The best Skyrim armor to craft and wear

(Image credit: Bethesda)

The best Skyrim armor can be many things depending on what you find and craft. There are countless styles, light, heavy, enchanted and much more to uncover as you plunder your way through the mysterious mausoleums and dwarven dungeons of Skyrim. And, not only can you find some great stuff, you'll eventually be able to craft and enchant your own, with some powerful DIY sets possible as you level up your smithing skills. So, if you want to kit yourself out in the best Skyrim armor, then here everything you need to know. 

What are the best Skyrim armor sets?

Skyrim armor - Daedric

The best armor in Skyrim, in terms of base stats, is Dragon armor. There are two types - Dragonplate and Dragonscale - which correspond to light and heavy - the two kinds of armor in the game. However, while dragon armor has the highest defense value, there are other worthwhile sets to consider including Daedric, Ebony, and Glass. You'll be able to make all of these yourself once your Smithing is sufficiently levelled up. A lot of the choices you make will be due to personal preference. For example, Daedric armor stats are so close to the Dragon sets that the difference is almost negligible and you might as well have that if prefer the look. Once you start to experiment with the most valuable sets in the game, choosing your armor becomes more a matter of preference than anything else. 

Choosing the best Skyrim armor for your playstyle

Skyrim armor - Mage Robes

However, before deciding what the best Skyrim armor is for you, you’ll need to thing about your playstyle. Are you an stealth type? Or are you the kind of person to leap headfirst into a fight? If you tend to lean towards the former, you’ll want light armor, which will make your sneaking more effective and your stamina more manageable. However, if you're the latter, you’ll want most elephantine hunks of metal you can find to strap on. 

The one outlier in this situation is mages. If you want to run a Battlemage set, perhaps with a sword in one hand and firebolts in the other, you can enchant armor for Magicka regeneration buffs and so on. However, a lot of mages simply wear robes, which aren’t the most protective clothing in the world, but have some incredible enchantment potential. The Archmage’s Robes you're awarded after completing the College of Winterhold storyline have some fantastic enchantments. Wearing these with the right ensemble of buffed gear can make even the most vulnerable mages devastatingly powerful.

However, armor gained from completing quests isn’t always inherently good. As a rule of thumb, most of the pre-enchanted armor pieces you find are strong, but far from the best. This is because of a perk called “Arcane Blacksmith,“ which you can unlock once your Smithing reaches level 60. With Arcane Blacksmith, you can upgrade magical weapons and armor at a grindstone and workbench, respectively. As a result, you can drastically improve your armor rating while simultaneously retaining the fortifications afforded to you by your enchantments. 

How to craft the best Skyrim armor

Skyrim armor - Ebony Ingot

Smithing is an easy perk to level up, so reaching level 60 won’t take long. Just craft lots of daggers in Whiterun and then enchant them at the Enchanting Table in Dragonsreach. You can then sell them for more than the materials cost so you can turn a profit as you grind your Smithing and Enchanting skills. Once enchanting hits level 100, you can then place two enchantments on armor and weaponry you want, if there's room. 

If you’ve spent skill points getting enchanting perks, such as the ones that increase the buffs you’re placing on your weapons, you can reap massive benefits from wearing a full suit of enchanted armor. Things like an extra 100 points of carry weight, or regenerating Magicka 50% faster. Either way, two weapons and a full set of armor, as well as a ring and a necklace, gives you access to a whopping 16 enchantments. If you used Greater, Grand, or Black Soul gems and have your Enchanting skill tree maxed out, even an Iron helmet could be worth more than a Daedric breastplate.

Once you're maxed out crafting will let you make the best armor in Skyrim. As long as you have the resources to do it. For example, an Iron dagger only requires an iron ingot and some leather strips, whereas you’ll need three dragon scales, two dragon bones, and three pairs of leather strips to craft a Dragonplate breastplate.

For ingots, you’ll need to buy them or smelt ore in a Smelter. These are scattered all across Skyrim, but perhaps the most accessible one is outside Warmaiden’s in Whiterun. Once you’ve got ingots, you can buy leather strips from any blacksmith, as well as fletchers, general stores, and random merchants. For most armor sets, leather strips and ingots are all you’ll need, but for the late-game variants, you’ll often have to jump through some extra hoops to net yourself a full set. For Daedric armor, you’ll need Daedra hearts, which you can buy from an alchemist or get after defeating a Daedra, whereas for Dragon armor you’ll need to take down several colossal dragons.

How to enchant Skyrim armor

Once you’ve smithed yourself a set you’re happy with, taking it to an enchanting table and applying a plethora of buffs to it can really turn it into something special. Because you’ll have chosen your set based on your own playstyle, you can apply buffs that correspond to that. Maybe you want to benefit from increased Stamina, or perhaps you want to make yourself resistant to fire and frost. Either way, once you’ve enchanted your set, you’ll essentially have a customized build that’s even better than the likes of Nightingale Armor and Thieves’ Guild Armor - and that’s before you upgrade it at the workbench! Thanks to the aforementioned Arcane Enchanter, you can upgrade all of your armor until its labeled “Exquisite,” at which point it will have its highest possible defense rating. 

So if you want the best armor, smith it yourself and work your magic on it. Afterwards, head back to the forge and reinforce it at the workbench. By the time you’re finished, you’ll be walking around Skyrim like the Dragonborn should be - kitted out in magical armor crafted with demon hearts and dragon scales.

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Cian is a freelance journalist based in Ireland. He's written for numerous publications including USA Today, TheGamer, The Guardian, Washington Post, Verge, Vice, Polygon, Eurogamer, and GameSpot. He's a huge fan of The Witcher and other RPGs like Dragon Age.