By Jayden Mark
Buying the right welding helmet is not a decision one should take lightly. Your number one priority is obviously to protect your eyes and face from ultraviolet radiation and splatter. The best welding helmet needs to be comfortable and fit perfectly. These are just some of the basic considerations. Our review of the best welding helmets, and buying guide, covers every important aspect for this essential part of your welding PPE arsenal.
Best Welding Helmet - Our Top Picks
- 1Lincoln Electric K3034-4 VIKING 3350 Welding Helmet
- 2Optrel Crystal 2.0 Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet
- 3Hobart 770890 Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet
- 4Miller 281000 Digital Elite Black Welding Helmet
- 53M Speedglas Welding Helmet
- 6Jackson Safety Insight Variable Auto Darkening Filter Welding Helmet
- 7ESAB Sentinel A50 Welding Helmet
- 8Miller 280045 Black Digital Infinity Series Welding Helmet
Reviewing cheap welding helmets is more challenging. When you’re paying top dollar, you have the reassurance that the best products, from leading brands, have a reputation behind them. When choosing the best DIY welding helmets, we have to be more discerning. Whilst considering your budget, we still need to ensure that you’re getting something that’s worth paying for. Rest assured, our experience, and dedication to finding the best deal, should prove to be an invaluable resource for everyone. Whether you’re an auto-body professional, metalwork artist, construction welder, farmer, or casual DIYer, we’ve searched for the best options in every category.
1. Lincoln Electric K3034-4 VIKING 3350 Welding Helmet
For professional welding gear, I’ve always found Lincoln Electric to be very reasonably priced. In the mid-level price range, the Lincoln Electric K3034-4 Viking 35550 welding helmet is great value for money.
For a reasonably affordable, professional-grade welding helmet, it’s hard to beat the Lincoln 3350 Viking. Perfect 1/1/1 clarity is the best you can get, enhanced by the extra large lens. The lightweight, superbly comfortable design is truly amazing. Lincoln is a trusted American brand, with over 100-years of industry experience. Certainly a number one choice for many.
2. Optrel Crystal 2.0 Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet
Since the Optrel Crystal 2.0 is one of the most expensive auto-darkening welding helmet on the market, you would expect it to be beyond exceptional. Advanced, space age technology definitely places this product in a league of it’s own.
One of the top options for busy shop welders. Prevents health issues, related to the inhalation of welding gas and smoke. A great advantage, when in a shop with several other welders, is the narrow 60° auto-darkening detection angle. At over $400, this is a specialized professional product.
3. Hobart 770890 Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet
Hobart are the leaders in affordable welding equipment for light to medium duty commercial welders; and is a top choice for DIY metal workers. The Hobart Inventor (770890) auto-darkening welding helmet is, despite being very affordable, a good quality item.
Hobart is part of the Miller group, giving extra substance to this trusted American brand. Although the Miller name is reserved for high-end welding gear, Hobart has become synonymous with affordability, good quality, and trustworthy customer service. This instills a great deal of confidence when buying a cheap welding helmet.
4. Miller 281000 Digital Elite Black Welding Helmet
I’ll be the first to recommend any Miller product. This is a brand that has earned the greatest respect amongst professional welders. The Miller Digital Elite (281000) is a mid-priced, professional grade auto-darkening welding helmet. It offers high-end features, at a perfectly reasonable price.
Few brands offer the experience and commitment that Miller has proven over many years. Durability and quality is of the highest standard, meeting the needs of professionals in the metalworking business.
5. 3M Speedglass Welding Helmet
For specialist PPE, 3M is the go to brand for many production managers. Known to provide high-quality, optimum products, it is natural choice for the professional. The 3M Speedglass has numerous class leading features. As one of the top contenders for the best welding helmet, this is not a cheap product.
The 3M 9100XXi is one of the most advanced welding helmets. It is probably the most comfortable too, with a perfectly ergonomic design and multiple, easy to use, adjustments. The lens and optics can rival the very best. This is a high-end, professional grade product, and is priced accordingly. Be prepared to pay over $400 for this helmet.
6. Jackson Safety Ultra-Lightweight Insight Variable Auto Darkening Filter Welding Helmet
For an affordable DIY welding helmet, the Jackson Safety 46131 comes surprisingly close to the, more expensive, professional grade options. Extremely lightweight and comfortable, with high-end features, it is excellent value for money.
For the home shop, or professional welders seeking a more affordable helmet, the Jackson 46131 is the ideal choice. The extremely lightweight design is both a pro and a con. It offers the ability to work, unhindered for hours, but comes at a slight sacrifice in terms of durability. It is, however, a good quality product for all types of welding.
7. ESAB Sentinel A50 Welding Helmet
Similar in design to the truly fantastic Optrel Crystal 2.0 (reviewed above), the ESAB Sentinel A50 is one of the best welding helmets. Although on the high end of the price scale, it is cheaper than the Optrel model. Durability may not be as commendable as some of its competitors, this is still a good quality product.
ESAB is an established US supplier of all types of welding equipment. The brand has a strong commitment to customer service, which provides a good deal of confidence. The Sentinel A50 is one of their top products, aimed at the professional market.
8. Miller 280045 Black Digital Infinity Series Welding Helmet
The Miller Digital Infinity series is a step up from the Elite series, which is a little cheaper. The most significant benefits offered by this model (compare to the Elite reviewed above), is the class leading large lens and added comfort features to the head gear. Though all the extra padding and solid head gear design, makes this a heavy helmet. The weight seems to be the only real complaint here, though the comfortable ergonomic design does a lot to compensate for this.
The best welding helmet in the Miller lineup. That says it all. If you, like so many professional welders, appreciate Miller technology, the Infinity series going to impress.
Welding Helmet Buying Guide
This review of the best welding helmets has presented some mighty impressive options, and some really great, affordable products. It may be difficult to make sense of all the specs and features. Our buying guide should provide some clarity, making your decision easier.
The most important consideration, when buying any form of PPE, is safety. A welding helmet is essential. It protects your eyes, face, and neck from UV rays and infrared radiation. It also shields against sparks and debris when welding, cutting, and grinding. In the United States, all professional welding gear has to meet ANSI safety standards. In Canada, CSA certification is a must. To this end, all the welding helmets featured in our review meet US standards, and most are also fit for use in Canada. This means you need not concern yourself with the safety requirements. They all make the grade.
This guide is going to look at all the other factors that may affect your decision. Some may relate to safety, as better visibility and, to some extent, comfort will play a role in how easily you work. This will, ultimately, relate to your safety. There are a few important factors that differentiate the mediocre from the exceptional.
These are going to be the main topics of conversation through the course of the guide. Though, we should start by looking at the types of welding helmets and what differentiates them.
Types of Welding Helmets
There are three basic categories by which welding helmets are defined.
These are the original welding helmets that have been around for over a century. They utilize a tinted lens, protecting the eyes from the harsh light produced by an arc. The lens will typically have a #10 shade. You engage the lens manually. In other words, you flip the lens (or the entire helmet) up for clear daylight vision when cutting, grinding, and positioning the workpiece. The lens is flipped down, to protect the eyes, before initiating the arc.
Passive welding helmets are the cheapest and, because of the basic technology, there is nothing to go wrong. However, they are not easy to use. Few metal workers still use this type of helmet as automated technology has made things much simpler and has become more affordable over time.
Auto-Darkening Helmets (Fixed-Shade)
Auto-darkening welding helmets have become the preferred choice for their ease of use. The cheapest of these is the fixed-shade auto-darkening helmet. The lens shading determines how dark it is. For high-intensity, brighter arcs, a darker level of shading is required. If you only do one type of welding, requiring a uniform shade level, you can save money buying a fixed shade auto-darkening helmet. This means the helmet will have a single shade setting, selected for the type of welding you do. Every time you strike the arc, it will darken to this level.
Auto-Darkening Helmets (Variable)
An auto-darkening welding helmet with variable shade settings allows the user to set the shade level. For different arc strengths, you can decide upon how dark you want the lens to be. Most allow you to choose a #3 setting for cutting and grinding, thereby improving productivity. A cut or grind selector switch means that you don’t have to tilt the helmet up when doing these tasks.
Cheap DIY welding helmets seldom provide the best clarity of vision. For the more discerning welder, the ability to see true color, without any type of distortion, is important. The EN379 rating system provides an accurate measure to compare the optical clarity of welding lenses. Tests are conducted, rating 4 factors of the lens.
Each of the factors, mentioned above, are rated from 1 to 3, with 1 being the highest score. A welding helmet with an EN379-1/1/1/1 rating provides the very best optics.
Optics has everything to do with the materials and manufacturing process that goes into a lens. Another factor, apart from the optical clarity rating, is the size of the lens. A larger lens is always preferable as it offers the best field of view. Additional side windows can also be of benefit, allowing for peripheral vision.
Welding helmets differ, as to do the people who use them. Not everyone has the same requirements and our physical features differ. Some people may have difficulties with the lens being too close, or too far from their face. Finding the perfect fit for the head gear and adjustments will also vary.
Like finding the most comfortable shoe, you only realize after you’ve used the helmet a few times, whether it actually works for you. This makes the initial decisions a little complicated, you can never be absolutely sure at first. Regardless of individual needs, there are several basic criteria that can indicate if one model will be more comfortable than another.
Ease of Use
Here again, user preferences will differ. Though most will agree on the essentials.
The first technical specification will always be the optics, this has been discussed in detail. There are a few others that are also important.
After many years of welding, I sure know how important the helmet is. I’ve tried so many different models, from cheap and nasty, all the way through to the very best from top brands, like Miller and Lincoln. Trust me, you need to carefully consider all the options before buying a welding helmet.
Auto-darkening technology is definitely the best thing to come along in this field. Yes, there was a time when you had to flip the UV protection lens into position, moments before the arc. It was a skill that we, old timers, had to master, along with all the other tricks of the trade. Thankfully, this is no longer the case. Though, not all auto-darkening systems are equal. If doesn’t work as it should, this can be a cause of frustration, and can seriously affect he way you work.
Nothing is more irritating than a welding helmet that falls off when you move your head around. Equally infuriating, is a helmet that won’t stay in position when you pivot it up. You want it to fit snugly, without being uncomfortable. I guess many a seasoned welder will be aware of these important details. If you’re a beginner, you may want a little more guidance. After reviewing our carefully selected products, I have provided a best welding helmet buying guide for those folks who aren’t too sure what to look for.
When researching the best welding helmets, and there are a lot of them, we took the time to think about your needs. There is definitely no one solution that’s perfect for all requirements. A professional welder will be prepared to spend more, you need the best quality and top features can be more important when productivity is paramount. Better optics, means improved accuracy and helps in the ease with which you work. If you’re only doing the occasional repair job at home, like welding a gate post, you may not wish to pay north of $400 for a top of the line welding helmet.