Welding is a common occurrence in almost any workshop. Whether you are a full-timer or a weekend warrior, you will need a welding helmet to protect you. Welding without protection inflames the cornea, causing a condition doctors call ‘arc eye’. Without adequate protection, you risk retina burns. This can lead to loss of vision. And, the UV rays emanating from the arc causes a lot of skin problems like discoloration and premature aging.
Luckily, there are many products on the market that will protect you from the above. However, with so many helmets to choose from, it becomes difficult to judge which one is right for your needs. That’s where our top picks & buyer’s guide come to your rescue.
We tested, measured and compared 51 different welding helmets in our garage. Thereafter we handpicked our 5 favorite helmets for you to see. Let’s get to it!
|Lincoln Electric VIKING 3350|
(Best for the Money)
|Jackson Safety BH3 W70||2 lbs||4.6/5|
|Jackson Safety SmarTIGer w40||2 lbs||4.3/5|
|Instapark ADF Series GX-350S||2 lbs||4.1/5|
The Lincoln Electric VIKING 3350 is the best welding helmet on the market. No matter how you look at it, this helmet is a winner. At the top of my list of reasons to buy this product is the view size. The view window on the window is twice as wide as the view on most other helmets.
In addition to the wide view, the cartridge on the Viking 3350 comes with 1/1/1/1 optical rating. Let’s talk about what the 1/1/1/1 rating refers to quickly. Go ahead and skip to the next paragraph if you know everything there is to know about the 1/1/1/1 rating.
So, the Viking 3350 has a top-rated lens. The switching time, which is the time taken for the lens to go from light to dark, is extremely low for this model. If you weld for many hours a day, the rapid switching time will minimize the strain on your eye. The helmet comes with an internal shade, sensitivity, and delay control. On this model, you can vary the shade across two ranges: 5 to 8 and 9 to 13. The light shade state for the helmet is 3.5, which is slightly lighter than most other welding helmets.
The helmet has four arc sensors. So, the shade will not flicker in case of any obstructions. The helmet has solar power with battery assist. There is also a test mode to check whether the auto-darkening filter lens is working. You can also attach a magnifying lens of various magnification levels for seeing fine elements in detail. And all this comes with a 3-year warranty.
Although this helmet is pricier than most run-off the mill welding helmets, I think the features, build quality, and functionality of the helmet justifies the price. If you are a serious welder, spending money on a high-end helmet is essential. The only downside to this helmet is the weight. At 54 ounces, it is twice as heavy as other helmets on this list. Nevertheless, it’s one of the best welding helmets on the market right now.
A pricey model like the Viking 3350 may not be within your budget. That’s why I included the Antra AH6-260 on this list. It is the best welding helmet for the money. When it comes to the tech specs, the AH6-260 holds its own against the Viking 3350. Let’s see how this economy model fares against our top pick.
The major difference comes in the view size. The AH6-260’s view size is only about half as wide as the Viking 3350’s. However, for every other feature, this budget helmet “almost” matches the top pick. I say almost because the optical clarity of the Antra helmet is 1/2/1/2. So, it is rated below the Viking 3350 in terms of clarity and viewing angles. Both machines are extremely sensitive, and they both come with sensitivity and delay control. The shade selection range for the AH6-260 lies between 5 to 9 and 9 to 13. The light state shade is 4, which is slightly darker than the Viking’s.
Both machines have 4 arc sensors, solar-powered operation with battery assist, auto test button, and grind mode. In terms of features, the AH6-260 offers everything the Viking 3350, albeit at a marginally lesser quality. However, the Antra AH6 is 70 percent lighter than the Viking 3350. At 16 ounces, you will hardly feel like you’re wearing a helmet.
Now for the best part – the Antra AH6-260 is nearly 6 times cheaper than the Viking. Price-wise and feature-wise, the AH6-260 is one of the best auto darkening welding helmets on the market. But, there’s a catch. While Lincoln Electric is a well known and reputable manufacturer, Antra is not. In fact, if you compare their websites, you will see what I mean. So, I wish they gave more than a 1-year warranty. However, at this price, the risk to reward is justifiable.
Jackson Safety has so much faith in its products that they give a five-year warranty on them. Even Lincoln Electric, a notable brand in its own right, offers only a three-year warranty. To say that Jackson Helmets are high quality is an understatement. If you don’t mind paying a premium price for quality, then this is the product for you.
For its price, you’d expect this product to be a feature-heavy welding helmet. But, it is not. The W70 doesn’t have as many features as the previous models we discussed. However, Jackson has pushed the existing features to a very high quality. For instance, the ADF with Balder Technology gives you the clearest vision among any other welding helmets on the market.
You would have never thought of the word “beautiful” to describe a welding puddle. But, with the W70, you will. The visibility and color recognition the 1/1/1/1 cartridge offers across different viewing angles will blow your mind. Plus, it has ANSI Z87.1+ standards. The “+” sign indicates that it is certified as a high-impact model.
Now, let’s come to the drawbacks. At 0.15 milliseconds, the W70 is not nearly as sensitive as the AH6-260 and the Viking 3350. The W70 offers only one range of shade selection, which is from 9 to 13. The helmet has only 2 arc sensors and it doesn’t come with a grind mode. However, this model does have delay and sensitivity control.
The W70’s power source is purely solar. If you forget to recharge your helmet, it may put a premature end to your welding plans for the day. A battery-assisted solar power source would have been a great addition. Overall, this is a great helmet for those who want crystal clear visibility. However, I do feel the model is too pricey.
If you want the same visual clarity that the W70 offers at approximately less than half the price, you could go for the Jackson Safety W40 model. But, you will have to make some compromises. Fortunately, the 5-year warranty that comes with the W70 applies to the W40 also.
However, the W40 comes with a 1/1/1/3 cartridge. This means that this model has poor angular dependence. But, if you work on a fixed viewing angle, then this shouldn’t matter much. Another key difference is that this model does not have delay control.
Let’s look at what delay control means. Delay control defines the time it takes for the lens to switch from dark to light. If you’re welding aluminum with a TIG welder, the tungsten tip and the weld puddle takes some time to cool down. So, if your helmet transits from dark to light too early, the brightness of the aluminum weld could hurt your eyes. But, if you work only with steel and MIG welders, the auto dimming function of the W40 will protect your eyes well enough.
The model also doesn’t have a grind mode. The model does offer sensitivity and shade control. The shade control ranges from 9 to 13. In the light state, the lens is at 4 DIN. Like the W70, the W40 also has a sensitivity of 0.15 milliseconds.
In summary, I feel this is a great helmet for people who work on a bench at a fixed viewing angle. But, if you want the best view from different angles, get the Viking 3350 or the W70.
The Instapark ADF Series GX-350S is a budget welding helmet for those are doubt the AH6-260 is too good to be true. Predictably, the GX-350S fits the profile of a typical low-cost product. Every product in the budget range makes some sacrifices to fit the product in the budget categories. So, it is important that you understand the compromises.
First, the GX-350S does not offer manual sensitivity and delay selection, the helmet sets these parameters automatically. This is a problem because the machine does what it thinks is right and you’re not in the equation. But, the shade selection is manual. You can choose between the usual 9 and 13 DIN.
For a budget welder, the cartridge’s optical rating is surprisingly high. Its 1/1/1/2 ADF lens beats the W40, a product four times the GX-350S price. The GX-350S even offers a grind mode. So, that’s one more advantage the GX-350S has over the W40 and W70. That’s not the end of it. The GX-350S has a sensitivity of 0.06 milliseconds. That’s twice as fast as the W40 and W70. Still, it is nowhere nearly as fast as the Viking 3350 or the AH60-260.
However, this helmet is heavy. At 27 ounces, it is not as heavy as the Viking 3350. But, it is heavier than the W40, W70, and the AH60-260. Like the Jackson Safety helmets in this list, this product is also solar powered with no battery assist. Since this is a budget product, this omission is pardonable. The GX-350S has only two arc sensors. Given that its sensitivity and delay is automatic, I would have preferred two more sensors. But, it’s great that they’re giving a two-year warranty on the product.
Buying a welding helmet is not as simple as picking the coolest looking headgear off a big box store rack. A lot of foresight and thinking goes into it. Choosing the right welding helmet enhances your productivity, provides safer operation and increases your work’s quality. Picking the wrong helmet, on the other hand, is inviting trouble.
Selecting a good welding helmet is all about understanding the specification. But, people who are new to this can’t make sense of the data in the technical sheets. So, let’s see the most relevant parameter in a welding helmets tech specs.
I will briefly cover all the important things you will find on a welding helmet’s technical specification sheet. I will also give you a baseline for evaluating each specification.
These are the most important parameters you should compare and contrast while searching for a good quality welding helmet. Generally, helmets that do well across most of these parameters – or all of it – are expensive.
However, products made overseas are an exception to this. But, cheap products that provide high-end features are usually new entrants to the market. They still have not proven their long-term merit. So, if you want to invest your money in a trustworthy helmet, go for established brands. You may have to sacrifice a few features, but your purchase will be safe.
The parameters listed above is quite exhaustive. However, these additional features may be relevant to your situation:
These parameters fall more in the “good to have” territory than “need to have” territory. So, make sure you don’t end up paying for features you don’t need.
The price range of welding helmets starts at around $30 and goes up to around $700. Within this range, you can find many products by many brands. If you are clear about your budget, it helps narrow the list. But, you’ll still have to go through a ton of technical specifications to find what you’re looking for.
Instead of so much elbow greasing, you can choose from the products in the review section. While curating the list, we took special care to feature the best product for different customer profiles. So, the product review section is a great place to start. However, you can use the reviews here as a baseline to evaluate other products.
If you want to do your own comparison, you can check welding helmets by Miller Electric, Hobart, and Forney. You should also see other products from Lincoln Electric, Antra, Jackson Safety, and Instapark.
The first welding “modern” welding helmet arrived in 1931. It took 50 more years for the first Auto-Darkening Filter welding helmets to hit the market. Since its introduction in the 1980s, the ADF welding helmet has become increasingly functional and comfortable. Today, ADS helmets are of a very high quality.
The number of advancements is partly the reason why it is so hard to pick a good welding helmet. With so many specifications to examine, you will need a good guide to navigate through the jargons and numbers. But, with the right knowledge and guidance, finding the right product is not difficult.
To summarise, the best welding helmet on the market today is the Lincoln Electric Viking 3350. But, if you don’t have the budget for it, you can go for the Antra AH60-260 and still enjoy the benefits of the features in the Viking 3350. But, the AH60-260 is a new product that is yet to prove its standing. So, if you want something as cheap, but more reliable, you can go for one of the Instapark GX-350S. For people who don’t mind paying extra for super clear vision, the Jackson Safety helmets would be the perfect choice.
From cheap budget models to feature heavy high-end models, the market has welding helmets at every price point. Hopefully, this guide will help you eliminate products that don’t measure up to your standards and select the ones that do meet them.
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