As a very lazy man, the prospect of lugging around 40+ pounds of metal at all times is exhausting enough to carry through the computer screen and ruin my day. It’s tempting at times to go for full immersion and just wear clothes, but clothing has the unfortunate property of being easy to stab. Light armor, therefore, is your happy medium — the “Goldilocks Zone.”
Apologies to all plate armor enthusiasts out there (who I’m fairly sure could beat me up pretty easily with those steel gauntlets), but no matter your intentions when starting a playthrough of Skyrim, nine times out of ten, you wind up eventually going the light armor route.
Now that I have converted all of you to the path of light armor, it’s only fair that I give y’all a guide to what light armor you should wear. God forbid we leave you looking like a nameless bandit that can get murdered by a mudcrab. Top 10 guide peeps, here we go!
The Best Light Armor Sets in Skyrim
What is the best light armor in Skyrim? Read on to find out!
10. Leather Armor
Ol’ reliable! Let’s be frank here — if you don’t know what armor to wear at the start of literally any game you play, just throw on anything called “leather armor.” It’s protective, sleek, lightweight, and plentiful.
Leather armor has the best stats of any starting light armor, to the extent where you wonder why the Empire and the Stormcloaks insist on making their own crappy rags instead of just wearing this stuff. Ah well, it just makes them easier for you to kill in the civil war.
When you start the game, this should be the armor you throw on immediately. The second you get to Riverwood, you can make yourself a set at Alvor’s forge, no Smithing skill at all required. Seriously, it’s like the Imperials are trying to be more killable.
The only real fault with leather armor is that it’s basically tailor-made for early game. It doesn’t have anything fancy about it, and it doesn’t take long to find something better. Even so, you gotta appreciate that it’s always there for you.
9. Dawnguard Armor
Despite its low place on this list, Dawnguard is still among the Skyrim best light armor sets, particularly when it comes to aesthetics. In addition to being one of the only armor sets in the entire game that comes in multiple colors/designs, Dawnguard armor is perfect for almost any early-game playstyle. Its appearance is heavy enough that it actually looks practical for protection, but not gaudy enough that wearing it in a tavern won’t make you look like you’re overcompensating for anything.
If you’re looking for a more pragmatic reason to pick out this set of armor, I’ve got you covered: it’s super easy to get, and its armor stats hold up.
In terms of raw protection, Dawnguard armor’s base stats outclass most of the other light armor you can get your hands on in early levels, even outperforming the Vampire armor (take that, bloodsuckers). With a base armor rating of 29, it performs at the level of Elven armor.
That said, it firmly outperforms Elven armor when it comes to reliability. Unlike the more or less luck-based search for most armor across loot chests and merchants, Dawnguard armor can always be obtained by completing the first three quests of the Dawnguard questline. Although you need to be a minimum of Level 10 to start the Dawnguard questline, this still makes it organically obtainable before Elven armor, which only starts to appear at Level 12.
8. Thieves Guild Armor
Thieves Guild armor combines the best bits of Leather and Dawnguard armor — you can get it almost immediately, and you can get it reliably. And it comes with bonuses!
Aesthetically, I always have mixed feelings about this armor. Granted, the design is incredibly cool and detailed, but it definitely just looks like clothes. It would look a lot more natural in a steampunk “London by Gaslight” setting than a fantasy world, which is a bit immersion-breaking.
That said, it still protects at least as well as Dawnguard armor and has some awesome built-in enchantments, with the full set granting you bonuses to carrying capacity, lock picking, pickpocket, and prices. On top of that, you get a chance to upgrade one piece of the equipment, improving its armor rating and its corresponding enchantment.
Getting this armor is also almost always the first thing I do when I first get to Whiterun, meaning it’s among the Skyrim best early game light armor you can find. You can immediately hop on the carriage out front, pay a measly twenty gold to get to Riften, use Persuasion on the guards out front, track down Brynjolf, do a ridiculously easy quest, and get to the Ragged Flagon. Boom. Free armor. As an added bonus, the insane man living in the sewers who tried to fistfight with you has the unique “Gloves of the Puglist,” which give you bonus unarmed damage!
7. Elven Gilded Armor
I’ll be frank here — this armor’s appearance is not for everyone. Myself included, honestly. I appreciate how creative its design is, but something about shiny gold armor that’s somehow light and feathery in the middle of a filthy, sad medieval town feels… like you’d stand out, a lot.
Aesthetic concerns out of the way, this armor is probably the strongest light armor you can get in your first few hours of playing. Its base armor rating of 35 is only exceeded by top-tier gear and unique items, and you can definitely get ahold of Elven Gilded armor well before the rest of them.
The ease of obtaining it, though, is a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you only need 30 Smithing to build it, which is achievable through trainers and iron dagger grinding. On the other, if you don’t intend to pursue Smithing, you’re more or less wasting perks for a single set of armor, and those points may have served better in skill trees for your actual playstyle.
Basically, you don’t get this one for free. It’s up to you whether the cost is worth it. I don’t personally take it, but if you’re on a quest to always have the best armor possible, then this is gonna be on your path.
6. Glass Armor
This might simultaneously be my favorite and my least favorite of the best light armor sets in Skyrim.
On the one hand, it looks incredible. Call it “glass” all you want, but we’re talking about an entire suit of armor made of gems. The colors and patterns they chose for this armor are absolutely perfect, and the Glass Sword is my favorite looking sword in the entire game. On top of that, it has fantastic stats. Among craftable light armor, it’s only second to Dragonscale armor, and considering you need 30 additional points in Smithing to unlock Dragonscale, it’s arguably a lot more economical.
So, what’s the problem? Well, Glass armor always seems to sit in this unfortunate limbo for equipment — it’s unlocked late enough in the game that most players would have access to superior items. It takes some deliberate planning to structure your playthrough in a way that makes the gear preferable to whatever else you have access to.
Still, when thinking in raw terms of what the best light armors are, Glass is amazing.
5. Ancient Shrouded Armor
Here’s where we start jumping into the more unique options among the best light armor sets in Skyrim. You’ve played your way through the leather starter, maybe hooked up with the Thieves Guild, maybe even managed to make Glass armor. Power to you. But now’s the time to go for some fancy stuff.
I had a hard time deciding between this set and the Blackguard armor. Personally, I usually favor the Thieves Guild aspect of sneakiness, better style.
But, despite my preference for most of the aspects of Blackguard armor, you really can’t ignore the incredible bonuses of Ancient Shrouded armor. For one thing, it has an excellent armor rating. Although its raw numbers line up with Blackguard armor, wearing the full set grants an armor bonus of 25, almost equivalent to a full leather cuirass on top of the rest of your armor. Ancient Shrouded armor also has incredible base stats, ranging from just shy of glass for the cuirass to Dragonscale equivalent for the boots.
Regardless of if you pick up the rest of this armor set long-term, the Ancient Shrouded boots are probably on their own the best piece of light armor in the game. They’re equal in protection to Dragonscale and boast insanely beefy enchantment of silent movement.
4. Ancient Falmer Armor
This one might take the most defense on my part, but I continue to hold this as my favorite armor in the game. Despite being light armor, it’s one of the sleekest-looking plate armors in the game and brings to mind the classic “Paladin” aesthetic. It’s so sleek, and definitely a contender for Skyrim’s best looking light armor.
Most of the issue with it involves how late it becomes available and the fact that it lacks any innate enchantments. You have to finish most of the Dawnguard questline to obtain this armor, firmly placing it in the category of “late game armors.” When you’re actually at the level where you might consider using Ancient Falmer armor, you’ll have access to the majority of the best unique armor in the game. Unless you’ve invested heavily in Enchantment, those other armors will most likely outclass this one in some way or another.
Even so, this armor has “character maxed out” vibes, with one of the best ratings in the game and one of the most incredible armor designs. And, if you’re of the mind to grind out the Dawnguard DLC, you can obtain this armor well before any other set that would outmatch it, and maybe you’ll get attached to it along the way!
3. Guild Master’s Armor/Blackguard’s Armor
I definitely feel pretty cheap adding a 50/50 entry to a top 10 list of the best light armor sets in Skyrim, but what can I say? I’m a hack and a fraud.
I put these two together because they occupy the same position in the armor hierarchy — they have the same aesthetic and their relative performances are comparable, with a bit of complexity.
To begin, both of these are die-hard Thieves Guild outfits. Complete the look with your hood, your bandolier, and your Thievery skill bonuses. Of the two, Blackguard armor is easier to obtain, requiring only the completion of one side quest in Dragonborn, whereas Guild Master’s armor requires the completion of the Thieves Guild questline.
Of course, the minimum level for Dragonborn imposes a minimum level cap for Blackguard armor as well, but by the later game, these measly minimums would probably be irrelevant. If you’re trying to decide between these two armors, you mainly have to ask yourself one question: do you prefer maximum armor or maximum skill boosts?
See, the Guild Master’s armor is superior to the Blackguard’s armor in terms of raw protection, with the same armor rating as Glass (minus the shield). It also has the same bonuses as the base Thieves Guild armor, but with skill bonuses that substantially outweigh even the upgraded versions of the base equipment.
Most of those descriptions apply to Blackguard armor, but with a slight tweak — Blackguard armor had slightly better bonuses and slightly less armor rating. Hence, the combination of the two. I would honestly say that there’s no real way to place one above the other. It’s really just a question of skills against protection.
Personally, I prefer the Blackguard’s armor in terms of appearance and ease of acquiring, but a lot of that is because I can never finish the Thieves Guild questline. I love to keep the skeleton key forever. Again, I’m lazy.
2. Dragonscale Armor
In terms of appearance, I would rather exclude this armor from the list altogether. Frankly, I do not like the way any character looks wearing this armor. No matter what your build is, you just wind up you look like you’re cosplaying. No judgment to cosplayers, of course — but despite it being some of Skyrim’s best light armor for warriors, it does look a bit out of place.
Appearances aside, if you’re the sort of player who likes to max out every stat conceivable, this is the way to go for you. Of all light armor in the game, Dragonscale armor deserves recognition for being the best blank canvas possible. Throughout your game, you’ll encounter an abundance of dragons, making crafting and improving materials incredibly abundant. Even more importantly, the lack of enchantment on brand-new Dragonscale armor means you can enchant the gear however you desire, hypothetically making it the best equipment in the game.
So, the potential to be without debate the best light armor is Skyrim firmly earns it a place near the top. For those who prefer to get the best armor as quickly as possible, we have our number one spot.
1. Deathbrand Armor
I cannot express to any of you how proud I am that random pirates managed to make better armor than any army in Skyrim.
Deathbrand armor is a unique variety of Stalhrim light armor. Formerly worn by a great pirate around Solstheim, Deathbrand armor can be found scattered across four locations across the island, all of which are consistent across games. It’s easy to find and has a solid appearance (I love wearing icebergs).
Deathbrand armor outclasses every other armor set in pretty well every way you can conceive of. A full set grants you +60 stamina, +40 carrying capacity, 40% stronger dual-wielded one-handed attacks, and even the ability to breathe underwater. In addition to its insane stat bonuses, it also has the highest rating of any full armor set in the game. Although the pieces individually rate slightly lower than Dragonscale armor for protection, the entire suit of Deathbrand armor gives you a +100 armor rating bonus. That is twenty more than the base armor rating of the suit alone, so wearing the full Deathbrand armor essentially more than doubles your protection.
Admittedly again, it’s not my absolute favorite armor set, appearance-wise, but you really can’t beat the ridiculous stats you can get from this one. It’s the best of the best light armor sets in Skyrim.
High Ground View
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