The best Skyrim armor makes the difference between a dead Dragonborn and a living legend.
There’s plenty of armor to choose from in Skyrim, but we’ve picked some of the top choices in each category based on their utility and special perks.
Skyrim armor explained
Skyrim armor comes in three varieties: heavy armor, light armor, and shields. Robes, the spellslinger’s choice, don’t technically count as armor since they offer enhancements without actual protection. Heavy armor affects your movement, but is also ideal for tank builds and other frontline warriors. Light armor work well for stealthy builds and a more mobile Dragonborn, and shields are, well… shields.
We’ve listed our top picks for each type based on overall armor score and the perks offered if you equip the entire set.
The best Skyrim heavy armor
- Defense: 106
- Weight: 98
Daedric Armor might not have any special perks, but it’s the strongest — and best looking — armor in Skyrim without taking bonus effects into consideration. You’ll find Daedric Armor pieces as boss fight rewards from level 49 on.
- Defense: 102
- Weight: 64
Dragonplate Armor is a close second, though it, too, has no special perks. You can craft it yourself once your Smithing level is around 100 or so, and you’ll need the Dragon Armor perk to do it.
- Defense: 96
- Weight: 62
Ebony armor is a bit weaker than the others, unless you use the shield (then it’s even stronger than Daedric armor). The big draw is wearing the Ebony Mail you scavenge from Boethiah during their Daedric quest. It gives you a unique perk that poisons nearby enemies and has Muffle thrown in as well. You can find the set’s remaining pieces from level 32 on, including at Blacksmith locations.
The best Skyrim light armor
Skyrim’s light armor is a bit more interesting, as many of the best sets come with a range of perks and enchantments. Light armor is best for nimble builds and stealth, though some sets can even rival heavy armor protection without the burden of heavy weight.
- Defense: 69
- Weight: 18
This set has it all. It looks good, it’s sturdy if you wear each piece, and there’s a fantastic array of perks with each part of the set. You’ll obtain the set by completing “Trinity Restored” for the Thieves Guild, so, of course, most of its perks revolve around stealth and thievery. The only drawback is the slight reduction in illusion spells, though skilled assassins should be fine with that anyway.
- Defense: 78
- Weight: 13
Deathbrand Armor reduces weight and bolsters stamina, but the full set also gives you a +100 armor boost. It’s easy to find as well, though the chests containing each piece only show up during the Deathbrand quest.
- Defense: 82
- Weight: 20
This one’s a bit more mundane compared to the other two, but if you’re just after high defense, it’s the way to go. The problem is Dragonscale Armor’s rarity. You’ll only find it randomly from level 50 on, though the Dragon Armor perk gives you a slight chance of finding it at lower levels too.
The best Skyrim shields
It might be tempting to stick with whatever shield matches the armor set you’re using so you get an armor boost. However, some of Skyrim’s best shields have abilities that make it worth sacrificing the armor.
Defense: 32 Weight: 14
There’s quite a bit to do before you can get this one. During the Dawnguard questline, you’ll travel to the Forgotten Vale. Use the ruby paragon on the platform near the paragon platform, and take the portal to Forgotten Vale Forest. Defeat the Falmer Warmonger to get the shield.
Auriel’s Shield stores energy from blocked attacks and unleashes it as extra power when you use a bash move.
Defense: 25 Weight: 12
It might not seem like much compared to other shields, but the Aetherial Shield makes up for low defense with its special ability. Bashing an enemy turns it aetherial for 15 seconds, during which time they can’t attack you. You’ll craft the ethereal Shield as part of the Lost to the Ages quest.
Shield of Solitude
Defense: 32 Weight: 12
The Shield of Solitude is more shield-y than the others we chose. Aside from its high defense, it also has a perk that boosts magic resistance by 30% and damage blocked by 35%. Finish The Wolf Queen Awakened to get this one.
You can also get help from the full list of our Skyrim Guides, here.