Skyrim | Light Armor vs. Heavy Armor

Updated on December 12, 2011
The oh-so-sinister Daedric Armor
The oh-so-sinister Daedric Armor
Nightingale Armor - the definition of "slick"
Nightingale Armor - the definition of "slick"

When deciding between Light and Heavy Armor in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, there are a plethora of factors to consider. First off, check out what the high level armor sets look like. It doesn’t matter if you have the greatest armor ever created if you hate how it looks. Some “endgame” armors include Daedric, Dragonscale, Dragon Plate, and Nightingale.

Armor Rating

If you’re worried about endgame armor rating, both the best light armor and best heavy armor can reach the armor rating cap. Of course, before you get to them, the heavy armor greatly out-does light armor sets in this. If you’re playing a melee character, or any build where you anticipate you’ll be hit a lot (pretty self-explanatory), go for heavy. If you’re planning on not using a shield or restoration spells on a regular basis, heavy armor could save your life.


This is the main difference between heavy and light armor – light armor always has an advantage in this category. Perks like Muffled Movement (noise from armor is reduced by 50%) can help a bit, but never fully make heavy armor more viable than light for sneaking. Therefore, if you’re using a sneak archer or assassin build, light armor is definitely the way to go.


Until you get the perk Conditioning (Heavy Armor 70), heavy armor will weigh far more and also slow you down. If you’re an “endgame” player, then the weight and speed difference between the armors is negligible, but if you’re concerned about being agile early on, you may prefer the light armor. If you want to strafe a lot, getting to Heavy Armor 70 can be very arduous.


The best perks in the Light Armor tree include Wind Walker (stamina regenerates 50% faster in all light armor) and Deft Movement (10% of avoiding all damage). Heavy armor has Tower of Strength (50% less stagger time in all heavy armor) and Reflect Blows (10% chance of reflecting melee attacks). Reflect Blows is obviously better than Deft Movement, as it’s the same thing, except you damage your opponents. Wind Walker vs. Tower of Strength is something you’ll have to decide for your own build. For example, wind walker would be pretty much useless for a pure mage (except for sprinting), and Tower of Strength would be impractical for an archer.


It’s your own game, so you can decide what to do. If it seems ridiculous for your character to be able to swim with fully Daedric Armor, or to be able to tank with Glass Armor, then plan accordingly. You could give yourself a challenge and use a light-armored warrior, or a heavy-armored assassin. You could even mix it up and use both armor types, forgoing both perk trees (although I sorta recommend against that). Don’t give up your enjoyment of Skyrim to min/max a “perfect” character; be weary of growing too overpowered. Unless that’s your kinda thing – I wouldn’t blame you. Basically, *cliché* blah blah *cliché*…. Have fun!


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    • profile image

      Zneg 9 months ago

      I started with heavy armor, but really if you max out smithing and enchanting and have the essential perks I personally prefer light armor.

    • Psycho-Gamer profile image

      MasterPsycho 18 months ago from Earth

      The moment I could craft daedric armor i never used anything else looks freaking awesome , but not necesserily practical and fuctioning....daedric for life :)

      and about roleplaying....if you are playing realistically then you wouldnt be able to swim even with light armor....when i was wearing daedric and i was swimming in the lakes, i had a feeling of ''wth is happening'' cause realistically i should sink like an anchor.....anyway

      good hub by the way

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      Sarah Forester 4 years ago from Australia

      Thanks for the run down, I've played Skyrim a few times but never really saw the appeal of light armour, I better understand it's purpose now though and might need to roll something new that uses it.

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      Wesley 4 years ago

      For stealth, the information is actually not quite right. Once you get silence from the sneak perk, your armor does not make noise at all. So as soon as you get silence, it is 100% upon your choice.

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      John 4 years ago

      I have done 3 maxed out accounts using 'Play for Fun' role playing. A Darkelf Spell-Sword, an Orcish Warrior who spends his time with the Strongholds, and a High-Elf who was supposed to be a super hero like the Green Arrow. Now I am playing like my 3.5e cleric Sampson, who is a 'Play for Victory' character. High Restoration, Heavy Armor, and One Handed. I'm only level 21 so far, but he is my favorite yet.

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      Ben 5 years ago

      Don't choose the light armor smithing tree perks. I did that and ended up not being able to create the best weapons in the game (Daedric). Apparently the tree doesn't mix at the top. :p

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      steve 5 years ago

      Ok. This was a great article. But in Skyrim I made a character that was heavy armor inclined and mastered sneak. I did switch to light armor to see the difference but it was unnoticeable in the area of sneak. But in combat I felt like i should be naked for all the good the light armor did. Heavy is the way to go. Find the steed stone and it will take away movement penalties.

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      Terry Crews Brah 5 years ago

      if your going to go light armour you need to get the deathbrand set. it has the same armour rating as dragonplate plus if your wearing the whole deathbrand set you get an extra 100 armour bonus which definitely makes it the best light armour. and it also has some other cool bonus's like 40% more one-handed weapon damage and the waterbreathing ability. but im a heavy armoured kinda guy so i love rocking the dragon plate armour i think it looks sick. and the new dragonbone weapons look mean too.

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      Caleb 5 years ago from Wichita, KS

      Good hub! I prefer using light armor myself, but that is just me.

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      Jacob 5 years ago

      Thanks Hunter, you helped make my mind. I originally went for heavy armour and I put some perks into smithing heavy armour, but then I joined the Theives Guild early on and got Nightingale Armour and I put a lot of perks into sneak. I thought I'd just have to waste the perks I put in heavy smithing and start over with light weight because I was high in sneak perks and I just liked the Nightingale armour, but after reading your comment I'm gonna stick with heavy armour and get conditioning like you did and be a heavy weight armour wearing assassin. Now I don't have to waste any perks changing to light weight. I'm going Heavy Armour!!

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      Fred 5 years ago

      I like how you acknowledged how cliché things like these are :D

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      Hunter 5 years ago

      The weight of armor effects sneaking. So the conditioning perk actually remedies any difficulty sneaking in heavy armor. I have an assassin who wears full daedric armor and even when I wear my unenchanted set, I'n undetectable with 5/5 stealth and conditioning perk. I really valued the less stagger and reflect damage even though I was a stealth character (for the most part) but it's nice to dual wield knives and shred through people in all out combat when I feel like it. The only way I see light armor better is for that bonus stamina regeneration, otherwise heavy armor also has fun side perks like fists of steel and cushioned. That's my input anyway. But just to get my main point across, heavy armor is JUST as good for sneaking if you take conditioning or use the steed stone.

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      cameron 5 years ago

      sorry... my thoughts are that heavy armour is better than light armour and i have seen nothing to prove me wrong. the reason why is that one perk on heavy armour is to make it weigh nothing and not make noise or slow you down, this means as a noob light armour is a bit better for light armour users, but in the long run you are making your character weak.

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      Sonny 5 years ago

      I use light armor cause it don't burn my stamina fast. Plus I just like light armor. Lol and I'm a warrior that uses 1-H swords.

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      D34DLY W3R3WOLF 5 years ago

      i prefer light armor look at nightingale armor including i'm an archer and i like it

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      tacotrev 5 years ago

      after i got dawnguard i get glass armor then get dragon smith perk and make dragon weapons (which is a little better than deadric) so i don't need to waste perks for deadric

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      Ninja x chickenz 5 years ago

      I always stuck with light armour bc I wanted to be sort of ninja and the thieves guild qustline had some pretty nice ninja armour

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      Psiberzerker 5 years ago

      A few points you missed: If you're playing a Battlemage with robes, you can wear Heavy Armor around it to avoid being quite so squishy with little weight/speed penalty. Also, HA users can get the Steed Stone (I usually grab it right before, or after Diplomatic Immunity) untl the earn Conditioning.

      Light Armor has the best selection in pre-enchanted gear. The Shouded sets (including clothes, and the Jesters') are the best for sneaky types, and come with a unique, not availibly anywhere else enchantment to double backstab damage (with 1 handed weapons.)

      And finally, there is no such thing as too much armor, but there is such a thing as enough. As long as I'm not dying, I don't invest in improving my armor up to 80% damage resistance. That lets you concentrate more on your offensive/utility skills, and less on grinding the forge. Stealth can keep you from being targeted in the first place, so obviously, maximum passive protection isn't as important.

      So, I'd add that Light Armor works better for non-crafters, since it has the best selection out of the box, while Smith/Enchaners almost invariably go for the heavy side to min/max for Daedric.

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      Andy 5 years ago

      One factor that, for me, tips the balance towards heavy armor is smithing, specifically weaponsmithing. Since you can't go up the light armor side of the tree and then back down to snag Daedric light armor users will either have to take the entire tree, which is a godawful waste of perks, or stick with Glass weapons instead of Daedric or Ebony, both of which are better.

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      pieman 5 years ago

      How can I get light armor to reach the cap? There must be more than just improving to legendary, right?

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      Chrid 5 years ago

      With the right perks in alteration you can get an armor rating of 400 with maxed Mage armor perk and the ebony flesh spell also with dragon flesh spell I believe that's what it's called it may be dragon hide I'm not sure im on the train ATM but I digress anyway the latter spell gives you a 15 I believe chance to avoid physical damage this is only possible if you rock no armor so it's really only a choice for mages and the like but just thought I'd add it seeing it hasn't come up

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      N8102 5 years ago

      Thanks al though I do still find myself using potions and healing spells a lot despite wearing plated armore

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      5 years ago

      Something I do on my Mage files is use robes with enchanted heavy armour. Gets me good mAgic, plus a workable amount of armour rating. Otherwise, I use thieves guild armour quite a bit. Never really coulld get into using heavy armour.

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      creator of skyrim 5 years ago

      i made deadric better

    • jacokuyler profile image

      jacokuyler 6 years ago

      I have finished the game the first time and only used the heavy armour and I have to say that there is no better way then to have a reinvorced inchanted Daedric armor with a daedric axe and shield to finish the game in style. but the other armour that is also a good choice is the dragon armour or the glass armour set. happy hunting.

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      Bird 6 years ago

      Well written as usual. I prefer light armor in every aspect: look, Mobility and awesome perks.

    • ttocs profile image

      Ttocs L 6 years ago

      Thanks juice! I actually have switched between armor and robes too, but not very frequently (I don't really delve into enchanting, so the robes provided some stats I needed from time to time). I think that's about the only use they have (they may be more useful with Magic Resistance perk in the Alteration tree), but I'm not really sure. If I come up with enough info to add into the article, I'll do so - thanks for the heads up!

    • j-u-i-c-e profile image

      j-u-i-c-e 6 years ago from Waterloo, On

      Some good info in here, ttocs. And some good advice, too! One of my characters actually switches between heavy armor and robes, if you can believe that, so you might want to include a note about what robes do for you...or, don't do, rather.

    • JohnGreasyGamer profile image

      John Roberts 6 years ago from South Yorkshire, England

      Aye, I can imagine light armor being the most favoured by RPers, as they can be mobile and be protected by the few threats in their environments. Heavy RPers however will use Heavy Armor if they're city guards, mercenaries, and all that thing. ^_^

    • ttocs profile image

      Ttocs L 6 years ago

      Thanks for the info, John, I didn't know that! I'm using the light armor as well, it just doesn't feel quite right sprinting around at full speed in plate armor :P

    • JohnGreasyGamer profile image

      John Roberts 6 years ago from South Yorkshire, England

      Very nice Hub, as always. I'd also like to add that right at the beginning you're thrown into one of two major questlines - one being the main, and the other the political side of the game.

      I mention this because the Stormcloaks and Human Nazis--, sorry, Empire provide different sets of enchanted armor through their questlines. The Stormcloaks will give you light armor, and the genocidal campaigners will give you Heavy armor.

      I went for light armor, and though it's seen as the less durable armor, it's kept me alive and running wild. ^_^