Preparing to level up you Rank
Assume a load-out more or less as you would for a normal campaign mission, but remember that dying in the Dark Zone will negatively impact your rank. If you normally play a DPS build you may want to put a little more in stamina than normal, or at the very least replace one of your offensive talents with a defensive one.
When selecting gear also note, that level progression requirements are substantially lower and Dark Zone enemies scale to your campaign level. Equipping Gear with Kill XP% makes a much more significant impact here. It's also worth making sure that everyone in your team is clear of the route you intend to take beforehand.
Selecting a route
There are thousands of options for a route through the Dark Zone, and which one is more effective depends on a range of factors, including the strength of your squad and the number of other players in the zone. If you're too quick, or there are too many other groups, then enemies and loot may not have re-spawned when you arrive at a location.
While we can't give you a “this works every time” route here are a couple of our favourites:
Low level: If your campaign level is lower than around 20, enter the Dark Zone at the junction of Park Ave and 30th St. Clear out the Library, then head west to the Sports Store for a fight against several Elites. You're now right next to an Extraction Point, so unburden yourself before heading south to the Blockade where you'll encounter more Elites and a Named Elite. Now go east to the Construction Site and deal with another encounter. From here you can head south-east to an Extraction Point if you need it, or north back to the Library to begin your circuit again.
High level: This route is not suitable for beginners, but if you've got some Dark Zone experience under your belt (and certainly if you've hit end-game in the campaign) this route should - timing allowing- provide you with a steady stream of loot and big enemies. It takes in a few set locations, and the path between points of interest should have plenty of bands of wandering enemies too.
Enter the Dark Zone from the corner of 31st and 6th, and then head for the Extraction Point. At this level, it should at least contain a few Elites, and maybe even a boss. Head east and deal with the enemies at the Basketball Court, then head down into the Subway where the enemies you find will always include a boss.
From there, head up and towards the Sports Centre (depending on how quick you've been, the Basketball Court may or may not provide another fight) where you'll find another Boss. Next, aim for the nearby Extraction Point. Once your loot is safely away, head for the corner of 6th and 38th and head west (pop into the safehouse to resupply if needed) then south on Madison Avenue to 31st, then west to your original entry point.