A gate camp or gatecamp occurs when pilots gather to stay at or near ("camp") a gate, in the hope that potential targets will jump in through the gate and be unable to escape. Gatecamps vary in scale from a handful of pilots to relatively large fleets, and in duration from a minute's pause during a small gang roam to rolling, multi-day, cross-timezone lockdowns imposed by large nullsec alliances for strategic reasons.
The exact mechanics and tactics involved in gatecamping depend on whether the camp is in highsec, lowsec, or nullsec. Wormholes can also be camped using techniques similar to those used for nullsec gates.
Though gate camps are often experienced by newer players as a sudden and unavoidable doom, there are ships, techniques, and intel tools which make contact between a prepared gate camp and a prepared traveller a relatively even contest.
Groups gate camp for a variety of reasons.
A group being attacked in their own space by a roaming PvP pilot or gang might form a gate camp specifically to block or catch their attackers. Or a group might camp simply to generate Content for pilots with nothing better to do.
Some players gate camp as a profession, to earn money. Given the risks involved, this must be done with care, weighing up how to achieve the most cost-effective ship and fit choices.
In player warfare, groups camp gates for strategic reasons: to close off access to a region to the enemy, for instance, or to plug a wormhole so that its defenders cannot bring in more pilots.
Mechanics and techniques
When a ship jumps through a gate, it spawns at a randomly selected spot 12 km from the edge (not centre) of the gate model. It has 60 seconds of gate cloak and invulnerability.
Gate models vary in size. Someone coming through a Minmatar border gate could spawn at roughly 50 km from a ship sitting at 0 on the gate itself. This means that some gates are harder to camp than others.
To defeat a gate camp, the ship must either warp off, or return to the gate and jump back through to the other side ("crash" the gate).
To enter warp, the ship must point itself towards its warp destination and accelerate to 75% of its maximum speed before the camp can apply warp disruption to it.
To prevent this, you can use ships with range bonuses to their tackle modules, such as interceptors or the Keres, and ships with local or remote sensor boosting to increase their scan resolution, reducing target locking time. Additionally, in nullsec, wormholes, and Pochven, the gate can be bubbled with a warp disruption field from an interdictor, a HIC, or an anchored bubble, and any ship which spawns within the bubble(s) will be unable to warp off unless it is interdiction-nullified.
Fast ships might be able to outpace their attackers, move beyond warp disruption range, and leave. Camps therefore often try to web such targets. To do this you can use ships with web range bonuses such as the Hyena, Cruor or Rapier, and/or ships with web strength bonuses such as the Daredevil or Vigilant.
Ships with micro-jump modules fitted—potentially command destroyers, deep space transports, and T1/T2 battlecruiser and battleship hulls—can also micro-jump out of a bubble or away from warp disruption; they cannot micro-jump if they are warp-scrambled. Campers therefore often try to warp-scramble such targets.
To crash gate, the camped ship must travel 12 km back to the gate model without dying from the gate camp's fire. It can use defensive, tanking modules to do this, such as shield boosters or armour repairers, and it can use propulsion equipment to speed itself up, such as afterburners and MWDs. It should not do anything which would give it a weapon timer, as a ship with a weapon timer cannot jump through a gate. This means that it cannot use EWAR including ECM bursts, EWAR drones (or any other kind of drone), or any weapons. It also means that ships fitted with command bursts cannot use them in this situation, even if doing so would help their tank, because firing command bursts gives a ship a weapon timer.
To prevent ships from crashing gate, campers can use warp-scrambling to shut down MWDs, webs to slow the ship's speed, energy neutralizers to shut down any active tank, and fast-applying burst DPS or alpha-strike damage to kill their target quickly. You can also use a command destroyer to "boosh" a target 100 km off the gate, which stops them from crashing.
Crashing gate is a good tactic for a ship that has jumped from highsec into a gate camp, or from high- or lowsec into a nullsec bubble camp, as the other side of the gate is relatively safer. It also works if the whole camp actively attacks the target ship on the side where that ship crashes, giving themselves weapon timers and preventing themselves from following through the gate. Crashing gate is less likely to succeed if the camping gang can split across both sides of the gate.
A ship which breaks its gate cloak and then activates a fitted cloak will appear briefly on the campers' overviews, and then disappear again.
A ship which can warp cloaked, using a Covert Ops cloak, such as a covert ops frigate or a force recon cruiser, can then warp off while cloaked. If in a bubble, such a ship can slowboat to the edge of the bubble, and then warp off. If the ship also has an Interdiction Nullifier, the pilot should pause to plan and then, as fast as possible:
- Break cloak by aligning
- Start the nullifier
- Cloak up
Matters are more complicated for a ship which cannot warp cloak but has a prototype cloak fitted. Slow ships with a prototype cloak and an MWD can use the cloak trick to cloak up, pre-align, uncloak and warp off—provided they are not in a bubble. In a bubble, they must then very slowly edge out beyond the bubble without coming within 2500 m of anything else, then break cloak and warp off.
To counter ships which cloak but must then stay on grid before warping off, a camp can use one or more designated "decloaker" ships. These should be fast-moving, fast-locking ships with long tackle ranges; fleet interceptors are ideal. The decloaker should sit at 0 on the gate, with its MWD cycling. When a ship breaks its gate cloak, the decloaker should Approach the target. When the target cloaks, the decloaker should set their own ship's speed to maximum; this drives the decloaker straight towards the cloaked ship's last position. Assigning drones to the decloaker gives it more objects with which to break the target's cloak.
Smartbombs are short-range area-of-effect weapons centred on the ship that fires them. Smartbombs let a camp side-step the problem of having to target-lock and tackle small, fast-aligning ships: if large ships can cover the spawn area of a gate with smartbomb fire, they will stand a good chance of killing everything small that comes through.
Smartbombs can technically be activated in high sec space, but they are very likely to hit innocent bystanders and get the user CONCORDed, so they are not usually used there. To be effective, a smartbombing camp usually needs to use larger, slower ships, ideally battleships, and therefore must stake more ISK on the field with less chance of an easy escape if the camp is attacked.
Camps by type of space
Since attacking others in highsec space brings down the inevitably lethal wrath of CONCORD, gate camps in high sec space are typically used to try to catch targets in inter-alliance wars, or by suicide gankers who accept the loss of their ships in order to destroy high-value prey.
With no bubbles and with smartbombs rendered impractical by CONCORD, high sec campers must use fast-locking ships and highly-effective tackle. Suicide gankers must use high alpha damage.
Camping in lowsec is in some ways more challenging than camping in nullsec, because gate guns present a danger to small camping ships, and bubbles cannot be used. Campers who have numbers can use small ships such as the Keres backed up by logistics support to keep them alive under gate gun fire. Campers who do not have many players can use ships such as the Gnosis, which is relatively large and tough but can be fitted to lock fast, and/or smartbombs.
Gate guns lose interest in someone once they warp, even if they warp within the same grid. A lowsec camp often, therefore, "resets" the gate guns after a kill by warping to tactical bookmarks on the grid, and then warping back down to the gate.
Nullsec and Pochven
With the added option of bubbles and no gate guns, camping in nullsec is in some ways easier, and campers can use the full range of PvP tools to catch targets.
Pochven's geography lends itself especially well to gatecamps, as the region is arranged in a triangle of linear pipes, with most systems having only two gates. To some extent, this friendliness to camping is balanced out by the ease of Pochven entry and exit via filaments and wormholes.
Wormholes can be camped like any other chokepoint, using the full set of nullsec tools. Wormholes ignore weapon timers and instead limit player jumps via polarization. Wormholes which are likely to draw high traffic, e.g. wormholes which lead to highsec systems near Jita, are particularly often camped.
If you want to be sure to avoid gatecamps, ensure your journey is scouted by someone else or by an alt. Outside of high sec, where camps are obscured by general traffic, sensible scouting more-or-less guarantees that you won't unknowingly toss your main ship into a camp. This is the single best method to avoid gatecamp problems.
Remember that "Only fly what you can afford to lose" applies to cargo as well as your ship! If you're about to transport valuable cargo in an unsafe way, stop and consider your options. Perhaps your corp's hauling service or a commercial operation such as PushX or Red Frog can move it for you more safely; perhaps you can break it up into cheaper loads to spread the risk; perhaps you can pick a better ship.
Many chokepoints in EVE's geography are fairly obvious if you look at a map, and you can forewarn yourself simply by looking at the shape of the gate network. If there is a clear chokepoint, then people are more likely to camp there than elsewhere. Chokepoints at the entrance to lowsec shortcuts or to nullsec are especially popular camping locations. Similarly, if you plan to take the Thera entrance hole nearest to Jita, you should immediately ask yourself whether it is likely to be camped.
Near-up-to-date data can add another useful layer. Dotlan can show you recent figures for ship and pod kills in a system. If you see a chokepoint system with high ship kills, there's a decent chance of a gatecamp there. Manually checking a system on zKillboard will give you even more up-to-date information.
The third-party Gatecamp Check tool can automate some of this intel-gathering work. This tool will scout your route using zKillboard and try to identify any camps along the route, colouring the camped systems in red. If smartbombs, interdictors or HICs are present on the kill reports for the camp it will post a large warning for that system. Since this website pulls from zKillboard, it can be delayed for 15–30 minutes in reporting a new camp. If you are camping and you want to avoid intel detection, this gives you a rough idea of how often you might want to consider shifting position!
Many ships can break through a small camp if fitted and flown well. A few ships are challenging for even a large, well-set-up camp.
- Shuttles have built-in interdiction nullification and can align in less than 2 seconds with good Navigation skills. They are functionally immune to any gate camp that doesn't use smartbombs, but extremely vulnerable to smartbombs.
- Fleet interceptors can fit interdiction nullifiers, a basic tank, and enough agility modules to align in less than 2 seconds.
- Blockade runners can warp cloaked and fit interdiction nullifiers.
- Deep space transports can fit interdiction nullifiers and micro jump drives. They also get big bonuses to the effects of overheating propulsion modules and tank modules, letting them shrug off lots of damage and flee out of bubbles or crash gate quickly.
- Jump freighters can ignore the gate network and teleport themselves around the galaxy—but they require ISK, SP, and substantial intel and infrastructure support.
Fast alignment is very handy for escaping camps that do not use bubbles. In fitting for alignment times, remember that alignment times only matter at the game's "tick rate", the 1-second communication between client and server: a ship with a 2.01-second alignment time and a ship with a 2.99-second alignment time will both functionally align in 3 seconds.
High speed is useful for burning out of bubbles. Microwarpdrives are excellent for this unless or until you get warp-scrambled. Oversized afterburners are good for this and are immune to warp scrambling, but take a little while to get up to speed and don't corner well.
A prototype cloak and an MWD will let a slow ship perform the cloak trick.
Warp stabilizers will let a ship shrug off some types of tackle, but do not nullify the effects of bubbles. Interdiction nullifiers nullify the effects of bubbles but do nothing about tackle from ships that have locked onto you.
A strong buffer or burst-active tank is useful if you want to crash gate.