteria for a “good recreational disc.” Based on their feedback, we decided that our winning disc needed to be easy to use for adults of any experience level, stable in the air, durable over a long period of time, and comfortable in the hand.
Look out for “taco-ing,” which is what happens when a disc is unstable and starts to shake in the air.
“Some factors that I consider when picking a disc are the weight, feel or grip, responsiveness or control, and durability,” Whitman College’s Claire Revere explained. “When I say ‘feel’ I am referring to the comfort of gripping, throwing, and catching the disc: How does it feel in a forehand grip? A backhand? Is the rim boxy or rounded? Does the plastic feel too pliable or firm?” Revere continued, “Responsiveness and control means looking at how well the disc responds to adjustments in my throws. Does it maintain the edge I throw it with, flatten out, turn into a blade, or tail in a different direction? And the last criteria I consider is the durability, or lifespan, of the disc. I’m looking for a disc that doesn’t crack easily and won’t warp in hot or cold conditions.”
Freestyle flying-disc champion Johnny Dwork suggested keeping an eye out for disc stability, too. “For general play I suggest that the number one goal is to find a disc that is stable during flight and feels comfortable in the hand,” he said.
Our experts also gave me a crash course in red flags: They warned that cheap discs would curve off course when thrown, and might also have sharp edges that hurt your hand when you catch them. They recommended staying away from soft discs that get floppy in the heat, which can be a sign of too-squishy plastic. Discs that crack easily with rough play are another sign of cheap materials. And I needed to look out for “taco-ing,” which is what happens when a disc is unstable and starts to shake in the air.