You’re enemies in The Outer Worlds are starting to hit harder and you’re striking like a soft noodle. Learning how to upgrade your weapons and armor will be the difference between surviving and dying.
Upgrade your equipment at workbenchs once you have 20 points in Science.
If you wish to take a piece of equipment and make it stronger you will need to visit a workbench to do so, and only after you have unlocked the Tinker skill from dumping 20 points into science. There is a workbench on your ship, which is always a simple fast travel away, and there are a few scattered across the map. Once you discover a workbench in the field it will be highlighted on the map, making future visits easy.
Once at a workbench go to the Tinker tab. From here you can upgrade a piece of equipment for bits. The cost scales to how many times an item has been upgrade, NOT what level it is. So, say you’ve upgraded your pistol to level 10 from level 5, but you have a new level 10 pistol in your inventory. The new pistol will be cheaper to upgrade to level 11 than the level 10 you’ve been upgrading. This means upgrading is more or less intended for keeping equipment current with your level than to boost a favorite item up to endgame.
That said, unique weapons – like Science weapons – are one-time pick-ups, so upgrading them to max level will require a hefty sum of bits. If you have a favorite unique pick-up you will need to farm bits to keep it current.
That’s how to upgrade weapons and armor in The Outer Worlds; once you unlock Tinker you can do so at any workbench, but for a price.