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There are many materials in Skyrim with which you can create all sorts of weapons and armor. Some require a little mining and smelting, while others need hunting and tanning.
Out of all the crafting components in Skyrim, leather is the most important. Regardless of whether you favor Light or Heavy Armor, you need leather. Without it, you won’t be able to smith any weapons or armor. And sure, you could buy your gear from blacksmiths, but you’d be restricting yourself to lower-tier equipment until the game’s leveling system decides to allow you to make any upgrades.
Why wait when we don’t need to? Let’s get in touch with our inner hunter and do the dirty work ourselves. How about you pull up a stool and find the nearest tanning rack? We’ve got some work to do.
What is Leather?
Leather is a crafting material in Skyrim, necessary in one form or another for creating every armor piece or weapon.
How Do You Get Leather?
There are two primary ways of obtaining leather in Skyrim:
Purchase Leather From Merchants
The easiest way to get your hands on mass quantities of leather in Skyrim is to purchase it from merchants. Blacksmiths will always be your best source of leather. Roaming hunters will have some for sale, as well.
Tanning Animal Pelts and Hides
If you prefer a more hands-on approach to obtaining your leather, tanning racks are for you. Any animal pelt or hide you find in Skyrim can then be taken to a tanning rack and converted into leather.
What Animal Pelts and Hides are There?
There are 14 possible animal pelts/hides you can obtain in Skyrim. How much leather you get from this process depends on which kind of animal hide you are tanning.
- Bear pelt: 4 leather per 1 pelt
- Cave bear pelt: 4 leather per 1 pelt
- Snow bear pelt: 4 leather per 1 pelt
- Cow hide: 3 leather per 1 pelt
- Deer hide (Deer): 2 leather per 1 hide
- Deer hide (Elk): 2 leather per 1 hide
- Fox pelt: 1 leather per 1 pelt
- Goat hide: 1 leather per 2 hides
- Horse hide: 3 leather per 1 hide
- Ice wolf pelt: 1 leather per 1 pelt
- Sabre cat pelt: 4 leather per 1 pelt
- Sabre cat snow pelt: 4 leather per 1 pelt
- Snow fox pelt: 1 leather per 1 pelt
- Wolf pelt: 1 leather per 1 pelt
What Are the Best Animal Pelts/Hides to Farm?
Bears and sabre cats give the most leather per pelt, but are also the most dangerous. In the early game, several hits from either will be enough to kill you.
Cows and horses are second best but come with a caveat; wild cows and horses border on non-existent. If you want to farm them for their hides, you’ll have to poach people’s animals. Not only is this illegal, but very limited. Deer are easy pickings so long as you’re not on Legendary difficulty.
If you are, you’ll probably run into humbling experiences of not being able to one-shot deer (Until you level up).
With all that said, wolves will be the best animal to hunt for the early-mid game. They’re easy to kill and typically travel in packs. Once you get stronger, you can actively seek out bears and sabre cats. You may also want to save one ice wolf pelt for a Frost Atronach recipe at the Atronach Forge.
Should I Purchase Animal Hides/Pelts?
Yes and no. It depends on how the merchant feels about you, how much gold you have, how much you’ve invested into the Haggling perk, and which hide or pelts.
Even with 5/5 Haggling, bear pelts are technically never worth buying. It’s cheaper to buy four leather than to buy a bear pelt. Similarly, goat pelts aren’t worth buying early on due to needing two hides per leather.
Every other pelt/hide beneath bear pelts gets the green light if you have high Speech/Haggling. With little/no investment in Haggling, everything except bear pelts, goat hides, and wolf pelts are pretty good deals.
What’s the Best Way to Get Leather in Skyrim?
You will need an obscene amount of leather for Smithing. For that reason, your only real option is to buy leather in bulk from blacksmiths. Of course, kill animals and get hides while out adventuring, but it would take an eternity to get all the leather you need just from that.
So while that, unfortunately, means that you’ll need to be quite wealthy, it definitely pays off in the long run. Do a merchant tour around Skyrim, and you’ll amass hundreds of leather quickly. Using some Fortify Smithing tricks, you can essentially get Smithing training for free.
What is the Use Of Leather in Skyrim?
You can break leather down into leather strips, which you will need for Smithing. Each piece of leather turns into four leather strips. You can also buy mass amounts of leather strips from blacksmiths, however, the costs quickly add up.
Nearly every weapon and armor piece in Skyrim requires leather and or leather strips. Weapons never need leather, only leather strips, while most armor requires both and in higher quantities. Larger armor pieces, like chest plates, obviously need more material than something like boots.
Along with the standard armor sets that require leather to craft, various unique armor sets need leather if you want to improve them.
These include the Dark Brotherhood’s Shrouded armor, Thieves Guild armor, Savior’s Hide, and Stormcloak armor.
What is the Best Use of Leather In Skyrim?
Like any other resource, you want to get the most bang for your buck when using leather/leather strips. That means avoiding crafting items that use an excessive amount of it.
I’m sure we all know about spamming iron daggers until 100 Smithing, but there are other great items to smith. I’m specifically talking about some armor chest pieces. But chest pieces also use the most resources, so you need to know which to make and avoid.
Armor sets like Hide, Studded, Leather, Imperial, and Scaled are all out. These sets require anywhere from 2-4 leather per chest piece and several leather strips on top of it. Glass and Elven aren’t terrible, but they take up leather too, so they’re out.
Ideally, you want to aim for armor sets that only use leather strips. But you also need to take into consideration what other materials are required.
Take Orcish armor, for example. No leather needed, just strips, which is excellent. However, orichalcum ore isn’t the easiest to come by, and you need four ingots per chest plate.
Dwarven is another armor set you want to avoid. Just leather strips, no leather, but you also need dwarven metal, iron, and steel ingots. That’s entirely too much material consumption for not enough payoff.
Instead, I recommend the banded iron armor and shield. Both only require leather strips, iron ingots, and corundum ingots. All are materials you can get your hands on without trouble, even in the early game. And both these pieces of armor are great for leveling Smithing.
Once you acquire the Ebony Smithing perk, feel free to create Ebony armor pieces. Ebony ingots aren’t as hard to obtain as you might think, and the Smithing experience is top-notch.
Question: Why focus on crafting armor over weapons?
Answer: Chest pieces tend to be the most valuable, whether raw or tempered, which means more profit for you. I like to craft and improve a chest piece, then buy all the Smithing supplies from a blacksmith. After that, I get all my money back in one go by selling them the chest piece I just made.
Question: Why can’t I improve an armor set if I have the leather required to improve it?
Answer: Does the armor set have an enchantment? Any enchanted armor also requires the Arcane Blacksmith perk to be improved at a workbench.
Question: Are armor sets that use up a lot of leather ever worth crafting?
Answer: Yes, of course. Scaled armor is pretty good for Light Armor users, as is Elven and Glass. Feel free to craft these sets if actively using them for your Dragonborn. If it’s some Smithing experience you’re looking for, always give them a pass.
Skyrim Leather Guide: Conclusion
The heavy importance of leather in Skyrim is definitely something that initially threw me off guard. As a fantasy RPG fanatic, I’ve played my fair share of games where I roamed around in leather armor. For about 3-4 hours max, after which leather becomes a complete afterthought. But here, it’s a valuable commodity for the entire game.
Bethesda would go on to do the exact same thing in Fallout 4 with their crafting system, and I think it’s a pretty good move by Bethesda. In most games, you have items that become totally irrelevant after the early game.
But here, I think it positively contributes to staying more actively involved in the game world and continuing to hunt wildlife, even as a level 50 Dragonborn. Funnily enough, animal hides become better loot in the late game than actual loot like weapons and armor. If only someone made a mod for leather armor with gold trim.
But that’s another game and another story. With this guide, you know everything you need to know about leather and how to get the most out of it. You’re one step closer to becoming a Smithing master.