Surviving Fallout 4's post-nuclear wasteland has quite a few implications. Medical supplies, a trusty firearm or two, ammunition for said firearms, and - of course - a few good layers of armor to put between yourself and the various claws, energy blasts, bullets, and otherwise harmful objects that are looking to cut your adventure through the Commonwealth a little short.
Of course, the operative term here is "good." Not every scrap of armor is made equal in the apocalyptic ruins of post-war America. And with so many options, a little advice can go a long way when it comes to making a selection. To that end, here are five of the best sets of armor that caps can buy in Fallout 4, alongside five that should be avoided at all costs. As a note, this list refers exclusively to actual armor sets. Clothing modified with ballistic weave worn underneath is usually a given, and power armor is in a league of its own.
10 BEST: Operators Heavy Armor
It might not be the prettiest set of armor on this side of the wasteland, but it certainly gets the job done when less fashionable sets aren't immediately accessible. Providing an even split of high-grade protection from both ballistic and energy damage sources, you could do much worse.
The Operators set can be picked up in the Nuka-World DLC, either from vendors or Operators members that you've decided to take out. There are two stylistic variants that differ only in appearance, and while neither looks particularly fetching, it's nice to have the option.
9 WORST: Vault-Tec Security Armor
Vault-Tec security armor is hands down among the worst in the game, offering only the most minimal of protection. A bit ironic given Vault-Tec's status as an immensely advanced pre-war super corporation, but they had to cut costs somewhere.
The whole set is simply two pieces: A torso slot and helmet. The core "torso" bit takes up all body slots, meaning it can't be mixed with other armor pieces to offset its terrible damage resistance.
8 BEST: Combat Armor
Combat armor is the definitive "middle of the road" set that can be relied upon to consistently provide decent protection at almost any point in the game, so long as you swap out the pieces for their higher tiered variants as they become available.
The pieces are commonly found, and they provide sturdy protection from both ballistic and energy damage. The heavy variant of the torso slot kind of makes you look like a weird bipedal turtle, but there are worse things to look like when it comes to the Fallout universe.
7 WORST: Raider Armor
Unless you just really, really fancy the whole Mad Max aesthetic, there's no practical reason to waste any time with this pile of junk. It's consistently bad at every tier, offering terrible protection held in comparison to nearly anything besides DC Guard armor. Or going stark naked. Even then, the latter might be preferable.
If for any reason that fails to discourage procuring a set, it's not at all difficult to find. Raiders are plentiful, just gun a few down and lay claim to your less than glorious prizes.
6 BEST: Synth Armor
Synth armor, with its sleek, futuristic aesthetic, occupies the same middle ground as combat armor. But it manages to pull out just a bit ahead, offering slightly preferable protection from all sources.
If this wasn't obvious enough from the title and look of it, the armor can be obtained from synth soldiers. But for those that prefer spending their hard-earned caps over embarking on a robot murdering spree, setting up a fourth tier armor vendor in one of their settlements or paying a visit to The Institute's synth requisition officer will also suffice.
5 WORST: Metal Armor
Being perfectly honest, metal armor isn't entirely useless. It does provide strong ballistic defense at every tier, though it's ugly as sin and remarkably weighty for the defense that it offers. Its energy protection is also woefully lacking, so those taken with its limited charm might find encounters with robotic adversaries stinging a lot more than they should.
Metal armor is incredibly common, and cheap. Poking around practically anywhere armor is sold or trekking through the Commonwealth should yield a multitude of pieces in a single go, if not a full set.
4 BEST: Disciples Metal Armor
Peculiarly, the Disciples' metal armor doesn't share the same weakness to energy weapons that typical metal armor does. In fact, it has slightly better energy resistance than the other two raiders clan-specific armor sets introduced with the Nuka-World DLC, sacrificing very, very little in terms of ballistic defense in trade.
As it might be imagined, the Disciples Metal Armor is best pulled off of dead disciples, though it can also be purchased from Nuka-World vendors if one would rather avoid stepping on anyone's toes. But really, what fun is that?
3 WORST: Trapper Armor
Armor made from old tires and rebar? Well, why not? Trapper armor is the bigger, uglier, and clunkier version of raider armor introduced for the eponymous Trappers of Fallout 4's Far Harbor DLC.
While it's statistically better than raider armor, it's still fairly awful, with all things considered. The only redeeming quality is the fact that it weighs a bit less than a lot of the heavier armor options, but there are lighter bits of armor that offer much more in the way of defensive capability.
2 BEST: Marine Armor
Marine Armor is the absolute cream of the armored crop when it comes to providing protection of all kinds, barring power armor, naturally. Offering superior damage resistance from all sources as well as a bit of radiation resistance on top, this is the set to shoot for if you're after the best.
This one can be acquired in the Far Harbor DLC, with a full set provided by running through DiMA's Best Left Forgotten questline. It can also be purchased bit by bit from vendors in the Nucleus, or for the less scrupulous, taken off the corpses of Children of Atom zealots.
1 WORST: DC Guard Armor
The Commonwealth's "great green jewel," Diamond City, can be a little bit disappointing when stacked up against other bastions of civilization that exist within the Fallout universe. The ragtag militia defending it is equally disappointing, right down to their choice of defensive equipment.
Are there worse sets of armor? Yes, in the strictest sense, but not by much. Its defensive characteristics are poor all around, and the whole set lacks leg slots to boot. Outside of absolutely having to put together a scary wasteland umpire cosplay, this set is better left to the poor saps it's been issued to.