It doesn’t matter if you’re farming, fabricating hot rods or fixing appliances. When you work with metal, sooner or later you need to weld something.
Once you start burning metal, you better have a good welding helmet on your head. The right welding helmet not only makes the job safer, it makes a tough job easier.
Modern welding helmets are light, offer high tech features and can even make you look great.
But choosing the wrong helmet could be costly and even painful. Welding will throw burning sparks and drip molten metal around the work site.
We took a close look at six different welding helmets. Balancing cost with features and value will put you in the right gear.
In a Rush?
Here's 3 products we picked out that thought you would be interested in depending on your budget...
The Best Helmets with Reviews
Here's some of the best welding helmets we found:
1. Lincoln Viking 3350 Auto Darkening Welding Helmet
- 4C Lens technology for true color viewing
- Auto-darkening Filter Glass
- Low-profile external grinding mode switch
- Continuous light sensitivity control
- 12.5 square inches of viewing area
- 4 Arc Sensors
- High quality professional helmet
- Large viewing area
- Continuous light sensing: work indoors or out
- Activate grind mode button with gloves on
- Helmet bag, bandana, 5 outside lenses, 2 inside
- Inside dials to change sensitivity and shade level
- Some users say the headgear won’t stay tight
- Light can get inside the helmet from behind
- Not enough coverage to please some welders
The Viking 3350 series is Lincoln Electric’s top line auto darkening hood. Lincoln says it designed these welding helmets to offer a blend of comfort, versatility and premium optics. Vision through the glass is as good as it gets on these helmets, with a 1/1/1/1 optical clarity rating and real-world colors. Most welders who buy this helmet are very happy with the optical quality as well as the variable shade levels from 5-13.
The design is optimized to distribute weight across the helmet to improve balance and make it feel lighter. Some users complain that the knob to tighten the headgear won’t stay tight, meaning it slips off sometimes when bending over. This auto darkening helmet has an adapter to fit onto a hard hat.
The 3350 series comes in colorful styles ranging from racing stripes to robot heads and skull designs. The 1.2-pound weight isn’t the lightest helmet on the market, but the big viewing area means more glass and that adds weight. Everything comes with a cost. Lincoln Electric is one of the most highly-regarded welding equipment companies in the business, a favorite of professional welders. View all our Lincoln welding helmet top picks here.
2. Hobart 770890 Inventor Welding Helmet
- Continuous IR/UV protection
- Grind mode
- Variable shade levels from 8-13
- 9.3 square inches of viewport
- 4 Arc Sensors
- Sensitivity & Delay Controls
- Turns on and shuts off automatically
- Low battery indicator
- Users love its great balance & optical clarity
- Headgear offers size and top adjustment
- Slightly heavy at 1.25 pounds
- May darken in shop lighting
Hobart has long been a major player in the welding industry. Products like the Inventor welding helmet have a lot to do with that. The controls for the auto-dark feature use dials, which are easier to use than buttons when wearing gloves.
The helmet shell, while somewhat thin, is made of polyamide nylon. This material offers light weight for its degree of protection from collision, debris, slag and sparks. The headgear offers adjustments on the top as well as the rear. That’s another feature that adds some weight, but improves comfort and balance.
The Hobart Inventor does weigh slightly more than other helmets in its class. That’s a result of the big 9.3-inch viewport and the magnifying “cheater lens” inside the hood. However, weight really isn’t a big factor because it’s well-balanced.
Hobart and Jackson are probably the most-used auto darkening welding helmets in professional shops. Comfort is the biggest reason for that. Hobart’s sales volume and the fact the Inventor only comes in black account for great value at a price suitable for hobbyists.
3. Antra AH6-260 Auto-darkening Welding Helmet
- Passive UV/IR filter works continuously
- Auto-darkening filter glass
- Quick Grind switch
- Adjustable delay and sensitivity
- 1.75 inch by 4 inch viewing area
- 2 Arc Sensors
- Solar Powered
- Optical Clarity Class: 1/1/1/2
- Light weight
- Variable shading from 5-13
- Solar charging with auto shutoff
- Users love the headgear
- Comfortable with glasses
- Reaction Time of 0.00004 (1/25,000) Seconds
- Thin plastic: No overhead or industrial use
- Some users report being flashed mid-weld
- Sometimes auto-darkens from sunlight
The Antra AH6-260 is a entry-level welding helmet that offers some unusual features for its class. It has variable shade levels from 5-13. Although the 17-ounce weight is a plus, it means the plastic on the hood is too thin for industrial use.
Getting knocked around and banging it on things when you’re wearing it will wear it out pretty quickly. The thin material also means that overhead welding isn’t an option in this helmet, because molten slag can burn through.
It’s got solar charging for the batteries and has been certified to auto-darken and protect with MIG, TIG, plasma or arc. The filter glass is designed to protect from UV and IR whether it’s powered up or not.
Several users have reported co-workers buying these helmets to replace the headgear in their expensive helmets. The AH6-260 features solar power along with the batteries.
Adjustable delay and sensitivity controls are unusual in this price range. One thoughtful design feature is an adjustable lower limit so when the hood is lowered it sits in the same spot every time.
See all our top budget welding helmets here.
4. 3M Speedglas 9100 Auto-darkening Welding Helmet
- Improved optics make it easier to see colors
- Auto-on darkening filter
- 9100XXi Grinding Quick Switch
- Two glass darkening memory modes
- 3 Arc Sensors
- Professional-grade welding helmet
- Grab and go auto-on lets welders work quickly
- External grinding mode activation
- Meets ANSI Z87.1-2010 impact standard
- Handy side windows
- Some users report loosening of the headgear
- Matte finish can be hard to keep clean
- A little heavier than other helmets in its class
One very impressive feature of the ADF 9100 XXi is reduced green appearance when viewing your work through the glass. The idea is that natural colors make it easier to see your work and manage the welding puddle. Helmets in this price range are for professionals, and some welders have complaints about the headgear coming loose pretty often it’s a minor complaint.
Powered by lithium batteries, the ADF 9100 has a grinding mode button designed to work with gloves. With adjustable shade from levels 5-13, the button lightens the glass so you can take care of other chores. The glass darkens again when you strike an arc to go back to work. When you stop welding, the optics lighten up to shade 3 darkness. The 9100XXi option offers two preset modes that give you a quick selection for memorized sets of darkness settings.
The Grab and Go feature activates the 3M Speedglas helmet at its most recent setting and shuts off the glass automatically to save batteries. Exhaust vents for your breath and side windows are among the professional features of this helmet that make it more comfortable to work in for a long time.
5. Jackson Safety Insight 46131 Welding Helmet
- Digital filter and shade controls
- Auto-dark feature
- Grind mode
- 2.3 inch by 3.9 inch viewport
- Meets ANSI Z87.1 standard
- 4 Arc Sensors
- Powered by Lithium Batteries
- Users rave over high quality auto dark
- Jackson headgear is an industry favorite
- Interchangeable with other Jackson shells
- Some reports of skimpy neck coverage
- Heavy at 2 pounds
- No room for a respirator
Jackson Safety welding helmets are a common sight in fabrication shops. They’re famous for the headgear setup inside, which Jackson Safety calls HaloX. Welders who prefer other brands often buy Jackson headgear to replace what’s in the helmet they’ve got.
This is a heavy helmet at 2 pounds, which could add up to a pain in the neck if you need to weld for hours at a time. Some welders report getting sparks or sunburn above the collar from lack of coverage. Between that issue and the inability to fit a respirator inside this close-fitting helmet, this helmet might be better for smaller welders.
The Insight 46131 offers high-quality optics for its price range. Owners frequently praise the auto-darkening technology on this helmet as the best they’ve seen. Many love the digital shade controls, which indicate your shade level with just a quick glance.
6. ESAB Sentinel A50 Welding Helmet
- Streamlined nylon shell design
- Halo 5-point head band
- Centralized pivot provides good head clearance
- 3.93-inch by 2.36-inch viewport
- Color touch screen controls
- 8 separate memories
- Hard hat adapter option
- Very light weight
- Shape is good for welding in cars
- Curved front lens is costly to replace
- Lens suffers from glare issues
- Nylon shell scratches easily
ASAB’s Sentinel A50 is an attempt to redefine the traditional welding helmet. The futuristic “space warrior” look actually serves a valid purpose. It’s streamlined to allow close work like welding inside cars, cabinets and machinery.
The curved shape is also intended to improve head coverage. The curved lens is designed for good peripheral vision to avoid collisions. However, many owners report that in-close welding can result in warping damage to the lens. As a piece that’s not standardized across the industry, replacements are costly. Some users complain of glare and “fisheye” effects through this viewport.
One place where ESAB seems to have hit a home run is with the 5-point headgear. This design features a basket shape that fits over the top of the head like many hard hats use. The 5-point headgear allows shifting the weight of the helmet in different directions for difficult welding situations like lying on your side.
The ESAB A50 isn’t all looks, either. One nice high-technology feature is a phone-like color touch screen for the shade and sensitivity settings.
7. Miller Digital Infinity
- Auto turn on and shutoff
- Biggest viewport you can buy
- Weld, Cut, Grind, and X-Mode
- 3-year True Blue warranty
- Four separate arc sensors
- X-mode eliminates sunlight triggering
- Huge viewport lets you see work at an angle
- Headgear is comfortable
- LCD screen for adjustments
- ClearLight true color filter
- Slips forward sometimes
With 13.4 square inches of viewing area, the Digital Infinity is one of Miller’s top of the line helmets. You can’t buy a bigger viewport than this one, giving you the ability to see clearly when you have to fit into a tight spot and can only see the work at an angle. Miller’s ClearLight Technology provides high-definition true color optics with a clarity rating of 1/1/1/2.
This helmet comes with four separate levels of shade range.
- Welding mode offers variable shade from 8-13.
- Cutting mode provides lens shade levels from 5 to 8.
- Grind mode is shade level 3.
X Mode eliminates triggering in bright sunlight. A low-amperage welding process like TIG can impact variable shade filters the opposite way and the filter goes clear while you’re still welding. X mode uses electromagnetic sensors to detect the welding arc instead of using light sensors, which eliminates these triggering problems.
With the InfoTrack timing record program, a help menu and Miller’s 3-year warranty, the Digital Infinity is one of the finest helmets available in its price range. View more Miller helmets here.
Welding creates light in three wavelengths.
- Visible light can harm your retinas with sheer brightness.
- Infrared light (IR) is invisible, but heats anything it touches.
- The third type is ultraviolet light or UV, also invisible.
A Welding Helmet Will Keep It Covered
IR that hits your skin can burn it just like a sunburn. Welding Helmets protect from IR damage by covering the skin on your face and neck. Check that helmets provide full coverage to protect the bare skin on the neck, face, ears and scalp from IR/UV damage, flying sparks or molten metal.
Watch What You’re Doing
UV rays damage and destroy cell tissue. To protect your eyes, welding helmets have specially darkened glass to filter out harmful bright visible light, IR and UV rays. Filter glass is rated by number to indicate its shade level. The higher the number, the darker the shade and the greater the protection.
Some helmets have glass with a single shade level. While protection is good, usually over level 10 shading, it can be very hard to see if you’re not welding.
That can make it difficult to strike an arc easily without lifting the hood to watch. The problem is you can “flash” your eyes if you strike an arc accidentally while lining up the rod or wire when the hood is up.
This is why auto-darkening filters were invented. They react to the bright flare of an arc strike, darkening instantly. That way you can see to line up the work without lifting the hood, while keeping the helmet’s protection when the arc flares. Passive welding helmets also do a great job, however, they work by having a fixed-shade lens, which is usually number 9 or 10.
What You Need Look For
Coverage and filtering are the most important factors when choosing a welding helmet.
Here’s a brief checklist to compare helmet features.
- Coverage: Does it cover your neck, ears, face and scalp?
- Filter glass: Shade level higher than 10.
- Auto darkening: adjustable sensitivity and shade levels.
- Weight: A heavy helmet is literally a pain in the neck.
- Comfort: Does the headgear have pads and stay tight?
- Viewport size: Can you see to avoid collisions?
- Can the helmet take debris, sparks and molten slag?
- The helmet should meet safety standard ANSI Z87.1
Balance features against quality, materials and price. Paying attention to these details as you compare welding helmets should keep you in good shape. Don’t be sucked in by futuristic shapes and wild decorations. First check quality against features and buy the best you can afford. You can always paint it or add decals if you want something unique.
Wrapping it up
This is a diverse selection of helmets across every price range. We’re going with the Lincoln Viking K3034-4 as our pick for the best welding helmet based on excellent optics, outstanding construction and a huge viewport. The Hobart Inventor is a great choice in the lower price range, but this review is about the best helmet regardless of price. That’s the Lincoln, in our book.