Welders of all calibers, whether master professionals or weekend warriors, understand that a good helmet is as critical a piece of equipment as any other. Finding the best helmet for your needs can be easier once you understand the basic features and functions of various helmets and what optional features might work for your projects and your budget. With quality models starting at under $100, you should be able to find one that doesn’t break the bank, but don’t make the mistake of thinking you can skimp on a good helmet. The safety of your eyes, head, and face is too important not to spend time finding the best helmet for you.
One important thing to consider that some newbies overlook is hard-hat compatibility. If your job requires that you wear a hard hat, you have to find a welding helmet that’s designed to be worn with one. Forgetting this can result in wasted time and money.
On the convenience side, decide whether or not you want a helmet that can be flipped up as opposed to removed any time you need to take a breather or doing a naked-eye close inspection of your work. Among the flip-up models, there are some that have to be held up and out of the way and others that will lock in that position.
When it comes to one of a helmet’s primary functions–eye protection, you’ll have to decide on a lens plate that offers a fixed level of darkness or one that features an adjustable darkness level. If you’ll be doing the same type of welding in the same setting all the time, you’ll probably be fine with a fixed-darkness lens as long as you match the lens’s darkness level to your work. For those who do different types of welding and/or weld in different ambient light settings, an adjustable lens is probably the better choice. Some adjustable lenses are manually operated, meaning you’ll have to adjust the darkness level yourself. If you opt for this type of model, you’ll have to decide between controls mounted inside the helmet, which are better protected from sparks, molten metal, and falls, but generally require that you remove the helmet to make the adjustments, or outer controls that are easier to get to but more exposed to potential damage. There are also self-adjusting lenses that darken or lighten automatically based on current light conditions. These are typically more expensive, but the added convenience might be worth the added cost if you work in situations where you face frequent starts and stops.
The other major duty of a welding helmet is to protect the rest of your head. If you do a good deal of welding in tight spaces or overhead, you probably need a helmet that covers as much of your whole head as possible since sparks will be coming at you from all directions. If you primarily find yourself welding bent over your work, you should be okay with less overall head protection, though nobody would fault you for wanting as much protection as you can afford.
Once you decide what type of helmet is best for you, you’ll need to make sure you research the weight of your top contenders. It might seem like most helmets are pretty light, but even an extra pound can feel like a whole lot more after a long day of wear, especially if your head stays bent over your work most of the time. To make wearing your helmet as comfortable as possible and to minimize the chances of neck strain, find the lightest and most well-balanced helmet you can. A well-balanced helmet distributes the weight so evenly that it can feel lighter than other helmets that actually weigh less. Try resting a helmet in the palm of your hand. The helmets with the best weight-distribution design will be the ones that feel lightest in your hand and don’t seem like they’re wobbly or leaning too much in one direction or another.
Spending a little time researching about the best welding helmets for the money and comparing models is the best way to make sure you get the best and most comfortable protection possible.