TIG (tungsten inert gas) welding, or gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW) is the most demanding, but also the most rewarding type of welding. You can depend on TIG to get the most precise, high-quality results with a number of metals, including stainless steel, aluminum, copper and copper alloys, and magnesium. From repair work and art to automotive and aerospace engineering, TIG is the preferred method through and through.
However, welding is a hazardous activity. There are spatter, sparks, sudden light changes, and dangerous UV and IR radiation to worry about, all of which can cause damage to your skin and worst of all, your eyes. Needless to say, to protect your eyes and face you need to invest in a good welding helmet. Especially when it comes to TIG, mostly a professional’s niche, there’s no working without a proper helmet shielding your head.
When it comes to TIG welding, you need to opt for a helmet that offers a shade range suitable for low amperage work (typical for TIG), dependable arc sensors, and a sturdy combination of lens and shell that will protect your eyes as well as your entire head and face. But these are only some factors you should be considering – there’s also a bunch of personal preferences to take into account, like auto-darkening vs passive helmets, the size of the lens, the type of batteries, sensitivity, and delay controls…
So with all those welding helmets on the market, if you’re trying to find the best welding helmet for TIG, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Well, not all of it, because I’m about to do my best to help you out.
I’ve prepared a short introduction to TIG and what the different specs mean for you before I cover my favorite TIG helmets. Don’t skip out on the buying guide at the end of the reviews, where I’ll cover the main factors you should consider when choosing the best welding helmet for your needs.
What Makes TIG Welding Different?
You know what TIG welding is already, so let’s just take a look at what makes it different from the other types of welding. As I mentioned, TIG welding is perfect for getting more precise weld than you would with other welding methods, like MIG. It helps that the pedal used for TIG gives you more control over your work, making it the professional’s go-to machine.
TIG welding also produces less spatter and waste, as it uses non-consumable tungsten electrodes that can withstand high heat without melting. So what you end up with on your hands is low-maintenance work and accurate results. It also follows that TIG welding doesn’t usually require filler metal – unless you actually want to add some, in which case you’ll need to feed it manually.
Of course, TIG is also one of the most difficult types of welding. All that precision requires know-how, hard work, and devotion. It also means that you have to thoroughly clean your surface before you get to work.
Overall, TIG is perfect for any serious application that requires a strong or aesthetic weld, or when you’re working with thin sheet metal.
What Welding Helmets Are Suitable for TIG Welding?
The whole thing with welding helmets (or welding hoods, if you’re old school) is that they protect your eyes from all that stuff I went over above – sparks, spatter, flashes, UV and IR radiation from flames and arcs, and so on. So, the lens on welding helmets is darkened in order to protect you from these flashes.
Each welding helmet features a shade range that’ll fall somewhere between 5 and 14. The higher the number, the darker the helmet. And if it’s an auto-darkening helmet, the shade will change based on the sensors – but we’ll get to that in a bit.
Shade 5 is really quite low, no darker than a pair of sunglasses, so it won’t really protect your eyesight when you weld – especially with TIG. In fact, anything between 5 and 8 isn’t suitable for welding and is only OK to use for cutting and grinding. If you opt for an auto-darkening helmet, you’ll see that shade 5 is usually the “clear view” shade for grinding, setup, etc.
So, when it comes to TIG welding, you want to ensure that your helmet’s lens falls in the shade range between 9 and 13, depending on the amperage you’ll be using (50 to 300 amps). If you weld at below 50 amps, technically you can get away with using shade 8 – but I strongly advise that you avoid doing that for long periods of time.
With all the shade out of the way, let’s take a look at the two types of welding helmets you can get for TIG welding: passive and auto-darkening.
Passive Welding Helmets
The first type of TIG welding helmet we’ll talk about are passive helmets. Passive helmets are the budget-friendly option, but it doesn’t mean they’re bad. The eye shield (lens) doesn’t auto-darken – it’s always dark, i.e. at the same shade.
While some passive helmets come with a fixed shade eye shield, others allow you to replace the eye shield lens. The replaceable lens option is obviously better because you get to play with a broader shade range, and always use whatever’s most suitable for your welding work that day. On the downside, helmets with replaceable lenses are usually a bit pricier.
Passive welding helmets are pretty straightforward to use. You flip the eye shield down when you weld, you flip it up when you want to look at the weld puddle. What comes as a drawback here is that first, all that flipping can get tiresome, and second, you won’t be able to see much until the arc lights up the room.
So, if you go for a passive welding helmet, you’ll need to opt for an eye shield with a shade range between 9 (for low amperage) and 13 (for higher amperage) for TIG welding. If you dabble in MIG or stick welding, keep in mind that they require shades 10 to 13, so choose a darker shade that’ll work for all of them – probably, a darker shade.
To be honest, neither TIG welding nor passive helmets are a good starting point for beginners. If you’re new to welding, keep this in mind: you’ll see nothing in a passive helmet until you start welding, which means you can start at the wrong palace, mess up the bead, etc. For the precision that TIG can give you, it’s just a wasted opportunity.
Overall, I wouldn’t really recommend passive helmets for professionals. All that flipping the eye shield up and down can put a strain on your neck and have an overall negative effect on your efficiency. Unless, that is, you’re super used to it so it won’t mess up your workflow.
If you only weld as a hobby or part-time, you could try a passive helmet. But again, you need to be real experienced at TIG welding to actually go and use this sort of helmet.
Auto-Darkening Welding Helmets
The pricier but also more convenient way to go is getting an auto-darkening welding helmet. Auto-darkening helmets come with all sorts of premium, techy features, like a number of arc sensors, adjustable sensitivity and delay controls, a large viewing area, high optical clarity rating, variable lens shade, different modes (like grind mode as well as welding mode), some of them even offer true color technology… but the one thing all auto-darkening welding helmets have in common, is, well, an auto-darkening lens.
Auto-darkening lenses utilize LED plates rather than regular eye shields with a fixed shade. When you strike an arc, the arc sensors pick up on it and quickly send the message to the auto-darkening filter, which immediately darkens to keep your eyes safe.
Basically, by default, when there are no flashes involved, the lens will just sit at around shade 5, allowing you to view your weld puddle and working area. The moment arcs enter the picture, your viewing area will darken to protect your eyesight.
Choosing an Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet
Overall, we could easily argue that auto-darkening helmets are more ergonomic and easy to use. You don’t need to flip the eye shield up and down when you work or don’t work, the auto-darkening filter takes care that you see what you need to see when you need to see it in the best way possible – clear and safe.
However, these helmets are more expensive. Plus, they’re definitely not all made the same. For one, they’ve all got different features. For instance, some have fixed darkness (shade) that they’ll revert to when they detect an arc, while others have variable shade. But that’s the sort of difference you get to control, i.e. choose for yourself.
The real trouble starts when you try working with a flimsy helmet. Getting an unreliable auto-darkening helmet, for instance, would defeat the purpose of paying more money for protection. If a helmet has poor arc sensors and a slow response time, you’ll get flashed anyway, which is super bad for your eyes. What’s the point of auto-darkening if it doesn’t auto-darken when you need it to? A good welding helmet will darken at the first sight of an arc.
So, if you want to get an auto-darkening welding helmet, you ought to choose carefully. Here are a couple of high-tech features and factors that auto-darkening helmets bring to our story. It’ll also help you better “interpret” the best welding helmets I reviewed below, as you’ll be able to better understand what I appreciate about them.
Arc sensors are just that – sensors that detect the arc and initiate the auto-darkening of the lens so you don’t get flashed. In general, auto-darkening helmets have between two and four arc sensors. The number of sensors does affect the price – the more sensors, the more expensive the welding helmet. While there’s no denying that four sensors are better than two or three, it’s also true that you may not actually need that many.
Basically, the additional sensors come in handy if you work in multiple welding positions. For instance, if you do overhead welding, an extra sensor will ensure that the arc is properly detected in time. If you just work on a regular surface in your workshop or garage, then two or three sensors will do the trick.
In any case, you want to make sure that the arc sensors of your welding helmet work properly. As I already said, a single failing of the sensors to detect and ark can result in the auto-darkening filter not activating, and you getting flashed.
Fixed vs Variable Shade
Another thing to take into account is whether a welding helmet features fixed or variable shade, i.e. darkness. Fixed shade helmets jump only between two shades. So for instance, when no arcs are detected, the darkness will sit at shade 3 (or 4 or 5). The moment an arc is detected, regardless of how light it is, the shade will jump to a fixed number, like 9 (or 10 or 11, etc.). Now, if you only do one type of welding, like TIG, you might do fine with this sort of lens.
However, if you engage in different types of welding, and work at different amperages, it’s a far better idea to get a variable shade helmet. This will allow you to adjust the controls on the helmet depending on the type of welding, amperage, and therefore, the brightness of the arc. While for TIG you may want to set it to 9 or 10, stick welding would require a higher shade level, such as 13.
Of course, helmets featuring variable shade cost more than fixed shade helmets.
Darkening Reaction Time
Between the sensors detecting an arc and the helmet auto-darkening, there’s a moment of lag, and this moment of lag isn’t something you should ignore. In general, darkening response or darkening reaction time ranges between 1/3600th of a second and 1/25000th of a second. Both ends of the range are less than a second, so who cares, right? Welp, you should care.
While the difference in the fractions seems negligible enough, for a professional welder, artist, or hobbyist who spends entire days welding, it will make a difference. If you weld every now and then, it’s not something you really need to worry about. But for the regular welder, those fractions of a second worth of flashes will add up over time.
Cheaper welding helmets will be on the lower end of the spectrum, and more expensive ones will be on the higher end, boasting a faster reaction time.
One thing you should keep in mind is that the weather can affect the response time of arc sensors. Colder temperatures can result in longer lag, which means the darkening may not arrive in time. Make sure to check the specs on this issue for your helmet of choice (it’s usually referred to as “minimum temperature rating”), especially if you work outdoors. If you can’t find details about this on the product’s page, there’s no shame in contacting the manufacturer.
Sensitivity Control Settings
In the world of high-tech welding helmets, sensitivity control is something you’ll come across often enough. It just means that you’ll be given the option of adjusting how sensitive the filter will be, i.e. how much light will trigger the auto-darkening feature to activate.
This is especially nifty if you’re doing some low-amp TIG welding, because you can set the sensitivity controls to react at less light, so you’ll even be protected at even the tiniest of sparks. If you’re working with MIG or stick welding, on the other hand, where there’s no mistaking an arc because it will create a light blast visible from three streets down, you don’t need sensitivity control – any reliable sensor will catch it in time.
You’re probably not surprised at this point, but I’ll repeat it anyway – this feature also means a more expensive helmet.
Delay Settings/Delay Time
Not all helmets offer adjustable delay settings. Some’ll just give you a fixed delay time. Delay time refers to how long the lens will remain dark after the light created by the arc dies down. If you buy a helmet will delay settings, you’ll be able to adjust this value.
In general, short delays are useful for low-amp welding because you get to go back to work as soon as the light is gone. For tack welding, for instance, a short delay time means that you’ll be able to place the electrode in the next position as soon as you’re done with the last arc.
Longer delay times are great for high-amp welding because the weld pool will continue to shine with dangerously light hues even after the flow of the arc is long gone. In these cases, longer delay means your eyes get that extra protection until the metal cools enough to lose this shine.
Again, if you only work with one sort of welding, it’s enough to find a fixed delay time that’s suitable for the style. However, if you like to mix it up, a welding helmet with delay settings will be the safer choice.
As opposed to passive helmets, auto-darkening models are active helmets, apropos the auto-darkening feature (at the very least – as we’ve discussed, there are so many more functions you can expect from an active helmet). However, something needs to provide power to the LED screen so that the auto-darkening eye protection will kick in.
So, auto-darkening helmets come with three different battery types, i.e. power sources: solar-powered batteries, lithium batteries, and AAA batteries.
Solar-powered batteries are my personal favorite. A solar-powered welding helmet features a solar panel and a lithium battery, but the solar power recharges the lithium batteries so you don’t have to worry about buying new ones all the time. Although these helmets are pricier than ones with alternative power sources, they’re also the most dependable and eco-friendly, producing the smallest amount of waste.
If you work outside, your helmet will be charging all the time – given there’s sun to charge it. If your helmet runs out of battery (because you mostly work indoors or you left the helmet in storage for too long), you can recharge it simply by leaving it out in the sun for several hours.
Lithium batteries are the second-best option if you ask me. Lithium batteries last longer than AAA batteries, but they’re also pricier and rarer in shops.
AAA batteries (or triple-A batteries) are cheap and available in every gas station and market in the world, probably. I’m really not a fan of them being a power source for a gadget whose reliability our health is dependent upon. In other words, you want a reliable power source for your helmet, because you don’t want to get randomly flashed. Unfortunately, this can happen with a triple-A battery. It can just die at the worst time, leaving you to suffer the consequences.
Best Welding Helmet for TIG
We covered the terminology and main features you’d look out for in a TIG welding helmet – so now, it’s time to look at the best auto-darkening welding helmets on the market. While all my favorites are pretty sturdy, safe, reliable, and suitable for low amperage TIG welding, you’ll see that the specs – like lens shade, optical clarity rating, lens color, number of arc sensors, power source, modes, etc. – will vary.
I also tried to include a welding helmet for every budget, so even if you’re strapped for cash, I’ve probably got something for you.
Best Overall Welding Helmet: Miller Digital Elite with ClearLight Lens
The Miller Digital Elite is my overall top pick as it combines useful features and durability with an affordable price tag. It’s suitable for TIG welding on low amperage, offers a clear view of your work, and comes with a bunch of operating modes that you can switch between as you weld.
This helmet features a ClearLight lens that’ll give you a natural world color with a regular black tint. Basically, it doesn’t have a green or blue tint, but just the sort of tint you’d get from sunglasses – except much safer and suitable for welding.
The variable shade range combined with the operating modes makes the Digital Elite the perfect choice for the versatile welder. You can go between shades 5-8 for cutting and 9-13 for different types of welding.
The welding hood doesn’t come with shade 14, but a lot of the new helmets don’t. Shade 14 is generally useful for super high-amperage industrial work so I’m not sure you’d really need it anyway.
Keep in mind that the Miller also comes with an AutoSense feature that’s perfect for welders who often change their working environment. This function will detect if you’re indoors or outdoors, what the level of light around you is, and adjust the viewing lens accordingly.
This auto-darkening welding helmet comes with 4 modes: weld, cut, grind mode, and X-Mode. X-Mode is Miller’s own inventive contribution to the welding industry that addresses the dangers that may occur if the arc sensors fail to work.
X-Mode utilizes electromagnetics to reduce interference from sunlight and detect arcs even in cases where the sensors don’t activate for some reason. For instance, if you weld from odd angles in narrow spaces, there may be obstacles blocking the arc sensor from detecting the arc. In this scenario, an X-Mode serves as a trusty backup feature.
On this subject, the Miller Digital Elite comes with four arc sensors, which is optimal. Whatever position you work in, they’ll be able to detect an arc. And if all fails, there’s the X-Mode to keep your eyesight protected. Plus, the reaction time of the sensors is 1/20,000th of a second, which is quite fast!
Overall, I’d say that the Miller is easy to use and super comfortable. The large, digital push buttons are easy to activate and the cover lens is designed for a quick change. The headgear feels snug yet roomy enough, which will allow you to work for hours on end.
On the downside, if you work for hours on end, you’ll need to occasionally readjust the helmet as it may come loose. Another thing I’m not in love with is the fact that the Miller only comes with a lithium C battery without a solar panel to recharge it.
This durable helmet comes with an awesome 3-year warranty.
- ClearLight Lens for a true-color experience;
- Number of sensors: 4;
- Broad variable shade range that’s suitable for different types of welding;
- 4 useful modes: X-Mode, grind mode, weld mode + cut mode;
- 3-year warranty;
- Very comfortable;
- Easy to operate.
- No solar panel;
- You may need to readjust the welding hood while you work.
Runner-Up: Lincoln Electric VIKING 3350
When I say runner-up, I mean it in the best way possible – I had the hardest time deciding on whether the Miller Digital or the Lincoln Electric is my top choice. You’re probably not surprised – it’s tough to compare these two giants in the welding industry. So, the Lincoln Electric VIKING 3350 is a close second with incredible optics, a large viewing area, versatile controls and modes, and a high reaction time. It’s also compatible with a cheater lens.
The Lincoln Electric 3350 comes with a large viewing area of 12.5 square inches and excellent optics – the featured 4C Lens Technology will give you a clear view of your work with a broader range of colors. If you have a shop near you, try it out – you can see with a 1/1/1/1-rated optical clarity in light or dark, i.e. regardless of whether you weld, cut, or are prepping your surface.
Keep in mind that 1/1/1/1 is a perfect optical clarity rating, meaning there’s shade consistency and minimal to none distortion and blurriness.
This auto-darkening welding helmet features a pretty standard shade range between 5 and 13, making it suitable for different kinds of welding. It also comes with 4 arc sensors, which means it’ll catch the arc in any welding position.
The reaction time of the arc sensors is pretty impressive and among the best on the market – 1/25,000th of a second. In this area, the Lincoln Electric 3350 has the Miller Digital beat.
The Lincoln Electric VIKING 3350 welding helmet comes with three modes: weld, cut, and grind mode. The grinding mode button is conveniently placed on the outside of the helmet, which I notoriously love. It makes it way easier to switch between modes and maintains an efficient workflow.
A cool thing about the grind mode is that when it’s on, there’s a light that turns on to remind you you’re in grind. This significantly reduces the chances of you forgetting about it, striking an arc, and witnessing the light of a supernova before your eyes.
The Lincoln Electric is suitable for all sorts of professional applications, including general and heavy fabrication, structural, repair, and maintenance welding, as well as construction. It comes with a 3-year warranty, which attests to the durability of this welding helmet.
Another perk of the Lincoln Electric over the Miller is the fact that it features a solar-powered assist cell for the lithium battery, meaning you can get it recharged.
On the downside, the headgear has a lot of knots and bolts, so to speak, that you need to deal with in order to set up the helmet on your head. It’s comfortable enough, sure, but the extra straps make it a bit of a hassle. Plus, the headgear is heavier than others and goes loose every now and then, which is also… meh.
- 3 modes: grind mode, cut mode, weld mode;
- Arc sensors: 4;
- Fast reaction time (1/25,000th of a section);
- Perfect 1/1/1/1 optical rating;
- Solar power option;
- Large viewing area;
- Compatible with cheater lens;
- 3-year warranty.
- A bit heavy (3 pounds);
- Strapping on headgear a bit of a hassle, plus it sometimes pops loose.
Most Comfortable: ESAB Sentinel A50
I finally give you the most comfortable welding helmet: ESAB Sentinel A50. The adjustable 5-point Halo headgear makes this auto-darkening welding helmet suitable for hours of non-stop work, even if it is heavier than some other models.
The ESAB Sentinel A50 also comes with great optical clarity, lots of memory settings, a broad shade range, and various modes.
The optical rating is 1/1/1/2, very slightly worse than the Lincoln, but that’s probably due to the fact that the auto-darkening lens is curved (my main beef with this helmet). Other than that, the true color view is pretty awesome.
If you work with different types of welding at different amperages, you’ll love this helmet. The ESAB Sentinel A50 comes with 8 memory settings that you can set up ahead of time. Once you’ve predefined the settings, specifying variables like lens shade level, sensitivity, and delay, you can simply select whichever combination’s suitable for your welding process that day. You select the memory setting from the featured touch-screen panel.
Like my top two picks, the Esab Sentinel A50 comes with 4 arc sensors, a handy external grind mode button, a shade range between 5 and 13, and a super-fast reaction time of 1/25,000th of a second. Plus, it comes with a solar cell you can use to charge the lithium batteries.
Although the Esab can be useful for professionals and weekend warriors alike, it’s probably too pricey for the second category.
My main gripe with this model is the curved lens, which can sort of distort your viewing area and create an unpleasant glare. Plus, it comes with only a 2-year warranty, which is OK but worse than the others.
- Great optical clarity (1/1/1/2 optical rating);
- Optimal no. of arc sensors: 4;
- Super comfortable Halo headgear;
- 8 memory settings (with adjustable sensitivity, delay, shade);
- External button for grinding mode;
- Curved lens causes glare;
- Warranty is shorter than that of the other best welding helmets.
If you’re ready to make a serious investment into your new welding helmet, 3M Speedglas can take you for a sweet ride. All the controls are external, which makes it super easy to use and switch to grind mode.
The 3M Speedglas comes with a standard shade range (5, 8-13, and level 3 light shade) and it’s suitable for low and high amperage TIG welding. It’s a great choice for professionals who work in heavy infrastructure and construction.
The 3M Speedglas is great for long hours of work. It features great optics that allow you to see more realistic colors without your eyes growing tired. It’s also got side windows so you can maintain good awareness of your environment. Plus, it doesn’t get foggy, so all this put together means you can wear the helmet down for hours without feeling stuffy.
The reaction time of the 3M Speedglas is 1/10,000th of a second, which is fine but honestly, I’d expect it to be faster for a helmet of its price. It also doesn’t feature a solar panel, but only a C lithium battery.
- Side windows make it perfect for long hours of use;
- Doesn’t get foggy;
- Great optical clarity;
- Compatible with cheater lens;
- Comfortable and ergonomic;
- Memory settings and adjustable sensitivity.
- No solar power option;
- Strap needs readjusting every now and then;
- Reaction time should be faster for the price.
Best Budget-Friendly: YESWELDER LYG-M800H
This YESWELDER is one of the best auto-darkening welding helmets you can get for an affordable price. To be honest, it’s not what you’d call a super cheap welding helmet, but you shouldn’t be buying anything cheaper than this anyway – there’s a good chance it won’t do its job protecting you.
The shade range on the helmet is again pretty standard (5-13).
The YESWELDER has a lot of features I’m into. It utilizes a lithium battery that can be charged with solar power (it has a solar cell), a large viewing area, and a true color view with an optical rating of 1/1/1/2, which is pretty decent. In fact, the optics make it great for TIG welding – you need to see the puddle for the precision TIG requires.
The helmet is comfortable and has the same auto-dark time as my premium pick, i.e. of 1/10,000th of a second, which in this case – is quite decent considering the cost. Of course, it comes with a grinding mode and is compatible with a magnifying lens (cheater lens).
Overall, this is a great helmet for the money. One possible drawback is that all controls (not just grinding mode) are external, but this is mostly a matter of preference. Another issue is that the straps may pop loose after a while.
The biggest problem I encountered was that some welders felt the lens wasn’t dark enough. This seems to be the exception, but in any case, I’d say it’s safest to use it for TIG welding on thin sheet metals, like steel.
In any case, I wouldn’t recommend this welding helmet to professional welders. It’s better suited for hobbyists and weekend warriors.
- Sensors: 4;
- Lithium battery can be recharged via solar cell;
- Great optics;
- Compatible with magnifying lens;
- External grinding mode button.
- Not suitable for professional welders;
- Straps may come loose;
- The ADF has questionable quality.
After all that, deciding which one is the best welding helmet for you depends on your preferences and practices. For instance, while the YESWELDER is a good value choice for hobbyists, I wouldn’t recommend it to professionals who also do a lot of high-amperage MIG or arc welding.
Of course, it also follows that the 3M Speedglas is probably a waste of money for the weekend warrior. Auto-darkening welding helmets in its category are best suited for professional welders who put in long hours of work. The headgear is comfortable, the lens is dependable, and the side windows allow you full control of your surroundings and keep the inside of the welding helmet fog-free.
Another great option for folks that spend hours on end at worksites or the workshop is the ESAB Sentinel (love the name), as it’s super comfortable, versatile, and safe – it has one of the best reaction times on the list. I don’t love the curved screen, but you can’t have everything.
The super close second for the title of overall best welding helmet is the Lincoln Electric VIKING 3350. I honestly love this thing – it’s tied with the ESAB for the fastest reaction time, it has all the modes you need, a perfect optical rating, a solar cell, and a wonderful 3-year warranty. I recommend it for professionals and hobbyists alike.
But my absolute favorite, the best welding helmet for TIG, is the Miller Digital Elite. I think that the winning feature is the X-Mode, designed to keep your eyes safe even if the arc sensors (4 of them) fail to work.
The Miller has beautiful true-color optics thanks to its ClearLight lens and offers ease of use with its versatile modes and settings. It’s comfortable and durable, coming with a 3-year warranty. Considering the quality, the price is quite reasonable, so I’d recommend it for just about anyone who’s serious about welding and does it for long hours.
Finally, it’s left to you to decide which welding helmet is right for you. So the last step I want to take you through are the factors you should keep in mind when choosing – i.e. a buyer’s guide. Even if you’re considering a helmet that isn’t included on my list, these pointers will still help you. They’re pretty universal, so they should be useful either way.
Welding helmets are protective gear, so to make sure that your welding helmet of choice aligns with its purpose, it’s important to check if it complies with recognized safety standards. While all my recommendations have the necessary certifications, if you’re interested in another helmet you need to ensure that it’s certified yourself. Keep in mind that the best welding helmets are certified.
In general, what you’re looking for is ANSI Z87.1 certification, a standard established by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). This standard was last updated in 2020, so older models probably comply with the 2015 (or 2010) issue. Still, the 2010 and 2015 versions are safe enough as well.
ANSI Z87.1 certification means that a certain helmet has passed tests that prove the safety of the gear for eye protection. This means that the eye shield protects the eyes not only from spatter and sparks but also UV and IR radiation and arc flashes.
Avoid buying a helmet that hasn’t been ANSI Z87.1-certified. This implies that either they haven’t bothered, or haven’t passed the tests, and in either case, it means that they’re probably not as safe as protective eye gear should be.
In any case, if you’re a professional welder, wearing an ANSI Z87.1-certified helmet is a must.
Also, keep in mind that protective gear doesn’t end with a helmet. To fully protect the skin of your arms, look into the best welding clothes and gloves.
Type of Welding
The type of welding you do will influence whether you need a variable or fixed shade auto-dark function. So for example, if you always do MIG welding at a certain amperage, you’d be fine with a fixed shade that’s suitable for the type. However, if you work with different machines at different amp levels, you’ll need a variable lens that can be adjusted for the different types of welding and amperages.
Size and Color of the Lens
Lens size and color are all about personal preference. If there’s a welding gear shop near you, you can try out different lens sizes and color types to see what feels best. Let’s take a look.
Traditional welding helmets usually have a cute, tiny little window through which you can basically only view your working surface. Some modern helmets have small screens, too, but most of them have a much larger lens.
In fact, a lot of modern welding helmets come with a large viewing area. This allows you to not only view the welding process, but also your surroundings, which makes it especially useful for outdoor welding.
A large viewing area is also useful for welding in different positions, like overhead, or from awkward angles. In general, active welding helmets come with larger viewports than passive helmets, but it’s not exactly a rule.
Color is mostly a preference. You can opt for a lens with true world colors (i.e. true color), or one with a green or blue tint.
A Few Words Before You Go…
I did my darndest to take you through the best auto-darkening welding helmets on the market, the best helmets that money can buy. Even if you didn’t find something you like in my recommendations, the buying guide and intro to the welding-world glossary should be of some help when you’re making your mind up.
Safe and happy welding!