Best Welding Helmets of 2018 – Reviews & Buyer Guide

Are you looking for the best auto darkening welding helmet? These are quickly becoming a trend in the welding world, with some helmets even using solar energy to darken.

How To Choose The Best Welding Helmet

Firstly, you need to realize that every individual has a different preference towards the specifications such as weight, sensitivity, etc. Ultimately, you want the perfect balance between safety, comfort, and results.

  •  When deciding on what welding helmet is best for you, one absolutely crucial part is the amount of protection being provided to your face. You certainly need your full face covered no questions asked, and you need a helmet made out of material  that is capable of shedding any molten fragment material.
  • A well dimensioned viewing area through your welding mask is extremely important. Generally welders look for semi-long periods of time, so a small viewing port will be difficult to work with. A small viewing area may result in having to position your head or back in poor ways resulting in posture issues, unnecessary body strain, or flipping up the helmet frequently slowing down your speed of work.
  • Location of helmet controls is also another important thing that gets often overlooked. Why’s this important? Well, let’s consider that if the controls are internal controls, you’re going to need to likely remove your helmet in order to make adjustments. This slows down your work and can become annoying quite quickly. External controls are nice, but they too have their flaws in that they can be damaged by airborne debris.
  • Helmet weight – it’s quite simple, really.  A light helmet will reduce head, neck, and body stress thus reducing fatigue allowing you to work more efficiently and at a longer duration. Stress on the body can cause frequent breaks, dehydration, muscle tightening, etc.

Detailed Comparison And Buyer Guide

What Specifications Should My Welding Helmet Have?

The key goal of a welding helmet, no matter if it’s solar or battery powered is that it should provide protection from UV rays and infrared rays that you are exposed to while welding. This is extremely important to keep in mind along with the fact that they are also designed to protect you from burns and bodily harm.

With this details in mind, we’re going to get to covering what we believe are some of the more important things to consider. You want something that is safe, yet functional, and hey maybe even a cool design too!

Switching Time

A fast switching speed should be desired over a slow one. A fast switching welding helmet will provide you the least amount of exposure to the UV and infrared rays that result from your welding arc. It doesn’t matter what type of welding you are doing, you want a fast switching speed. What does switching time mean? It’s simply the time a helmet takes to transition from natural light to the darkened shade used when the torch is lit up. Professional helmet lenses can darken at the speed of 1 / 16,000 of a second, while entry level helmets typically have a switching speed of 1 / 3,600 of a second and up. As you get to a fast switching speed you generally see price go up along side it.

Heaviness of Helmet

Light helmet = less body stress = more efficient work. You want to reduce stress and reduce pressure. Aim for a goal of purchasing a auto darkening helmet with a weight of at the max 10 pounds. Most of our recommended helmets are below that, so you should be okay.

Viewing Size

Viewing size refers to the helmet viewing area that you look through when conducting welding jobs. Typically you will find a welding helmet view size of 5 square inches up to 10 square inches. It is typically recommended for professional welders to get a larger view port, while hobbyist get a smaller simply to keep in mind budget. Your viewport will determine how easy it is for you to see while working, smaller viewing size helmets tend to be more difficult (I know, stating the obvious right?).

Fitting Ability

Common sense says, a helmet that fits better will be conducive to better work. It will also provide more protection, comfort, and coverage in case of emergency. If your fit is not ideal, you can purchase big’s that attach to the helmets to improve comfort and boost protection levels.

Quantity of Sensors

Absolutely invest in a helmet that has a good number of sensors. Why, you ask? The number of sensors is directly related to the speed and amount of protection you have in case of spark or flame. You want to aim for 4 sensors to have on your welder helmet, but two will work (although not preferred). To reduce potential exposure, if you are a welder that frequently works on your back or side, go with the 4 sensor. If you traditionally work in a normal position you are exposed to less risk and can thus explore going with 2 sensor helmets.

National Safety Standards

National safety standards exist for welders and there are certain codes your equipment should be equal with. Don’t be a cheapskate and purchase a piece of equipment that puts you at more long term health risk. ANSI Z87.1 – 2003 is the newest safety standard for welders. Follow it, know it, and respect it. It has set a mandate that auto-darkening lens manufacturers will need to confirm their claimed specs (transition speed, dark shade settings, etc) with lab tests that are available to the consumer.

Product NameCustomer ReviewsEditor RatingUses
Hobart 770753
4.7 /5 Stars MIG, Stick, ARC, low amp TIG
Miller 251292
4.6 / 5 Stars MIG, Stick, ARC
Jackson Safety BH3
Jackson Safety BH3 reviews
4.6 /5 Stars Stick, MIG, TIG, ARC
Lincoln Electric 3350
4.6 / 5 Stars Stick, ARC, MIG, TIG
3M Speedglas 9100
4.5 /5 Stars Stick, MIG, TIG, ARC
Antra AH6-260-0000
Antra AH6-260-0000 reviews
4.4 / 5 Stars MIG, MAG, TIG, SMAW and Plasma Arc

Consumer Top Rated Picks 

Antra AH6-260-0000: Most Affordable Welding Helmet

Antra AH6-260-0000 At the time of writing this review, the Antra AH6-260 is rated over 4.5 stars by our editor. It comes with auto shut off/on functionality that is fully automatic. A unique feature to this helmet is the fact that it comes with an adjustable darkness setting that you can tailor to your own needs.

Not only does the Antra AH6-260 work for welding, but it’s also versatile enough to withstand plasma cutting work.  Measuring 9 x 8 x 12 with a weight of approximately 16 ounces (1 pound), it’s batteries included and capable of functioning with Plasma, Grinding, TIG, MIG, and ARC welding. Viewing specs of 3.86 x 1.78 inches and a variable shade inclusion of 4/5 – 9/9 – 13.

Rhino RH01: Largest Viewing ScreenRhino-RH01-Large-View-Carbon-Fiber-Auto-darkening-Helmet

Weighing in at roughly 1 lbs 2 ounces the Rhino RH01 works great for
SMAW,GMAW,PAC<FCAW,GTAW, and PAW welding. It features a switching speed of 1/25,000 of a second and is made of lightweight nylon shell. The RH01 is also known as the Rhino Large View + Grind Auto Darkening Helmet and features a massive 10 square inch viewing area. The headband has been known to loosen up at times, however it also comes with a rachet style headgear to aid in support. Replacement parts are extremely easy to find making this a popular addition to any welders equipment stock. Ah, one last thing – it’s also solar powered and features 2 arc sensors!

Jackson Safety W70 BH3: Highest Quality

Jackson-Safety-W70-bh3The W70 BH3 is among the most expensive helmet you’ll find on our list today, but it stands out amongst the competition in terms of clarity and light diffusion. Essentially, you get what you pay for wit this particular product. Featuring an auto-on filter designed for auto darkening, it weighs in at roughly 2.1 lbs and provides superb protection for MIG, TIG, and ARC welding scenarios. A switching speed of 0.15 microseconds makes it extremely fast! Dimensions measure at 12 and a quarter inch x 9 and five eighths x 9 and three quarters inches with an EN379 rating of 1/1/1/1. That is fantastic, I am particularly fond of the viewing port on this helmet which helps aid in preparation ease and speed.

Welding Helmet Common Questions

What is a passive style welding helmet?

Let’s start off by saying, that generally speaking a passive welding hood isn’t something we would suggest for a beginner welder. However, most experienced welders will generally have no problem using them.  In general, we recommend not to use these for beginners because they will have trouble seeing the electrode part of the torch (yeah, you learn with experience).

About the only benefit to a passive welding mask is that they are cheap and affordable, however to us the risk of injuries and difficult for a newbie just isn’t worth it.

What is a filter lens for a welding helmet?

A filter lens is the part of a welding helmet used to protect the welders eyes. They are a crucial part of a helmet because they’re responsible for protecting your eyes for the UV and infrared light exposure. We call these key non-impact dangers that a welder is susceptible to.

How long do most auto darkening welding helmets last?

There is no exact length of time. However, factors that can influence helmet lifetime include, but are not limited to:

  • Quality of helmet material
  • How rough you are with the helmet
  • How many hours a day you use it

What is a good budget for a welding helmet?

We suggest at least $100 USD, but here’s a better perspective on the price tiers you can expect.

  • $0 – $100 helmets
  • $100 – $200 helmets
  • $200 -$300 helmets
  • $300 + helmets

Are mask, hood, helmet all synonyms for welding helmets? Are there any other common synonyms?

Yes, when you see any of these referenced in regards to welding they are all referring to the same thing. It’s confusing, but it’s something you should just become used to.

Arc Eye & Retina Burn Protection

Welding helmets are headgears utilized to perform different types of welding and to protect eyes, neck, and face from flash burn, sparks, UV light, heat, and infrared light. Ultraviolet emissions produced from welding arc can cause damages to exposed skin as well as eyes; hence, workers use helmets with filters called lens shades. Radiation, splashes, and gasses are hazardous to skin and eyes hence helmets are designed to protect welders from exposure to these hazards.

They are used to prevent retina burns and arc eye which are caused by too much exposure to the sparks. They are usually used with arc welding processes such as gas tungsten welding, shielded metal welding, and gas metal welding. A welding helmet is crucial for welders and apart from the additional safety precautions, a helmet could help with overall welding performance. Welding helmets are available in a variety of optical densities particularly designed to filter the light intensity produced by the arc.

The Evolution Of Welding Helmets

Welding can be traced back to the ancient times as early as the Bronze Age. During this age, small gold boxes were used and are estimated that these gold boxes were made more than 2000 years ago. The Egyptians and the eastern Mediterranean people learned the art of welding iron pieces together during the Iron Age. Further, the art of blacksmithing became popular during the middle ages and iron items were produced by hammering. Welding has been done since the Bronze Age, however, using of welding helmets came only in 1905.

Frederick M. Bowers was the man who invented the first welding helmets. He got the inspiration to make welding helmets when he saw that welders in his hometown needed improved protection while working in ships, pipelines, and railroads. He founded the Fibre-Metal Products Company and manufactured the first ever welding helmet in 1905. Later, the company pioneered in the production of face shields, fiber metal caps, and goggles. Industrial Revolution demanded more welders in the 1930s; therefore, welders used facemasks and goggles to protect themselves. However, the proper use of welding helmets started only in the year 1937.

The early helmets were simple with a polarized lens or dark tinted glass without UV radiation filter. During the First World War, the high demand for weapons production pressured companies to manufacture electrodes and welding machines. This may have further influenced for the establishment of new welding helmet manufacturers. Later, welding helmets kept developing with better technologies and the first auto darkening helmet was introduced. In the 1940s the most recent type of welding helmet was introduced and since then it has evolved significantly.

In 1981, Swedish manufacturing company Hornell created the first auto darkening welding helmets under the brand name Speedglas.

In 2004, the company Hornell was taken over by another welding helmet company called 3M. In addition, Frederick M. Bower’s company Fibre-Metal Products Company was sold to North Safety Products in the year 2005. Today, both companies manufacture and sell standard helmets as well as auto-darkening helmets. 3M Company was previously known as the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company. Today, it operates in more than 67 countries across the globe. Some of the best-renowned welding helmet manufacturers today are the Miller Electric, Lincoln Electric, 3M, Jackson, and Hobart.

Popular Welding Hood Types

Standard or Passive Welding Helmets

This type of welding helmet is made of molded plastics and is coated with infrared lights. The shield is durable and its extended front protects users from physical hazards. One can clearly view various angles and is also provided with adjustable sensitivity. They are popular for being cheaper than auto darkening welding helmets. Generally, they come with a 10 lens shade that does not change whether a welder is welding or not. They give effective protection and is easy to put and easy to take off as well.

Auto-darkening Welding Helmets

Auto-darkening welding helmets are lightweight and designed to minimize neck discomfort. When a welder strikes the arc, these helmets automatically darken and many injuries have been reduced by auto darkening helmets. They are proved to be especially useful for modern welders working under poor light conditions. It comes in three different types, the fixed lens shade, professional and intermediate, and battery and solar powered. These helmets are designed to have light sensors present near the lens that helps welders in viewing like sunglass shade.

The sensors are utilized in order to get better coverage. This type of welding helmets is known to be the best ones which also provide clear vision. In the professional and intermediate helmet, the amount of brightness depends on the intensity of the lens. The brightness will be dimmer if the intensity is lower. Battery helmets are rechargeable as it is made of lithium and it can be charged in the sunlight because of the solar panels. The solar panel supplies backup power if the battery suffers low power. Solar power helmets are known to be most useful while working outside and battery-powered helmets for underground or inside large structures. Both utilize the sensors in order to identify when the light brightens, and when it is time to adjust the glass in the face shield to block only the right amount of light.

Auto darkening helmets basic models develop darker shade with any contact to arc light no matter where the light comes from. Auto darkening deluxe model helmets have special sensors that can detect the difference between a co-workers arc and operator’s arc. The advantage of auto darkening welding helmet is that it allows the welder to accurately see the area that needs to be welded.

The lenses are available in glass as well as plastic, and glass lenses are said to be better for not containing color distortions. It is known that a conventional welding helmet can blind a welder if the welder is too abruptly welding and killing the arc, leaving the welder in total darkness and vulnerable to fall or harm. This is why many construction companies at present require welders to use auto darkening helmets.

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