How to Optimize Your Gear
Workbenches allow you several avenues for transforming a looted weapon into something truly your own. The Unreliable has one on deck, but each map sports at least one somewhere that allows for mid-mission optimization.
Modify: Most weapons and armor contain modification slots where you can install upgrades found or purchased around the system. Perhaps you want to throw a silencer on your sniper rifle or a grip on your scythe. Adding extra pockets to your armor increases carry capacity, while the Thug Kit provides the boost to armor and slugging power that an aspiring knuckle-buster needs. Careful: replaced mods disappear, so consider your decisions beforehand.
Tinker: Lootable weapons level up as you do, meaning your current arsenal will eventually fall behind the curve. Keep your favorite side piece relevant a little longer by tinkering at a workbench. Each tinker costs an escalating amount of bits, but a high science score offsets or limits this amount. Also, you can tinker weapon and armor five levels *above* your character, giving them a killer edge against nastier baddies.
Repair: Hitting or getting hit wears on your gear, gradually decreasing their potential. Regular upkeep at a workbench staves off this dulling. Repair consumes weapon and armor parts, which you can find buy or collect from scrapped loot. You might find gear with a little diamond icon on it: their condition will fall much slower and are perfect for those who tend to forget to clean their gun and polish their armor every day.
Break Down: You could hawk that knapsack full of knives and guns to a local buyer, or you could take them to a workbench and bust them down for parts. The collected material can be used to repair your current loadout. Plus, parts are a bit hard to come by early in the game.