Introducing Virtual Rewards 4.0

Is there anything better than finding a well-crafted geocache? Perhaps the joy of creating one!

Geocaching HQ is pleased to announce Virtual Rewards 4.0, an opportunity to reward 4,000 lucky cache owners who create inspired and noteworthy geocaches!

Unlike prior Virtual Rewards, there’s no need to opt in or apply. Geocachers who meet the following criteria will automatically be eligible for selection on January 17, 2024.

How can I qualify for a chance to hide a Virtual Cache?

  • You must have a non-Event geocache published in 2023 that has earned at least 4 Favorite points by December 31, 2023.
  • You must have created your geocaching account before June 13, 2023.
  • Prior Virtual Reward recipients are eligible to participate.
  • Players who opted-in for Virtual Reward 2.0 and 3.0, but did not receive a Virtual Cache will have a higher likelihood to receive a Virtual Reward 4.0

How does the process work?

  • On January 17, 2024, Geocaching HQ will randomly select up to 4,000 eligible geocachers, with geographic distribution, to receive one Virtual Cache.
  • Recipients will have one year to create their Virtual Cache page and submit it for review (January 17, 2024–January 17, 2025). The caches must comply with Virtual Cache-specific guidelines.
  • All geocaching community volunteers (reviewers, moderators, and translators) who qualify will receive a Virtual Reward as thanks for giving their time to support the geocaching community.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why do I have to hide a geocache to qualify?
Adding new caches to the map is essential to the health of the game. It provides fresh content for experienced players who have often cached out the areas closest to them. And it offers quality content for new players who are still forming an impression of the game. Our goal is to reward those who are adding quality new caches to the gameboard.

When do I need to hide a geocache to qualify?
You must hide a non-Event geocache that is published by a geocaching community volunteer reviewer between January 1, 2023, and December 31, 2023. That same geocache must earn at least four Favorite points from the geocaching community before December 31, 2023. The publish date of a geocache is not the same as the placed date. You can find the date that your geocache was published by viewing your published caches, selecting a cache, and scrolling to the bottom of the page to view the Publish log on the cache. This is generally the first log.

Does this mean Virtuals are back permanently?
No. We hope to see 4,000 new Virtual Caches in 2024, but Virtuals will remain a legacy cache type.

Are Virtual Rewards distributed evenly among countries?
No. We use an algorithm to help distribute Virtuals, favoring countries newer to geocaching, which may not have many Virtuals, rather than basing it solely on land area or the number of active geocachers.

Could an account receive more than one Virtual Reward from Geocaching HQ?
Yes. Previous Virtual Reward recipients may receive a Virtual Reward 4.0. However, the likelihood of selection is lower than for geocachers who have never received a Virtual Reward.

How do I find out when new Virtual Rewards are published?
Premium members can set up Instant notifications to receive an email when new Virtual Rewards are published. All members can use filters to search for Virtual Caches worldwide.

Will there be more Virtual Rewards in the future?
We may consider a similar set of Virtuals in the future. As with prior Virtual Rewards, we would likely make changes to the criteria and selection process.

Combined with previous Virtual Reward launches, are there too many Virtual Caches now?
There are approximately 12,300 Virtual Caches worldwide, which is 0.4% of the world’s 3,371,000 active caches. Adding an additional 4,000 Virtual Caches will still only account for 0.5% of all active caches.

Why not make Virtual Caches available for everyone to hide?
Because today’s Virtual Caches are rare and generally well-liked, people often forget the problems that led to the Virtual becoming a legacy cache type in 2005.

The Virtual Cache type was initially created to place a cache where physical caches were not permitted or where too many muggles made a physical cache impractical. While the intent of this cache type was positive, it created significant problems for geocaching community volunteer reviewers and often led to poor cache quality. Some players 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, the subjectivity introduced to the review process became difficult for both reviewers and cachers. The decision was finally made for the Virtual to become a legacy cache type to avoid the issues above.

Virtual Rewards releases 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.

Adam is the Adventure Lab® Support Manager at Geocaching HQ. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, you can find him laying out for a catch in ultimate frisbee, playing the baritone sax, or lacing up his boots to cache on a PNW hike.