Get ready for Virtual Rewards 3.0!

2022 is the Year of the Hide. As part of this, Geocaching HQ is thrilled to reward cache owners who have given so much to the game with Virtual Rewards 3.0, a limited number of Virtual Caches for the geocaching community.

An opt-in web page is now available for cachers to apply for a Virtual Reward. The page is open until February 26, 2022.

  • Approximately 50,000 geocachers around the world meet the criteria to apply for a Virtual Reward.
  • Those who previously received a Virtual Reward are not eligible to participate in Virtual Rewards 3.0.
  • From all applicants, Geocaching HQ will randomly select up to 4,000 geocachers (with geographic distribution) on March 1, 2022 to receive one Virtual Cache.
  • Approximately 30 new community volunteers are receiving a Virtual Reward, as a thanks for giving their time to support the geocaching community.
  • Winners will have one year to create their Virtual Cache. The caches must comply with specific guidelines.

The first two rounds of Virtual Rewards have resulted in more than 6,200 new Virtual Caches caches created between August 2017 and December 2021. Those new caches are very popular by several measures, including total Favorite points, Favorite point percentage, log length, and find frequency. In addition, the review process has not created any undue burden on community volunteer reviewers.

One of the most exciting aspects of the new Virtuals is that they are now located in a wider range of countries. Prior to Virtual Rewards, most Virtual Caches were in the United States. In fact, 81% of old Virtual Caches (placed prior to 2006) are in the United States. With the launch of Virtual Rewards 1.0 and 2.0, only 15% of the new Virtuals are in the United States and Virtuals now exist in 155 countries. See the following pie charts for the differences.

Global distribution of Virtual Caches before Virtual Rewards:

Global distribution of Virtual Rewards Caches 1.0 and 2.0:

Here are answers to common questions:

Does this mean Virtuals are back for good?
Not exactly. Yes, we’re hoping to see up to 4,000 new Virtual Caches in the next year. But we want to make it clear that Virtuals remain a legacy cache type.

Are Virtual Rewards distributed evenly among countries?
No. Countries vary in land area and the number of active geocachers. We use an algorithm to help distribute Virtuals among countries, while favoring countries still growing in geocaching. We set the qualifying criteria for cache hiders as low as possible, in order to achieve better geographic distribution. The approximately 50,000 cache hiders who meet the Virtual Reward 3.0 criteria represent 88 countries. During the 2019 launch, they were from 89 countries, a significant increase from 63 countries during the 2017 launch.

Can I apply with more than one account that I own?
If you own more than one Geocaching account, please apply only with one account. If we discover abuse, we reserve the right to remove a Virtual Reward.

Could an account receive more than one Virtual Reward from Geocaching HQ?
No, Geocaching HQ will not be providing an account more than one Virtual Reward, from the 2017, 2019, or 2022 launches.

How do I find out when new Virtual Rewards are published?
Premium members can set up Instant notifications to be aware when new Virtual Rewards are published. All members can use filters to conduct a worldwide search for Virtuals.

Will there be more Virtual Rewards in the future?
Assuming Virtual Rewards 3.0 goes smoothly, we will consider launching a similar set of Virtuals in the future. We would likely continue to make adjustments to the selection process to encourage new participants.

Combined with previous Virtual Reward launches, are there too many Virtual Caches now?
There are currently around 10,600 Virtual Caches, which is 0.3% of the world’s 3,326,000 active caches. Even if this new launch adds 4,000 new Virtual Caches, they will still only account for 0.4% of all active caches.

Why not just make Virtual Caches available for everyone to hide?
Because today’s Virtual Caches are rare, and because the remaining Virtuals tend to be well-liked, people often forget (or maybe never knew) that many problems led to the Virtual becoming a legacy cache type in 2005.

The Virtual Cache type was originally created so people could place hides where physical caches were not permitted, or where muggles were so heavy that a physical cache was not practical. While the intent of this cache type was positive, it created significant problems for reviewers and often led to poor cache quality. Some people used Virtual Caches as a shortcut to create basic caches that did not require maintenance. Guidelines were eventually updated to require Virtuals to have special qualities to set them apart from other caches. However, that introduced so much subjectivity that the review process became difficult for both reviewers and cachers. The decision was finally made for the Virtual to become a legacy cache type and no longer permit them unless we could find a way to avoid the aforementioned issues.

We feel that these limited Virtual Rewards release have helped to minimize the previous problems with Virtuals, while delivering more opportunities for the community to enjoy this beloved cache type. Most importantly, it’s a fun reward for cache owners who have contributed so much to the game.

Hopelessly addicted cacher and Geocaching HQ's public relations manager.