Best Welding Helmet Reviews and Buying Guide 2017
As we all know, welding and plasma cutting an be dangerous if you don’t have the proper gear for the job. Sparks and flames can quickly cause eye, facial, and bodily injuries if you are working without protection. The brightness of the flame from the ultraviolet and gamma rays can cause arc eye or even flash burn your eyes.
Best Welding Helmet Comparison – Quick View
|Model||Darkening (sensors)||Viewing Area||Power||Shade Range||Weight||Price|
|Hobart Impact||Auto (3)||3.81 in x 1.85 in||1 CR2450 battery||3/8-13||2.2 lbs||$$$|
|Jackson Safety SmarTIGer||Auto (2)||3.78 in x 1.81 in||internal battery w/ solar assistance||9-13||2.05 lbs||$$$|
|Lincoln Electric Viking 3350||Auto (4)||3.74 in x 3.34 in||1 CR2450 battery w/ solar assistance||5-13||3.4 lbs||$$$$|
|Antra AH6-660||Auto (4)||3.78 in x 2.5 in||2 CR1616 batteries w/ solar assistance||4/5-9/9-13||1 lb||$$|
Top 4 Best Welding Helmet Reviews–Our picks
Hobart Impact Variable Auto Darkening Helmet
Hobart’s Impact line are reasonably priced helmets, aimed at hobbyists and professionals who don’t need a top class helmet but still want something with a little bit of class and flair.
Tough, light, with a solid set of features like a dependable and sensitive auto darkening system, great protection and a reliable headwear design that’s comfortable over long stretches of time, this is a great little helmet for anyone, especially if you’re looking to upgrade from a basic face mask or budget purchase, and whether you’re a professional or just working out of the garage.
With welding helmets, the single most important thing is the lenses. After all, that’s what you’re buying it for, and bad lenses make or break the entire product.
The Hobart Impact doesn’t disappoint. The viewing area isn’t the largest we’ve seen, but it’s easily big enough to work with, and it makes up for that with a top class lens design and protective capability. Made with the latest LCD design, and feeding off of 3 sensors, the lenses in this helmet are capable of reacting in up to 1/25,000th of a second, which is a capability you normally see on a much higher class of helmet.
The shade control is a constant setting rather than discrete jumps, so you can easily set it to exactly where you need it to be. There’s also a delay setting option, which is adjustable, too. A solid variety of shades and a grind mode round out the viewing options, and they’re incredibly easy to adjust, too, if a little bit over sensitive. This might be an issue for you, but it generally just means it takes 10 minutes of playing around when you first use it to get it where you need it to be.
It’s comfortable and light, so easy to wear, and fully compatible with hard hats and respirators, so whatever health and safety needs you got, this can cover them. The headgear also differentiates itself by working off of a ratchet system. Now, you might have seen this before, but not on something at this price.
Not only does the ratchet headgear keep you comfortable, it also keeps the helmet in place, even when you throw it up to take an unobstructed look at what you’re working on. That means no more struggling to keep your helmet up and no more annoyance of having it drop back down every time you move your head.
The only real criticism I have is that the lenses have a striated band of darker glass along the top and bottom sides. It’s not enough to interfere with what you’re working on, but it is noticeable. However, the sheer quality of the lenses apart from that more than makes up for this.
A great quality helmet for the price, Hobart’s Impact series takes a little work and a little love to set correctly, but once you’ve got it rigged up right you’ll have a helmet that will last for ages and perform brilliantly, time and time again.
If you’re the type of guy who loves to play around with whatever he buys, and you don’t mind fiddling with the settings when you get this out of the box, then this is a fantastic choice.
Jackson Safety SmarTIGer
Jackson makes some of the best welding helmets on the market, and their latest models boast a huge range of innovative features for safety and comfort that you’re going to struggle to match with a lot of other, less impressive helmets, especially for this price.
The SmarTIGer range are comprehensive tradesman’s helmets. Tough and exceptionally safe, they’re excellent for use in cramped workshops and factories. This helmet gives complete coverage of the face, head and neck, so no matter what comes, whether that’s sparks, spatter and molten droplets from what you’re working on, overhead hazards, or just simply smacking your head into something you didn’t see, with this helmet you know you’re gonna get the protection you need.
This level of protection also makes this helmet great for home enthusiasts and hobbyists who are safety conscious, or who deck their workshops out so much that it gets a little bit cramped. (I’m guilty of this. You should see my garage…)
As for the helmet itself, the design shunts away fumes far better than standard helmets can, and the curved front faceplate means less heat build up and less fogging. Pair this with the generous viewing area and great field of view and it means you’re going to have a much easier time seeing and getting closer to what you’re working on. That means cleaner jobs, quicker working speeds, and an overall better finish.
The single greatest advantage this helmet has over others is the protection level. Other helmet manufacturers make great helmets for a similar price. Hell, even Jackson themselves have other helmets at this price point that are great, but they’re all hard pressed to stand up to the protective level this helmet offers.
We all know that accidents happen when we aren’t expecting them, and in a crowded workspace it’s all too easy to back into something or have someone clock you round the head as they move past you. Because of the 100% coverage this helmet offers, it’s an easy sell if you’re regularly dealing with situations like this.
Even though there’s only two arc sensors on it, the performance of the auto darkening system is great. One thing that’s real special though, is the auto ADF option. We can all be absent minded at times, especially when there’s a lot on our plates, and it’s sometimes easy to forget simple things. Like switching on your helmet. Thankfully, that doesn’t matter with this beast. It switches on itself if it detects an arc in your field of view. I mean, I wouldn’t rely on it, because it’s going to be a little slower than standard, but it’s good to know that in emergency cases, you’re still covered.
It’s goddamn comfortable, as well. Especially for long term use, which is nice as I normally struggle with full face helmets.
It’s easy to see out of too, with a nice viewing area and solid lens clarity. And when it comes time to changing those lenses, it’s a simple procedure even a newbie could pull off without any hitches.
The only real downside I have with this helmet is the lack of flair. But then, you aren’t buying it for fancy technology. You’re buying it to keep your skull the shape it should be and your eyes functioning. And at that job, it performs fantastically.
This helmet is great. If you’re considering grabbing it, ask yourself one simple question. Do I want one of the toughest, most protective helmets on the market, that will last for years, at a great price?
If the answer is yes, do yourself a favour and pick this up. You won’t regret it.
Lincoln Electric Viking 3350
Lincoln Electric make top quality welding helmets, and the Viking range are their workman’s helmets, designed for long days, hard usage and exceptional quality.
The Viking 3350 is the premier model in Lincoln’s range, and that’s reflected in what you’re getting. With the best viewing options available, with a huge viewing area and absolutely peerless clarity lenses, when you wear this helmet you can be secure in knowing you’ve got the clearest, most open view of your work possible.
On top of this, the Viking 3350 is just a damn good helmet, with the same build quality and level of detail we’ve come to expect from Lincoln products.
The single greatest advantage when you’re considering this helmet is the lenses. Lincoln helmets already have great lenses, but the Viking 3350 is something else.
First off, the viewing area is absolutely massive, especially for the price of the helmet. Second, the lenses have the best optical clarity available, with a perfect 1/1/1/1 rating. That means you’re getting the minimum levels of image distortion, light diffusion, lens light diffusion, and the effects of lens angle on view possible.
So when you slip this helmet on and strike an arc, you can feel secure knowing that whatever’s going on around your weld, you’ll see it all. Every little variation in color, so you know exactly where you’re at temperature wise. Perfect clarity when it comes to seeing your material, leading to cleaner, more precise welds. Even the tiniest variation in arc will be obvious through these lenses.
As for the lens darkening, you’re looking at a solid 1/25,000th of a second response time, with a shade variance of 5 to 13, on a continuous scale that’s easy to adjust, even in gloves. There’s also a grind mode, in case that’s something you need in your day to day.
The helmet itself is solidly built, and comfortable, if a little bit heavy. Like all Lincoln helmets, it feels solid and robustly built, especially once it’s on your head. It is heavy, though. But not to the point of uncomfortable if you properly adjust it to balance the weight across your head.
Overall, everything on this helmet is solid and reliable. When you combine that with the optical clarity, you get a helmet that any workman would be glad to have as part of his kit.
The Lincoln Viking is a professional helmet with the tradesman in mind. Its unbeatable optical clarity and other options make using it for long periods a dream, so you can get the cleanest welds, see every single variation in your arc and weld puddle, and have a perfect view of what you’re working on.
If you need your work as precise and clean as possible, or you’re a welder looking for the best vision option out there, you’ve found your helmet. Buy this and know that you’ve chosen the best of the bunch.
Antra AH6-660 Auto Darkening Helmet
If you’re looking for a good welding helmet that has a lot of options and won’t break the bank, you could do a lot worse than pick up one of these Antra Welding helmets.
Building off of the success of pasts designs, the AH6-660 has a larger viewing area, four premium sensors that work extremely fast, and it’s compatible with pretty much everything a welder might need, including magnifying/cheater lenses, respirators and hard hats, (with an extra kit.)
It’s clear that this is aimed at a more budget market, so don’t expect solidity all round. The plastic might feel a little more flimsy than you’re used to, and we’ve heard that bolts might need regular tightening, but it complies with all American and international safety regs, and for this price, it’s hard to complain about having to make a few adjustments now and then.
Overall, for the price, this is one of, if not the single best welding helmet out there. Read on to find out why.
The sheer volume of stuff packed into one tiny little frame is actually amazing. The amount of features you get, and the level of quality and performance, actually rivals helmets I’ve seen that cost twice as much or more.
First off, the size of the thing stands out. It’s light. Like, wear it for twenty minutes and forget it’s on your head light. I’m sure you’ve experienced the neck strain that comes with wearing a heavy helmet whilst you’re bent over your workstation all day, but this helmet literally weighs less than half a kilo, or half as much as some comparable helmets, so that’s going to be far less of a problem.
The viewing area is a solid size. Not as big as some we’ve seen, but big enough to be comfortable, and it’s also fully compatible with magnifying lenses. It comes with a bunch of spares, too. As to the lens itself, viewing clarity is good, but nothing special, but that’s more impressive when you consider the range of filter shades it’s capable of. On top of this, the helmet is certified for all types of welding, plasma cutting, and it’s got a grind mode!
The shade settings are simple to use, using the pair of glove friendly dials inside the helmet. The shade settings are also infinite, meaning it’s on a continuous adjustment system rather than having discrete shade settings, giving you absolute control over the darkness of your lens.
On top of that, there’s no on/off switch. Because it doesn’t need one. The helmet automatically turns on as soon as it detects an arc, and switches off a few minutes after you stop using it. I’ve always liked auto-on features, because I can get heavily focused in my work and it’s easy to forget simple things in the heat of the moment. I’ve heard the batteries can run through quite quick on this helmet, though, even with the solar assist.
Even the sensors are high quality, which is impressive. A lot of helmets around this price skimp on the sensors, as it’s the most expensive part of the helmet. But Antra didn’t. You’re getting four premium sensors, (the same amount you’d see on top quality helms) and they’ve got a really impressive reaction time of 1/25,000th of a second. It’s touches like this that really round off what is a solid, high performing helmet all round.
For the price, this is one of the best helmets on the market. Because of the sheer range of features and exceptional quality throughout, it’s a real easy recommendation.
Obviously, you’re not going to get the same level of build as something like a Miller, but considering what you’re paying, if you’re in the market for a good starter helmet, or you just need a more budget friendly option, this is a great buy.
Eight factors to consider when buying your Welding Helmet
Active vs Passive Darkening Lens and Lens Switching Speed
A passive darkening lens is typically a fixed #10 lens. A nod will either raise the helmet up or down. These are typically cheaper, fairly light weight, usually more clear and lenses can be cheaply and easily replaced. It is just you and the helmet.
Active darkening lens is made up of a specialized liquid crystal display. The lens is usually a #3 or #4 when inactive and when the sensors detect light changes, the active darkening filter is activated and the lens darkens. With active darkening lenses, an important factor is the number of sensors and how fast those sensors react. The more sensors and faster they react, the less impact to your eyes.
A lighter weight helmet minimizes strain on your neck, increases comfort and reduces fatigue. While it may not seem like much, you will notice a big difference in a helmet that weighs 1 lb versus 2 lbs. That difference is amplified when you are working on an all-day project. Don’t believe me, try this. Hold a 2 lb object in your hand with your arm extended. Now wait a few minutes and see how much heavier it gets over time. So, weight does matter.
If most of your welding or plasma cutting involves only one type of material, then a fixed shade #10 lens is probably all you’ll ever need. However, most people cut/weld different materials and use of different welding processes, such as stick, MIG and TIG, or plasma cutting for specific jobs. That means the amperage can vary from 40 amps to more than 200 amps and you will encounter varying degrees of brightness.
With that variance comes varying degrees of brightness in the arc.
To properly protect your eyes and get the best view of the weld puddle or your plasma cutting path, you need to have an adjustable or variable shade lens. Most of the time, the adjustments are found either inside the helmet on the lens, or outside on the side of the helmet. Inside controls require you to stop, lift the helmet and adjust. Whereas, a helmet with an external control, you just have to adjust. But you will have additional wires to contend with. Most variable shade lenses adjust from shade #5 through #12 or #13. It probably unlikely you will need a shade #13 setting unless you weld at an extremely high amperage or have very sensitive eyes.
Viewing Areas Size
The helmet’s viewing size also is a major factor to consider. Some of the largest view sizes in auto-darkening models have a view size that measures 97x 62 mm (3.82 x 2.44 inches) or larger, which aids in delivering a clear natural view.
Number of Sensors
Count the number of arc sensors on the helmet. Inexpensive auto-darkening helmets will have only one or two arc sensors, while premium models generally have four or more arc sensors. Simply put, with more arc sensors, there is less chance that the helmet will fail to darken as necessary.
Helmet Power (Battery vs Solar)
Some auto-darkening helmets have an internal, non-replaceable battery and use a solar assist panel for power. These helmets require a charging period before the first use, and a charging period if you store it for an extended time. This is a real hassle when you need to weld right away. The disadvantage with this type is once the battery wears out, the lens doesn’t work and well, you are buying a new helmet.
Other auto-darkening helmets use replaceable or rechargeable batteries such as AAA, CR2450 or CR1616. So, depending on your needs, a better investment might be a helmet powered by a replaceable battery that uses a solar assist panel that enables you to start welding right away.
National Safety Standards The most recent safety standard is the ANSI Z87.1 – 2003 and OSHA incorporates these by reference. These rigorous specifications ensure the quality of the helmet, from validating advertised specs such as lens reaction times, lens shades, and a whole lot more. They also ensure optimum safety, impact protection, radiation protected, and make sure the helmet works in extreme temperature environments. Beware: not all helmets meet the ANSI Z87.1 standard.
I wish money would grow on trees–right! Unfortunately, it doesn’t. Your budget will determine, in some way, the quality of helmet. To help you out, we selected the top welding helmets–one in each of the three most common budget categories.
Six Tips for Caring for Your Welding Helmet
As you know, your welding helmet did not come cheap, and so it makes sense to take good care of it. After all, it is a significant part of your job. Your welding helmet’s main responsibility is to protect your eyes and face but it can’t do that if it has scratches, cracks, or damage from its daily use. So, keep these few steps in mind and your welding helmet will be able to serve you for years.
- RTFM. First and foremost, Read The Flipping Manual (RTFM). I know, we all know by now how a helmet should work. Right, well the manuals often include things like a regular maintenance schedule and when various parts should be replaced. What’s that saying—-“an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.
- Regularly inspect your helmet. I typically check mine first thing Monday morning before I get started. Regular monitoring puts you ahead of any issues that might pop-up. This can also lead you to regularly replacing worn parts.
- Clean after each use. A simple wiping down of the helmet to remove debris or using the manufacturer’s recommended cleaning products can make sure it will last for a long time.
- Regularly inspect the lens. I always try to have a spare lens on hand in case I see something that concerns me. I may be a bit neurotic when it comes to my lenses but I protect my eyesight. Don’t know about you, but I think it would be kind of hard to weld or even plasma cut with poor/damaged eyesight.
- Regularly replace the sweatband. The sweatband is integral for me. As for me, I am balding so newer sweatbands keep the sweat from running down my face into my eyes.
- Place it in proper storage. Now that you have inspected and cleaned your helmet, put it in a storage bag and put it in a safe spot where it won’t get damaged, or your kids can get ahold of it. Check out some cool Welding Helmet Bags.
Check out these Welding Helment Decals.
Weld Decals has many different decals from patriotic themes to the Grim Reaper. All around $30. Check them out.
Now if you can’t find a design there and you are looking for something totally customized, then check out the work from Zimmer DesignZ.
As I think you can agree, selecting the best welding helmet is an important tool for any person who works with metal to protect his/her eyesight. It is a bewildering prospect to select a piece of equipment that is new to you with so many manufacturers and models to choose from. They come in a number of models, sizes and amperages. However, if you answered the all the questions above, you will end up with the best plasma cutter that is right for you!