Choosing the best welding helmet is a matter of both personal preference and safety. An effective welding helmet protects your neck, face, and eyes against heat, burns, and light damage. Unprotected exposure to the light emitted while welding can lead to painful eye conditions and even blindness.
The amount of time you spend welding and the projects you work on play an important role in deciding the best type of helmet for your needs.
For a variety of projects, you’ll want a helmet with a wide selection of variable shade ranges to protect your eyes. If you spend long hours welding, a comfortable, lightweight helmet is crucial to avoid neck fatigue.
Our top 10 list breaks down some of the best helmets available for beginners and pros alike to help you decide which welding helmet to buy next.
Best Welding Helmets of 2020 – Comparison
Deko Professional Auto Darkening Helmet – Good Choice under $100
Upgraded from its beginner-level helmet, the Deko Professional auto darkening helmet features a wide lens for increased visibility while working.
The adjustable shade range from 9 to 13 covers an assortment of tasks and provides fast switching speeds of 1/25000 of a second.
Antra AH6-260 – Best Auto-Darkening Helmet under $50
Antra offers an affordable welding helmet that still has all the advanced features a welder looking to upgrade from a basic fixed shade helmet would want. The auto darkening capabilities with adjustable sensitivity allow for rapid response during TIG, MIG, MMA, or Plasma applications.
One of the cheapest auto darkening, variable shade helmets available, it covers all your basic welding needs and is lightweight to prevent neck strain while working.
Jackson Safety W40 Insight – Best Professional Welding Helmet under $150
The Jackson Safety W40 Insight is designed for beginners and professionals alike, all while keeping costs low. It combines a large viewing field with four sensors that allow the helmet to darken even when welding in tight spaces where some sensors may be blocked.
Its standout feature, however, are its digital controls. You can quickly adjust the timing and sensitivity of the auto-darkening capabilities to fit your preferences and welding conditions.
Deko Pro Solar Powered Auto Darkening Hood – Best Budget-Friendly Beginner Choice
Designed with beginners in mind, the Deko Pro solar powered auto darkening welding helmet is very affordable and high quality for the price point. It is a good choice for a starter helmet.
Its auto-darkening features and variable shade darkness allow for a variety of applications including MIG, TIG, and plasma cutting. Batteries are solar powered for easy charging.
Forney 55702 Premier Series Welding Helmet – Best Design Options
Forney offers several series of welding helmets that cover the span of price ranges and experience levels. The Premier series focuses on beginners and hobbyists with helmets available at an affordable price and in multiple designs.
The Forney 55702 is an auto-darkening helmet with user-friendly controls and a comfortable design to avoid neck fatigue when working.
Hobart Impact 770756 – Best Shade Range
Hobart’s Impact series is built for professional welders and comes equipped with a wide viewing area for better visibility, three sensors for arc detection from various angles, and both weld and grind modes.
Unlike many beginner helmets with shade ranges of 9 to 13, the Hobart Impact series ranges from 8 to 13 to provide better visibility in low-light situations.
Instapark ADF Series GX-500S – Perfect for MIG Welding
A great beginner helmet, the Instapark ADF Series GX-500S is a solar powered helmet with auto-darkening and variable shade.
It has fast switching times of 1/25000 of a second as well as a large viewing area. Combined with its low price tag, it is a good choice for beginning and occasional welders who want something more advanced than a fixed shade helmet.
Fibre-Metal Pipeliner Fiberglass Welding Helmet – Best Fixed Shade Helmet
Beginning welders who will only do occasional welding will like the affordable FIbre-Metal Pipeliner Fiberglass welding helmet as it provides a simple, fixed shade helmet for protecting the eyes without any unnecessary extra features.
This traditional style, fixed shade mask does not have auto-darkening and must be raised and lowered in between welding to view work, which can lead to neck fatigue if used for long periods of time.
Antra AH7-360 – Best Helmet with Large View
The newer Antra model, the AH7, welding helmet features solar-powered batteries, auto-darkening capabilities, and a fairly inexpensive price tag.
The solar-powered batteries enhance the performance of the auto-darkening feature and wide shade range to protect eyes during welding.
The helmet is compatible with magnifying and cheater lenses and allows for manual adjustment of timing and sensitivity for the darkening features. It has a large viewing area and the design covers and protects both the face and neck.
GLIME Solar Powered Helmet – Good for TIG welding
GLIME’s solar powered, auto-darkening variable shade capabilities with sensitivity and darkness adjustment options make it an excellent beginner helmet for Arc, MIG, and TIG welding as well as grinding.
Shade darkens in 1/30000 of a second for optimal eye protection. The helmet runs on solar powered lithium batteries so no battery changes are required. Shade ranges go from 9 to 13 for working on a variety of projects.
Best Welding Helmet for the Money – Buyer’s Guide
Regardless of whether you need a welding helmet for an occasional hobby or for day-to-day professional use, your helmet should always meet ANSI Z87.1 standards. Helmets that have met these standards provide 100% UV and infrared light filtering at all shade settings, meet their stated switching speeds even in low temperatures, and provide protection against flying debris.
- Auto-Darkening and Variable Shades
Traditional welding helmets were designed as a simple mask that fit in front of your face with a darkened lens to look through that blocked harmful rays during welding. The mask was lifted up in between welding and then flipped down, often with a snap of the head, once the actual arc started. Traditional helmets have the advantage of being simple with no sensitivity controls to adjust and inexpensive.
For professional welders or those who spend long hours welding, however, constantly flipping the helmet up and down can lead to neck fatigue and strain. It also increases the risk of accidental exposure to harmful rays if the helmet isn’t flipped down fast enough as the arc starts.
Newer helmets have integrated auto-darkening and variable shade technologies to combat these problems. Auto-darkening capabilities allow the helmet to darken automatically when it detects the first sparks of light.
Common speeds are 1/16000 of a second and 1/25000 of a second from light to dark. This reduces the chances of “flashing,” where your eyes are exposed to the light of the arc for a few seconds before you can flip the shade in place. Once the weld is complete, the lens lightens again so the welder can see to start the next weld without needing to lift the helmet. Variable shades, typically included with auto-darkening welding helmets, provide a range of darkness shades instead of a single shade like a traditional fixed helmet. This allows the helmet to be used on a wide assortment of welding projects ranging from those where more light is needed to see the project to ones that require more darkness to block brighter light.
Common shade ranges on helmets go from 9 to 13 or 8 to 13. A passive shade has only a single shade, and the mask is flipped up to see the project, then flipped down right before the arc starts. It is common for passive helmets to have a shade number in the middle, such as 10.
Lower numbered shade ranges, such as 8, work best for low-amp applications while higher numbers are necessary for high-amp applications to block the appropriate amount of light. Setting the shade too light allows more light in and can cause eye damage or pain while setting the helmet too dark makes it difficult to see while working.
- Viewing Angles and Sensors
In addition to auto-darkening technology, you should also compare the number of sensors and the size of the window in your welding helmet. More sensors enable the helmet to trigger auto-darkening technology even when the light from the arc comes from the side, or when one of the sensors is obstructed.
This is common when welding in tight spaces. Three or four sensors are common for higher-end helmets to ensure they can detect light from various angles and prevent flashing the welder.
A wide viewing lens, or window, allows you to see your work from various angles without removing the helmet. This saves time and protects your eyes as you won’t have to take the helmet on and off when starting a new weld. Beginners, in particular, can benefit from a large window on their welding helmet and a high range of shades so that the helmet can lighten enough to see the project in between welds.
Hobbyists can often get by with only two sensors, but having a large viewing window is still beneficial, so you can continue working without having to take off your helmet. Professionals should typically look for four sensors and choose the viewing window size based on project types and personal preference.
- Optional Features
There are many optional features you can look for in a welding helmet, depending on your skill level and personal preferences. A magnifying lens, also known as a “cheater lens”, can be used in many helmets and enlarges the working area. This gives you a better view when welding and is great for beginners or those working on small details.
Some helmets will work with a hard hat adapter so you can attach the helmet or mask over a hard hat. For welders working in occupations where falling objects are a possibility, this adds an extra level of safety to protect your head while you work.
Most welding helmets will allow for some adjustments to the size, but for maximum comfort seek out a helmet that offers features such as a ratcheting headband style design to allow more customization in the fit.
The best welding helmet for you depends on your personal preferences for fit and design as well as the types of welding projects you will undertake and how often you’ll spend welding. Fixed shade helmets work well for the occasional welder, while those looking to make welding a hobby should look into auto-darkening, variable shade helmets to protect the eyes and reduce neck fatigue by eliminating the need to remove the helmet between welds.
Professionals or those who spend long hours welding may want to invest in a higher-end helmet with additional sensors, adjustable controls, and a wide range of shades to ensure safety and comfort when welding for long hours.