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The designation of Light, Medium, and Heavy for a set of armor is not an official game designation. This designation was created by the Dark Souls community based upon how the Endurance stat functions. As a character increases his endurance, his stamina and equip burden concurrently increase. Equip burden has no limit - it continues to increase as a character continues to put levels into endurance up to the maximum endurance level, which is 99. Stamina, however, caps when a character reaches 40 endurance. Because of this, many players (especially using a character who is going through the game for the first time) agree that dedicating more souls to increase endurance beyond 40 is a waste due to the fact that you aren't gaining any additional stamina for each level you gain in endurance, and are only increasing your equip burden.

Following this line of thinking, there are 3 stages of movement speed through which a character can pass as the weight of his equipment increases. If a character is under 25% of his maximum equip burden, he moves very fast (walking, running, and rolling). If a character is between 25% and 50%, he moves slightly slower. If a character is above 50%, he moves significantly slower.

If a character has 40 endurance, this gives him 80 maximum equip burden. This means that the 25% and 50% limitations on movement speed correspond to a total weight of 20 and 40, respectively.

This is where the community designations of light, medium, and heavy armor come in. Not considering weapons, a set of armor is considered "light" if its total weight is 20 or less. A set is "medium" if its total weight is between 20 and 40. A set is "heavy" if its total weight is over 40. In general, a character wearing light armor will move very quickly, a character wearing heavy armor will move very slowly, and a character wearing medium armor will move at a speed that falls between these two extremes.

A player's style of play is heavily influenced by how fast that character can move. So, the first decision to make is how fast you want to be able to move. Do you want to be a very fast, agile character who focuses on evasion? Do you want to be a slow, plodding, unkillable juggernaut who takes every shot with a smile? Or do you want to be somewhere in the middle and more balanced between these two extremes? The answer to this question will determine which armor sets you will want to use, as some will make your character move very slowly, while others will not protect your character from incoming damage very well despite how fast you can move while wearing them.

What is the best armor?


With all of these things considered, many players wonder what the "best" armor is for their chosen style of play (fast or slow). The short answer to this question is that there is no" best" armor. There is only better armor, but whether or not a piece of armor is better than another is dependent upon the enemies you will be facing. Attacks in Dark Souls can damage a character in may different ways - physically, through lightning damage, through fire damage, etc. Each piece of armor has varying levels of defense for these different types, and so the "best" piece of armor for a given situation will be the piece that gives the highest amount of protection against the most common damage types that you will be facing. For instance, in the Undead Burg, the vast majority of damage that you will face is physical with a very small amount of fire damage. Because of this, armor with a very low physical defense rating and a very high magic defense rating is probably bad armor to wear through this area of the game.

However, if the only armor that is light enough to keep your character under your chosen level of equip burden has low physical defense and high magic defense, then you may still choose to wear that armor over a set with better defense because that set with better defenses also has higher weight. The general rule is that heavier armor gives better defenses than lighter armor. Unfortunately, this general rule breaks down when considering armors that are very close in weight value.

As an example, consider three different stating armor sets - Wanderer, Bandit, and Thief.
  1. Wanderer and Thief weigh exactly the same. Poise and Curse resistances are identical (at zero). Thief has higher Bleed and Poison resistances, higher physical defense, and higher magic defense. Wanderer, however, has higher fire and lightning defense. In this case, since both armor sets weigh the same, equip burden is not a factor - if you can afford to wear one, you can afford to wear the other. However, if you will be facing a lot of fire attacks, for instance, Thief is "worse" than Wanderer.
  2. Wanderer and Bandit have almost identical physical defense, but Wanderer is better in every other category, having higher magic, fire, and lightning defense and higher Bleed and Poison resistances. However, Wanderer weighs 1.2 more than Bandit. So, if you want to move fast and that extra 1.2 will put you over your equip burden limit, you may wish to choose Bandit instead of Wanderer because you value movement speed over numerical defense.
  3. Finally, consider Thief and Bandit. Thief has higher defenses and resistances in every single category, but weighs 1.2 more than Bandit. If you only have access to these two armor sets and you can spare the extra 1.2 on your equip burden, then there is no reason to choose Bandit over Thief. Thief is directly better, not considering weight.


As another consideration, upgraded armor is, understandably, usually better than non-upgraded armor. Further, some armor sets can only be upgraded with rare materials like Twinkling Titanite.

So, what is the best strategy for choosing which armor you will wear?


For the most part, a character should follow these steps:
  1. Decide how fast you want to move.
  2. Calculate the total weight of all of your most commonly equipped weapons/shields/catalysts/talismans/etc.
  3. Wear the heaviest armor that, when combined with the weight of your weapons, still allows you to be within the equip burden range that you chose in step 1.

Following these steps will allow you to choose armor that gives you the most defense you can have while still allowing you to maintain your chosen play style (fast or slow). Of course, as you spend souls to increase your endurance stat, your equip burden will go up and expand your options for armor within your play style.

What about upgrades?


If you are trying to decide on which armor sets you should spend resources to upgrade, the idea is that you don't want to spend valuable resources upgrading a set of armor and then increase your endurance stat so that you can now wear heavier armor, making your lighter, upgraded armor obsolete. The good news is that, for the most part, upgraded armor is almost always better than non-upgraded armor if the two sets being compared are very close in weight. This means that, generally, spending resources to upgrade a set of armor will make that set the best armor that you possess, unless you decide to make a huge jump in weight. For instance, if you have been wearing a set of partially upgraded armor that weighs 10 and decide to switch to non-upgraded armor that weighs 35, the heavier armor will probably be better, even non-upgraded, than your lighter armor. So, as long as you decide to continue to operate within your same equip burden, you don't have to worry about wasting resources upgrading your armor.

Note on Heavy Armor


All of the heaviest armor sets (those weighing 40 or more) either cannot be upgraded or are only upgraded with Twinkling Titanite. As you are already wearing the heaviest armor in the game, some armors are directly better than others. Consult the following table to determine the best armor for various defenses:
Defense Attribute
Highest Non-Upgraded
Higher if Upgraded?
Physical
Smough's Set
Giant Armor Set
Magic
Havel's Set
*
Fire
Smough's Set
Black Iron Set
Lightning
Smough's Set

Poise
Havel's Set

Bleed
Smough's Set

Poison
Iron Golem Set
Black Iron Set*
Curse
Havel's Set
~

*The Painting Guardian Set+5 has MUCH higher poison resist (260.4) than either the Black Iron Set+5 (80) or the Iron Golem Set (77) and higher magic resist (181.4) than Havel's Set (142); however, as its other stats are much lower, it is not recommended for players expecting to be able to take a hit. Also, if combining sets, note that the painting guardian set is unusual in that the leg armor is the best part (except in MagDef: that's the chest).
~The Paladin Set +5 has a curse resist of 186.7, whereas Havel's Set only has 57. It is also very good in several other categories, and therefore useful to any character fighting where he/she can be cursed.

Following this chart, Smough's Set is the most versatile non-upgraded armor set in the game, having the highest physical, fire, lightning, and bleed defenses. The Giant Armor Set has higher physical and fire defenses when fully upgraded, but still has a lower lightning and bleed resistance. Havel's Set, among all heavy armor sets, has the highest magic, poise, and curse resistance, and has the distinction of having the highest poise out of every set of armor in the entire game. Most heavy armors have zero or very low curse resistance, and probably should not be worn when fighting enemies with curse abilities.

Overall Superior Armor

Looking at aggregated stats for each set
  • Clearly not all armor sets are ideal for every situation however, for those looking for an overall best balanced set, here are our top findings (below).
  • Ratings (points and ultimately a grade out of a total of 100) are determined by stats exclusively and not any other factor (aesthetics, style, etc)
  • Points are affected positively by physical, magic, and elemental resistance along with bleed, poison, and curse resistance and finally poise
  • Points are affected negatively principally by higher weight along with lower durability stats

Best Armor Overall

  • Armor of the Sun +10* (as a full set)
  • Royal Helm +10* (individual head gear)
  • Paladin Armor +5 (torso protection)
  • Wanderer Manchette +10 (arm protection)
  • Elite Knight Leggings +10* - OR - Iron Leggings +10* (leg/foot protection)

Additional Superior Armor Overall (in descending order of quality)

Showing top ten or fewer sets, looking at best overall aggregated stats for each armor type
FULL SETS















Name
Durability
Weight
Phys
Str
Sls
Prc
Mag
Fir
Lit
Poise
Bleed
Poison
Curse
POINTS
GRADE
Armor of the Sun +10*
350
9
84.7
84.7
84.7
83
50.8
50.8
46
16
32.2
22.4
14
489.4111
100
Cleric Armor +10
500
12.5
96.8
96.8
111.3
96.8
55.7
50.8
36.3
20
32.2
22.4
0
463.9611
95
Elite Knight Armor +10*
450
11.7
94.4
91.5
109.5
94.4
41.1
43.6
36.3
20
32.2
22.4
0
449.6211
92
Balder Armor +10*
450
10.9
89.5
87.7
109.2
86
36.3
43.6
36.3
16
28
22.4
0
437.3011
89
Armor of the Sun +9*
350
9
76
76
76
74.4
45.6
45.6
41.2
16
29.9
20.8
13
434.6111
89
Cleric Armor +9
500
12.5
86.8
86.8
99.8
86.8
49.9
45.6
32.6
20
29.9
20.8
0
403.8611
82
Armor of the Sun +8*
350
9
70.3
70.3
70.3
68.9
42.2
42.2
38.2
16
28.7
20
12.5
399.7111
82
Elite Knight Armor +9*
450
11.7
84.6
82.1
98.2
84.6
36.9
39.1
32.6
20
29.9
20.8
0
393.0211
80
Brass Armor +5
600
10.9
74.4
71.4
84.1
74.4
41.9
38.8
38.8
16
30.5
25.4
14
392.0011
80
Silver Knight Armor +5
600
12
80.6
75.8
92.7
79
40.3
44.9
52.7
19
30.5
15.2
2.5
390.3111
80
















HEAD GEAR















Name
Durability
Weight
Phys
Str
Sls
Prc
Mag
Fir
Lit
Poise
Bleed
Poison
Curse
POINTS
GRADE
Royal Helm +10*
500
4.5
38.7
33.7
38.7
38.7
24.2
24.2
14.5
8
22.4
16.8
0
240.7611
100
Iron Helm +10*
350
4.5
33.9
33.9
33.9
33.2
24.2
24.2
21.8
8
16.8
11.2
2.8
224.7611
94
Royal Helm +9*
500
4.5
34.7
30.2
34.7
34.7
21.7
21.7
13
8
20.8
15.6
0
215.9611
90
Iron Helm +9*
350
4.5
30.4
30.4
30.4
29.8
21.7
21.7
19.5
8
15.6
10.4
2.6
201.3611
84
Royal Helm +8*
500
4.5
32.2
28
32.2
32.2
20.1
20.1
12.1
8
20
15
0
200.7611
84
Iron Helm +8*
350
4.5
28.1
28.1
28.1
27.6
20.1
20.1
18.1
8
15
10
2.5
186.5611
78
Royal Helm +7*
500
4.5
29.6
25.8
29.6
29.6
18.5
18.5
11.1
8
19.2
14.4
0
185.1611
77
Dark Mask +5
300
3.8
27.9
27.9
30.7
26.2
18.6
18.6
15.5
6
15.2
10.2
0
183.4711
76
Helm of Thorns +5
250
4.1
26.3
25
28.7
26.3
15.5
18.6
12.4
6
12.7
8.9
0
164.7011
69
















TORSO















Name
Durability
Weight
Phys
Str
Sls
Prc
Mag
Fir
Lit
Poise
Bleed
Poison
Curse
POINTS
GRADE
Paladin Armor +5
500
12.9
91.4
86.9
105.2
91.4
48
57.3
29.4
20
43.2
30.5
72.4
510.4011
100
Armor of the Sun +10*
350
9
84.7
84.7
84.7
83
50.8
50.8
46
16
32.2
22.4
14
489.4111
96
Cleric Armor +10
500
12.5
96.8
96.8
111.3
96.8
55.7
50.8
36.3
20
32.2
22.4
0
463.9611
91
Catarina Armor +5*
400
11.7
88.4
87.5
101.6
88.4
48.1
57.4
29.5
21
43.2
30.5
0
459.8211
90
Elite Knight Armor +10*
450
11.7
94.4
91.5
109.5
94.4
41.1
43.6
36.3
20
32.2
22.4
0
449.6211
88
Armor of the Sun +9*
350
9
76
76
76
74.4
45.6
45.6
41.2
16
29.9
20.8
13
434.6111
85
Cleric Armor +9
500
12.5
86.8
86.8
99.8
86.8
49.9
45.6
32.6
20
29.9
20.8
0
403.8611
79
Armor of the Sun +8*
350
9
70.3
70.3
70.3
68.9
42.2
42.2
38.2
16
28.7
20
12.5
399.7111
78
Silver Knight Armor +5
600
12
80.6
75.8
92.7
79
40.3
44.9
52.7
19
30.5
15.2
2.5
390.3111
77
Cleric Armor +8
500
12.5
80.4
80.4
92.5
80.4
46.2
42.2
30.1
20
28.7
20
0
365.7611
72
















ARMS















Name
Durability
Weight
Phys
Str
Sls
Prc
Mag
Fir
Lit
Poise
Bleed
Poison
Curse
POINTS
GRADE
Wanderer Manchette +10
400
2.1
33.9
36.3
36.3
33.9
29
36.6
32.5
0
18.2
18.2
0
271.6011
100
Dark Gauntlets +5
300
5.8
41.8
41.8
46
39.3
27.9
27.9
23.2
9
22.9
15.2
0
262.4711
96
Iron Bracelet +10*
350
4.3
41.1
41.1
41.1
40.3
24.2
24.2
21.8
7
15.4
9.8
2.8
251.4211
92
Wanderer Manchette +9
400
2.1
30.4
32.5
32.5
30.4
26
32.6
28.2
0
16.9
16.9
0
243.1011
89
Black Leather Gloves +10
250
1.8
31.5
33.7
31.5
31.5
29
19.4
21.8
0
19.6
25.2
0
241.0711
89
Dark Gauntlets +4
300
5.8
37.5
37.5
41.3
35.3
25
25
20.9
9
21.2
14.2
0
234.3711
86
Black Leather Gloves +9
250
1.8
28.2
30.2
28.2
28.2
26
17.4
19.5
0
18.2
23.4
0
217.1711
80
Dark Gauntlets +3
300
5.8
34.8
34.8
38.3
32.7
23.2
23.2
19.3
9
20.5
13.7
0
216.9711
80
Hard Leather Gauntlets +9
250
3.5
28.2
29.9
28.2
28.2
26
15.2
28.2
0
18.2
15.6
0
206.5611
76
Leather Gloves +9
250
2.8
26
27.6
26
26
26
13
28.2
0
16.9
15.6
0
198.5711
73
















LEGS















Name
Durability
Weight
Phys
Str
Sls
Prc
Mag
Fir
Lit
Poise
Bleed
Poison
Curse
POINTS
GRADE
Iron Leggings +10*
350
5.3
50.8
50.8
50.8
49.8
29
29
26.6
9
19.6
12.6
2.8
303.8211
100
Elite Knight Leggings +10*
450
6.9
55.7
54
64.6
55.7
26.6
26.6
21.8
12
19.6
12.6
0
302.7011
100
Balder Leggings +10*
450
6.4
53.2
52.2
65
51.1
24.2
29
21.8
9
16.8
12.6
0
295.0511
97
Knight Leggings +10
400
6.4
53.2
50.6
61.8
52.2
24.2
26.6
19.4
12
19.6
12.6
0
292.3511
96
Iron Leggings +9*
350
5.3
45.6
45.6
45.6
44.7
26
26
23.9
9
18.2
11.7
2.6
271.9211
90
Elite Knight Leggings +9*
450
6.9
49.9
48.4
57.9
49.9
23.9
23.9
19.5
12
18.2
11.7
0
268.8011
89
Silver Knight Leggings +5
600
6.5
43.4
40.8
49.9
42.5
23.3
24.8
29.5
11
17.8
8.9
1.3
252.0611
83
Iron Leggings +8*
350
5.3
42.2
42.2
42.2
41.4
24.1
24.1
22.1
9
17.5
11.2
2.5
251.5211
83
Brass Leggings +5
600
6.4
40.3
38.7
45.5
40.3
24.8
23.2
23.2
9
17.8
15.2
8.9
247.0511
82



















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