A good defense is all it takes to win a battle, and this is no different in Skyrim. Throughout your adventures across the province of Skyrim, you'll encounter a number of threats that could spell disaster to you if you walk in ill-prepared. The right armor will serve you well, but with so many different kinds available, it can get a bit overwhelming.
Generally, you'll want to specialize in either heavy or light armor, and from there on you have a few good options - but also a few terrible ones we really recommend not wasting your time on, unless you're in a pinch. Let's have a look at the five best and five worst armor sets in Skyrim's base game.
10 Best: Ebony Armor
Once you hit level 32, you'll start to find this precursor of the Daedric armor in various locations. The Ebony armor looks a bit similar to the Daedric armor, which is no surprise as it uses ebony as an ingredient just like the Daedric one.
This set of armor is the third strongest in the game, available only as a heavy. To craft a set of your own, you'll need level 60 Smithing and the Ebony perk, as well as an ample reserve of Ebony ingots. You can purchase these ingots from the blacksmith once you hit level 27 or find them at Gloombound Mine and Redbelly Mine.
9 Worst: Imperial Armor
As you begin your journey in Skyrim, early on you're presented with the choice of following a Stormcloak sympathizer or an Imperial legionnaire. If you choose the latter, you'll have early access to the basic armor of the Imperial legion.
It's among the weakest heavy armors and can be crafted as soon as level 20 of Smithing is reached with Steel. The only noteworthy aspect of this set of armor is the fact that it has three different helmet variants to choose from.
8 Best: Ancient Shrouded Armor
This list wouldn't be completed without a special mention of a unique armor or two. While the Shrouded Armor is generally not the best in the game, there's one special set out there that makes the cut.
The Ancient Shrouded Armor is the strongest version of the Dark Brotherhood armor you can find, with a poison resistance of a 100%. To snatch it, Olava the Feeble will give you a quest that will send you searching for an Assassin of Old in Hag's End.
7 Worst: Iron Armor
Similar to the Imperial armor in armor rating, Iron armor will be available early on in the game and will continue to appear as loot throughout your adventures. It's also the most accessible to craft as it requires no previous levels or perks in Smithing. There are two variants of the iron armor: A banded one that is slightly better and an ancient one often found in tombs and dungeons.
It's a solid starting pick for any heavy armor wearers, but should be ditched as soon as something better comes along.
6 Best: Dragonscale Armor
Much like the Dragonplate armor, the Dragonscale armor requires specific perks after Smithing 100 has been reached. The raw materials are a bit different, however, as this time you'll need Dragon Scales instead of the bones.
Still, this shouldn't be too hard to farm in the long run. It's the highest-rated light armor, with glass armor following shortly behind. Although the Dragonscale armor is heavier, its superior rating will still win a place on this list over any glass armor.
5 Worst: Fur Armor
Considered among the weakest pieces in the game, Fur armor is unique in the sense that it can't be crafted. It will still be widely available in any bandit hideouts, especially at the beginning of the game, and is an okay starting set up for someone looking to build a light armor character.
The armor has a few different variations in appearance and it can be upgraded with leather strips, although you'll be better off using your time and resources upgrading better armor than this.
4 Best: Dragonplate Armor
Considered the second sturdiest armor in the entire game, the Dragonplate Armor is a heavy armor set you can either find as loot after level 40 or by crafting one yourself with the Smithing skill of 100.
You'll also need the Dragon Armor perk from the skill tree to be able to craft these armor pieces. While it might be hard to grind to this level, by the time you actually get there you should have plenty of raw materials stored from all the dragon attacks you'll have endured.
3 Worst: Hide Armor
Even worse than the Fur armor, the Hide armor is equally as common among bandits and even in random loot all across Skyrim, especially at the start of your adventure. The Hide armor can be crafted using leather strips without any Smithing knowledge or perks, although it makes little sense to waste your resources since it's so widely available.
If you're really desperate for one for some reason, you can even purchase a set at most blacksmiths, but we advise you to save your coin for better items.
2 Best: Daedric Armor
Daedric armor is officially the best armor in the game with the sheer damage it's able to soak up. The Daedric armor only comes in the heavy armor kind and weighs more than the Dragonplate one.
Not just that, it's hard to get your hands on it, appearing in loot only after level 49. To craft it yourself you'll need Daedra hearts and a Smithing level 60, making it quite a difficult one to acquire in terms of raw materials.
1 Worst: Stormcloak Armor
The Stormcloak armor is another light armor that unfortunately deserves a place among the worst armors. Despite the symbolism that it carries, it remains a terrible armor and is also quite commonly available across Skyrim.
Of course, if you join the Stormcloaks you'll get your own set for free, and will probably immediately notice its striking similarity to the armor that most hold guards wear. Pass up on this one, and grind for something more powerful, such as Glass armor.