When I first started my apprenticeship, I didn’t know the first thing about welding so I kept looking at what the shop owner was doing. I would squint my eyes to look at the welding process behind his back, so he wasn’t aware of any stupid mistake I was making.
Once, when he caught me at it, he shouted that I won’t be able to sleep that night. I didn’t really believe him, yet, sleep I did not.
Try and imagine what it would feel like to have burning hot sand in your eyes. I’m not exaggerating even a bit. That’s literally what it felt like. I tried opening my eyes, but they kept shutting on their own. It kind of helped when I tried not moving my eyes at all, but that’s nearly impossible. This went on for hours. And tears were running down my face, non-stop. For hours!
At one moment, I actually started panicking and freaking out. I honestly thought that my eyes were damaged for life. Luckily, this wasn’t the case, but I still would not wish this experience even upon my worst enemy. I’m sure all welders know the importance of protective gear, but if you’re new to this art, PLEASE don’t learn this mistake the hard way, and get yourself a welding helmet right away to protect your eyes.
Finding the Right Welding Helmet
Because welding helmets are of such importance, you must do your homework before getting one. Well, I’ll be your tutor for today’s homework. I did serious research and came up with a list of my favorite auto darkening welding helmets on the market today.
Some helmets on this list are much more expensive than others and are recommended for professional welders who spend long hours welding every day with a helmet on their head.
If you’re still not sure about this line of work and don’t want to spend a small fortune on a helmet, there are also more budget-friendly helmets for you to look at, because the top-notch welding helmets can cost up to 10 times more.
Keep in mind that all of the welding helmets listed below are auto darkening, and they all conform to the ANSI Z87.1-2010 standard.
Best Welding Helmet
Best Overall: Lincoln Electric, VIKING 3350
The Lincoln Electric is hands-down my choice for the overall best welding helmet. Lincoln Electric is a serious brand in the welding business, and this is one of their top products! The VIKING 3350 features Lincoln’s 4C lens technology which provides a supremely clear picture that most other brands cannot offer.
It has an optical clarity 1/1/1/1 rating which means no blurriness and other imperfections, and that is very important for minimizing eye strain, especially for long hours of welding.
This welding helmet is quite versatile. It has a standard lens shade range of 5-13 and you can also control the sensitivity and delay. The lens has 4 arc sensors and the switching speed from light to dark is 1:25,000 sec. There’s also an outside button for switching between grind or weld mode.
The size of the lens itself is an accomplishment. It has a very large viewing area of 12.5 inches, which is more than the other best welding helmets can offer. But this feature comes at a price. The bigger the lens, the heavier the helmet will be. For this reason, Lincoln Electric has developed the X6 Headgear which balances the weight distribution equally on 6 different contact points to decrease the strain on your neck.
Lincoln Electric is so confident in this product that they give a 3 -year warranty for it, and as a gift, you receive a helmet bag, a bandana, 5 outside cover lenses, 2 inside cover lenses, and some stickers for it.
A big drawback of this helmet is the crank dial on the back. More than a few welders have complained about it snapping off, which means the helmet will fall off in some positions.
- 4C lens technology for clear view;
- Large viewing area;
- External grinding mode button;
- Comfortable fit.
- Possible issues with the crank dial;
- A bit pricey.
Runner Up: Hobart 770890
This auto darkening welding helmet features a very simplistic design. It’s sturdy looking, primarily because of the durable polyamide nylon that it’s made of. Unfortunately, a bit too simplistic for my taste. All of the control dials are inside, including the grinding mode button. They may be easy to use, but you have to flip the hood up every time you want to switch.
This Hobar auto darkening welding helmet is equipped with 4 arc sensors, and they are very reliable. Even though it has a green tint, the picture is very clear with an optical clarity of 1/1/1/1.
The helmet is light and comfortable, which is very important for long hours of welding. The headgear does not have the flimsiness of the YESWELDER and other helmets in that price range, and it only costs a tiny bit more.
There aren’t any real drawbacks to this helmet. If it had an external grind mode button, it definitely would have been my top pick.
- Very durable and reliable;
- Light and comfortable;
- Great value for the money.
- Green tint;
- No external grind mode button.
Best Design: ESAB, 0700000800 Sentinel A50
The design of this welding helmet is amazing. And it’s much more than just looks – it’s designed to fit in narrow spaces and offer better head coverage. The helmet is also very durable because it’s made from a high resistance nylon shell. ESAB implemented their “halo headgear” with a 5 contact point weight distribution for minimal neck strain.
The lens uses a true color screen with a slight blue tint to minimize eye strain. The optical clarity rating is 1/1/1/2, and a variable shade range of 5-13. The coolest feature, however, is the inside touch screen display to control the settings. It can memorize 8 different settings that you can switch between with ease. It also features an external grind mode button.
The curved cover lens can be a drawback, though. A few welders have reported it to warp from the heat produced by the welding. So you can’t really use this for high amperage welding unless you stand two or three feet away from the welding rod.
Additionally, because it’s a unique design for a cover lens, it doesn’t come cheap.
- Comfortable and ergonomic;
- Fits in narrow spaces;
- True color display.
- Lens cover might warp from heat;
- A bit pricey.
Best Budget Welding Helmet: YESWELDER, EH-091XL
With 14.8 inches, this YESWELDER model has by far the largest viewing area of all the helmets on this list. And it doesn’t stop there. YESWELDER has improved their display quality by implementing true color technology and reducing the green tint while keeping an optical clarity rating of 1/1/1/1. The lens shade range is 4-13 with a fixed shade-3 light state.
This auto darkening welding helmet is equipped with 4 arc sensors to make sure you don’t get flashed.
It’s also quite easy to use. It has an external grind/cut/weld mode button and control dials for shade, sensitivity, and delay. In my (and most welders’) opinion, external analog control dials are a better option because you can swiftly switch between the settings, even while wearing gloves.
Of course, no welding helmet is perfect, especially one that costs 5 times less than the leading brands’ helmets. The first thing you notice is how cheap the headgear looks and feels. A lot of welders replace the entire headgear with one from a Lincoln Electric helmet, which you can buy in most welding gear stores.
Another issue that seems to come up now and then is people getting flashed. This is the absolute worst thing that can go wrong with an auto darkening welding helmet. Not only is it annoying, but it can really hurt your eyes and even cause permanent damage. I’m sure that this isn’t an issue with the model in general. Instead, some helmets just turned out faulty.
- Very large viewing area;
- 4 arc sensors;
- External grind mode button and control dials;
- Much cheaper than other brands.
- Headgear is flimsy;
- Faulty items have been reported.
Best for Professionals: 3M, Speedglas 9100 with ADF 9100XXi
This one’s a classic when it comes to auto darkening welding helmets. According to a lot of experienced welders, it’s the best helmet you can buy. I must admit, it has some seriously good features, but I think the price is a bit of an overkill.
First of all, I really enjoy the design of the Speedglas. It’s very unique, featuring a minimalistic and futuristic style. It’s also very light, so it’s comfortable for long hours of work.
The silver panel on the front has a button that lets you choose between grind mode and your presets (I love this feature). The main control panel is on the inside and it has a very easy-to-use interface.
The latest series of 3M’s Speedglas definitely has an improved display compared to earlier models. The colors are much clearer and easier to differentiate. Another great feature about this helmet are the side windows which provide a complete panoramic view, if you want it. If not, you can close them. The shade range is a standard 5-13 with a shade-3 in light state.
The number of arc sensors is what really surprises me. Unlike most auto darkening welding helmets nowadays, this one only has 3. However, they are very reliable and always react on time.
The “Grab and Go” feature is a real battery saver. Whenever you leave the helmet, it will automatically turn off, and when you pick it up, it turns on automatically to your last used preset. Now that I’ve mentioned the battery life, there’s a downside with this model. It has no solar strip, so the batteries probably won’t last very long.
What 3M is really proud of is the comfort of the headgear. It has an ergonomic design with a padded headband for the forehead and two adjustable straps for better weight distribution. You can really make the helmet fit perfectly to your head with a smooth ratchet.
3M is so serious about this product that it comes with a disclaimer that it’s not for commercial use and should only be used for industrial purposes. I think this makes it quite clear that this helmet isn’t for you if you’re new to this art form, or you just do it as a hobby.
- Clear view;
- External button for presets and grind;
- Panoramic view;
- “Grab & Go”;
- Comfortable and light.
- No solar strip;
Most Durable: Miller, 281000 Digital Elite Black
There probably isn’t a list about welding products without a Miller product. And this one has an appropriately named welding helmet, the Digital Elite.
First of all, it has a great design and it’s as sturdy and durable as it looks. But what you notice right away is that there are no external buttons or switches. This is something that bothers me because I like to have at least the grinding mode button on the outside to switch faster.
Although it’s on the inside, the control board is very practical and easy to use. There are 3 different modes to choose from: grind, cut, and Miller’s patented X mode, which uses an electromagnetic sensor to detect the arc. This feature is very useful for working outdoors and in brightly lit environments. The lens shade range is 5-13 and the light shade is fixed at 3.
The Digital Elite uses Clear Light technology that provides a super clear view with realistic colors. The optical clarity rating is 1/1/1/2, which is slightly weaker than the other helmets in this price range. Besides the electromagnetic sensor, it has 4 regular light sensors, so your eyes will be as safe as possible.
Although it is comfortable and light, quite a few users have complained about the headgear. It tends to get loose and needs readjusting more often than what would be acceptable, especially at that price and for a brand like Miller.
- Convenient control board;
- X mode for better arc reaction;
- True colors provide a clear view.
- The inside grind mode button is a bit of hassle ;
- Headgear a bit flimsy;
- A bit pricey.
Most Revolutionary: Optrel, Crystal 2.0
Not only does it look like a futuristic space helmet, it has the features to back up the look. The Optrel Crystal has a fully automated shading option, and it works great. If you don’t want that, you can also do it manually with a variable shade range of 5-12.
But perhaps the coolest thing about this welding helmet is the “twilight” feature. This means it will gradually go from dark to light state to minimize eye strain. And when it does get to the light state, you’re in for a treat. No welding helmet surpasses the crystal clear light state which is a shade 2. True color really means true color.
As nice as it sounds, the twilight feature may be a blessing and a curse. While the image is slowly brightening to gradually adapt your eyes to the light, close to perfectly clear, light state, it will not detect an arc. This means you have to wait for the process to end before you can start welding again. This will take some getting used to, and it will be annoying and possibly a health hazard (if you don’t wait long enough).
Back on the bright side, this helmet is extremely light and comfortable. Its ergonomic design makes it fit like a glove. You will barely feel like you’re wearing a helmet on your head.
Another thing I love about this helmet is the external grinding mode button.
To sum up, I think this welding helmet is really onto something with its cool features and is probably setting the standards for the welding helmets of the future. I would recommend this for the more professional welders. The price also may not be appropriate for the recreational or beginner welder.
- Automatic shading;
- Twilight mode;
- Clearest light mode on the market;
- Light and comfortable.
- Twilight mode takes getting used to;
Best Value for the Money: Jackson Safety, Insight HSL-100
Not a lot of thought was put into designing this particular helmet. It’s as simple as it gets, too simple for my taste. It literally looks like it doesn’t belong in this century. The plastic it’s made from feels and looks a bit cheap, but nevertheless, it’s not actually bad. It’s slender, so it’s useful for tight spaces.
While the lens does provide a very clear image, it’s only 3.94×2.36 in. On the plus side, it is very reliable and its four arc sensors always react on time. It has a variable shade range of 9-13, so it’s not really useful for low amperage welding.
The worst thing about it, however, is the fact that the grind mode button is inside, and it’s tiny so you can’t press it if you have thick gloves on.
Although Jackson Safety advertises this product as ultra-lightweight, it weighs 2 pounds, which is more than most helmets on this list. But the weight is well distributed, so it’s still a comfortable helmet to wear. It may need some adjusting around the neck, though.
A few users have reported issues with the headgear, and one customer has even noted that it feels like their hair getting pulled out one strand at a time.
- Appropriate for narrow spaces.
- Small viewing area;
- The grind mode button is on the inside;
- A bit heavy.
Best for Hobbyists: DEKOPRO, DNS 800-S Super Viewing
Just by looking at this helmet, you can tell that it’s not too durable. The plastic feels cheap and the paint job doesn’t help either. All of the controls are inside, and so is the grinding mode button. If it wasn’t clear by now, I really dislike this feature.
On the upside, the screen is huge. The viewing area is 12.1’’ and the picture is nice and clear. The display doesn’t feature true color though, and it’s a green tint, but it really isn’t bad. The optical clarity rating is 1/1/1/2 and the shade range is 4/9-13. It’s equipped with four arc sensors to make sure you don’t get flashed, and they work quite well.
The helmet is surprisingly light considering the size of the lens, it weighs only 2 lbs and it’s comfortable to wear. The headgear is made in a way to distribute the weight well and there’s no neck fatigue when you have to wear it for a few hours.
- Large viewing area;
- Light and comfortable;
- Low price.
- Inside grind button;
- A bit flimsy;
- Green tint.
Best for High-Amp Welding: Antra, DP9-1
I must point out that this welding helmet feels very lightweight and cheap. The plastic doesn’t seem like it can withstand a lot. Another flaw that I spotted immediately is that there’s no external grind button.
Of course, there’s a lot of nice features to it as well, like the huge lens, for starters. It has a 12.5” viewing area and features true color lens technology. The picture is really clear with an optical clarity rating of 1/1/1/1. The shade range is 5-14, so it’s appropriate even for the highest amperage welding. Like most helmets nowadays, it has four arc sensors and they seem to work perfectly fine.
The headgear does feel like it will last, but it’s not too comfortable. There’s not a lot of adjusting you can do for a perfect fit, but it’s not too bad. It’s also surprisingly light considering the lens size, which is always a good thing.
- Large viewing area;
- True color display;
- No external grind button;
- Thin plastic;
- Not too comfortable.
How to Choose the Right Welding Helmet: A Buyer’s Guide
Now that we’ve looked at my favorite options, it’s time to decide which one is the best welding helmet for you. That’s exactly what this buyer’s guide is for – to lead you through the main factors and features you should consider when choosing. Shade level, lens, optical clarity, weight, and even the type of welding you prefer (MIG/TIG/arc, etc.) all play a role in which helmet is right for you.
If you’re going to be spending hours at a time with your welding helmet on, it can really take a toll on your neck. A large viewing area means a heavier helmet and that can really make your neck fatigue. Of course, you can get used to the weight because your neck will build up the muscles, but it’s gonna take some time.
So, you should check the weight of the helmet before clicking that “add to cart” button. In any case, a good welding helmet, even if it is a bit heavier, will feature proper weight distribution so it won’t stiff up any part of your head or neck.
The weight is not the only issue that comes up with welding helmets, as uncomfortable headgear can really have a negative impact on your welding. If your headgear keeps poking you in the same spot all the time, or it’s tweezing your hairs one by one, it will be very annoying and you won’t be able to focus on your work.
For example, some welders that have bought the YESWELDER helmet listed above, claim that the headgear is so uncomfortable that they bought a Lincoln Electric headgear and just replaced it.
There’s a huge difference in the viewing area size between these helmets. In the end, it comes down to personal preference when choosing the size. Some welders work on large projects so a large viewing area is a must. Others prefer smaller lenses because it can be distracting to have a large peripheral view. So picking the lens size really depends on the type of work you’ll be doing.
All of the auto darkening helmets listed above have a variable lens shade range. Only the Optrel Crystal 2.0 has a 9-12 range, while the others have a standard 9-13. This means that the Optrel can’t be used for very high amperage welding. Keep in mind that for most types of welding, you don’t really need to go darker than shade 11.
It’s of utmost importance to see what you’re doing while setting up and while welding. This is why lens clarity is one of the key factors when choosing a welding helmet. While today most lenses offer a very clear picture, some are still better than others.
‘True color’ is something that keeps coming up when you’re looking at welding lenses. Although the colors aren’t really ‘true’, at least there’s no green tint. A more realistic picture also means you won’t have to flip the helmet up so often between welding sessions.
The ideal optical clarity rating is 1/1/1/1, and most of the helmets on this list reach it, while the others have a rating of 1/1/1/2, which is also not so bad.
Because the welding helmet protects not only your eyes but also your face, you want something you can rely on. In general, the cheaper the helmet, the less durable you would expect it to be.
Although I seriously doubt any of these helmets would break just from a fall, some are definitely made sturdier than others. Working with metal means there’s a great chance of flying debris, and in such a case I’d like to know I’m equipped with solid protection.
There’s a huge price difference between some of the listed welding helmets. For example, for the price of one 3M Speedglass you could buy 8 DEKOPRO 800S helmets. Of course, if you can afford yourself a more expensive helmet, go for it.
If you’re welding for a living, you should go for a more expensive welding helmet because it will probably last for many years. However, if this is just something you want to do in your free time you probably don’t want to spend a small fortune on just one piece of equipment, and the cheap welding helmets on this list are reliable enough for that purpose.
Best Welding Helmet: Conclusion
That was a lot of information to process, so I should quickly refresh your memory.
If you’re looking for the most budget-friendly solution, the YESWELDER welding helmet would be the best choice. It offers a perfect 1/1/1/1 clarity rating on a 14.8” screen. But its headgear seems to be a weak link, which is why some users tend to replace it with one from another brand.
Another cheap helmet worth looking at is the DEKOPRO, DNS 800-S. Unfortunately, its weight and thin plastic made sure that this helmet doesn’t get the top spot for a budget helmet. Plus, for a small difference in price, you can get the much more reliable Hobart 770890.
If you’re a professional welder that welds full-time 3M Speedglass and the Optrel Crystal 2.0.
They are the most expensive helmets on this list and for good reason. They have the best features and are probably the most reliable welding helmets on the market.
If you don’t want to spend money for an industrial-grade helmet, but still want to get a reliable helmet that will last you a long time, there are really good options out there. That’s why my overall best welding helmet is the Lincoln Electric VIKING 3350. It’s a modern-day classic when it comes to auto darkening welding helmets. Although Miller 281000 seems a bit more durable, it has design flaws that I just can’t get over (yes, the grind button is one of them).
What is the most expensive welding helmet?
The most expensive helmet on this list is the 3M Speedglass, and it’s one of the most expensive helmets out there along with Allegro 0600-81, and Optrel Panoramaxx.
What is a good cheap welding helmet?
The YESWELDER, EH-091XL is definitely the best choice if you’re on a tight budget.
What is the clearest welding lens?
The clearest welding lens belongs to the Optrel Crystal 2.0. As I mentioned above, “No welding helmet surpasses the crystal clear light state of Optrel Crystal 2.0, which is a shade 2”. It’s almost like looking through a clear window.
Does welding ruin your eyes?
If you don’t take the necessary measures, yes. However, by using the right protection you should be fine. The welding lenses protect up to 100% UV radiation. Even if you’re not welding, but someone else is, make sure you never look in the direction of the weld. Your eyes can get exposed to the radiation even if you’re 50 feet away.
How long do welding helmets last?
A lens with a non-replaceable battery can last up to 7 years. Nowadays, most auto darkening welding helmets use replaceable batteries and a solar strip that charges them. This is the best option because the welding arc produces UV radiation that charges the batteries through the solar strip.