Looking for an additional level of depth and a new set of meaningful decisions?
The W.E.A.R. system is an optional feature that makes your gear choices matter. When enabled, different gear now provide different levels of Exposure Protection, affecting your exposure rate.
Turning it on: You can turn W.E.A.R. on in Survival Settings -> Immersion -> W.E.A.R., or if you're a SkyUI 4.1+ user, go to the Gameplay page. You can also just select the Hardcore preset, and it comes with W.E.A.R. already enabled.
The W.E.A.R. system governs hand, feet, body, and head equipment. When you equip a piece of equipment, you will be told the level of Exposure Protection provided by it.
The amount of Exposure Protection from your equipment is broken up into 3 categories:
"What is the real difference between Limited, Standard, and Full? Is Full really that much better than Limited? By how much?" Refer to the chart below. With W.E.A.R. turned on, the Exposure Protection limit is now 275, but you're going to have to pay attention to your gear choices in order to get it.
The amount of Exposure Protection a piece of equipment provides can be changed by using Survival Skills, and selecting Inspect Equipment. From there, you will be prompted to equip the gear that you wish to inspect. You can then select its new Exposure Protection value. You can even inspect armor from mods! Note that you can only inspect equipment worn on the hands, feet, head, and body. Cloaks cannot be inspected, nor can any other kind of gear. (See What do you mean, Daedric isn't Full protection?, below)
When W.E.A.R. is enabled, the amount of Exposure Resistance and rain protection given by a cloak depends on
This list is not intended to be exhaustive and is provided for general reference.
Skyrim (Base Game)
* Nightingale Armor also provides a hide cloak bonus.
Dawnguard Official Plug-in
* Vampire Royal Armor also provides a hide cloak bonus.
Dragonborn Official Plug-in
* These body armors have a cloak built in. If you are wearing these armors, you will be given the appropriate cloak bonus automatically. If you are wearing a stand-alone (separate) cloak, the stand-alone cloak takes precedence and you will receive its bonus instead; the effect does not stack.
No doubt there is something in the above list that you don't agree with. "Why did you set things that way?" you might ask.
Here are some of the reasons behind the default W.E.A.R. protection values:
Because of those reasons, the first sets of armor you're liable to find and equip, Iron and Hide (and if you want to get technical, the prisoner's clothing), are "Limited" in protection. Most of the rest of the Heavy armors are at least Standard, because to make them any less given their visual appearance would make me a modding criminal. More of the Light armors are considered Limited than the Heavy because it made visual sense to me. However, Fur armor (through Frostfall) is available almost as soon as you start playing the game, so you can get that very early on. Heavy Armor specialists have to wait until Orcish to get their Full set (unless you use Immersive Armors, but even then, I don't think Einherjar, Warchief, and Heroic Stormcloak come cheap). So, I think it equals out.
All this to say... no, I'm not off my rocker, and yes, I've put a lot of thought into it. There's just not an empirically "right" way of doing this, so I just had to go with whatever I felt was best fitting the aesthetic design of the armor as well as the gameplay implications.
Thankfully, if you don't agree with my decisions, that's what Inspect Equipment is for. Use it!
A portion of the images on this page are licensed under the Creative Commons by-sa license. It uses material from the UESP article Skyrim: Armor. Used with the permission granted on this page.