Best High End Welding Helmets
We previously covered the best welding helmets under $100. While there are some quality hoods in that lower price range, there are also some high end offerings that should be considered. Welding helmet technology has a come a long way, and now you can get some state of the art hoods that will increase the enjoyability of your work days.
This guide will cover our favorite high end hoods, and which features make them stand out from the rest of the bunch. If you are a full time welder or a passionate hobbyist, you may find yourself wanting to upgrade to nicer gear.
The helmet is the only connection between your eyes and your welding arc, and for that reason we feel that it’s one of the most important pieces of equipment in your arsenal.
Disclaimer: “Welding Hood” is considered the proper term for these products. Helmets obviously protect your head, and none of these products really do that. If you want to protect your head, consider a hard hat with a welding hood adapter. However, over time people have decided to use the term “Welding Helmet”, so throughout this article we will use both terms interchangeably.
3M Speedglas 9100 Welding Helmet
This hood is regarded as one of the nicest hoods on the market. 3M really set the standard for how great a welding hood can actually be.
It offers one of the clearest lens views on the market. The improved optics allow you to recognize colors better and see your arc in a truer light. The interface is super easy to understand; and you can switch between lens shades 5, 8-13, and a standard shade of 3 for it’s “light state”.
Having a light state shade of 3 means that you can see your project better before you strike an arc. Helmets with light shades of 4 and 5 tend to be too dark when you flip your hood down.
The Speedglas offers a shade 5 for heavy grinding, oxy fuel cutting, and other activities that require some shade protection.
The headgear is very ergonomic. It is designed to fit all head shapes and it has several adjustments that allow this. This is different from other hood brands that always seem to skimp on their headgear.
The hood has side view windows which means you will have peripheral vision in addition to the large viewing area.
The plastic lens covers are easily replaceable and affordable – they can be found at many dealers.
Miller T94 Welding Helmet
With Speedglas dominating the high end hood market for so long, Miller knew it had to compete with something fresh.
The helmet offers shades 3, 5, and 8-13. Similar to the Speedglas, it has a light shade of 3 which offers maximum clarity while you’re not welding. It has 4 extremely sensitive arc sensors, and can detect a weld arc down to 3 amps. This means you will never risk getting flashed even at very low amperages. The switching speed from light to dark is 1/20,000 of a second.
The T94 has a dedicated grind mode which means you can also use this hood as a face shield. In grind mode, the hood will not darken when the sparks start flying. Similar to the Speedglas, it has sideview windows for maximum peripheral vision.
The headgear is top notch, and can be adjusted infinitely for one of the snuggest fits on the market.
This hood is competing neck and neck with Speedglas, and has become very popular among professional welders and fabricators.
Lincoln Viking 3350 Welding Helmet
This hood is one of Lincoln’s high end offerings. It is generally more affordable than the Speedglas or T94, but it boasts some great features.
It has an extra large lens which offers one of the widest views of any hood out there. This lens has a viewing area of 12.5 square inches, and will allow you to see your entire project. This is really helpful for welders who have trouble with smaller viewing areas found on lower end hoods.
This hood also has a low profile external grind button – which allows you to switch to grinding mode without removing the hood. This increases productivity and allows for a better work flow throughout the day.
The X6 headgear fits very well on heads of all sizes. It distributes the helmets weight across 6 separate areas for maximum comfort. This means you can wear the hood for longer periods without getting fatigued.
The 4C lens technology offers maximum viewing clarity. Similar to the Speedglas and T94, it will give you a perfectly clear view of your arc at all times. This helmet has a 1/1/1/1 optical clarity rating – which is the best possible rating a welding lens can get. This means you will get an HD arc view at any angle you are welding from.
Miller Digital Elite Welding Helmet
The Digital Elite series from Miller are classically styled, great value hoods. It’s ClearLight technology allows you to see more colors from the actual color spectrum. Low end hoods will tend to look more green/blue, or whatever the lens shade is. This Digital Elite hood allows you to see more true colors when you flip the hood down.
This hood has 4 different arc sensors which allow for maximum arc strike detection. It also features 4 modes: weld, cut, grind and X-mode.
The X-mode is designed for outdoor welding. It won’t darken when it detects sunlight which means you can weld outdoors without getting frustrated. Having a helmet that can differentiate between sunlight and arc strikes is a huge bonus. This makes it a favorite of field welders/structural welders who are always out in the elements.
The headgear is solid and comfortable. It isn’t as high end as the Speedglas or the T94, but it’s still pleasant to wear all day long. The tightening knobs are made of reliable heavy duty plastic.
ESAB Sentinel A50 Welding Helmet
This helmet has quickly become a fan favorite for professional welders around the world.
It features a unique shell design not found in any other hood, and it’s made of high impact resistance nylon. This is one of the most durable designs we have tested in our shop.
This hood has a color touch screen control panel to adjust all of your settings. The panel also has a memory which can store 8 of your favorite setting configurations. These additions make it easier to switch from project to project as your amperages differ throughout the day.
Similar to the Lincoln Viking, the Sentinel has an external grind button which instantly changes the lens to a shade 4. ESAB’s “Halo” head gear is infinitely adjustable and has maximum head clearance so your head isn’t touching the inside of the helmet.
With all of the great helmet options on the market today, picking one can be a tough decision. If you want a hood that can last a lifetime, the high quality picks above are very trusted options from reputable brands.
Picking a hood that has loads of features means it is a product that you can grow into. You may not use all of them right away, but over time you will be happy to have them.
As you are progressing towards more complicated projects, you’re going to want a helmet that can handle a large amperage range. You may be TIG welding at 40 amps, or you may be Stick welding at 250 amps. The wide shade ranges (8-13) will cover these scenarios and protect your eyes. Some low end hoods may only go to shade 11 – which can limit you if you want to bump into the high amperage game.
It is also important to find hoods with easily replaceable lens filters. If you are spending a fortune on replacement plastic, you’re going to be frustrated when your lens gets scratched. The helmets listed above have affordable filter replacements that generally come in packs of 5.
Due to the wider nature of the viewing areas, the replacements aren’t as “cheap” as a Pipeliner clear lens, but they are manageable in terms of cost. Keeping your hood in a safe place while not in use will ensure that you don’t get unnecessary scratches on your hoods lens filter.
Most hoods come with a carrying bag that we highly recommend using to protect your investment.
If you are just getting into welding and want something more affordable, you can check out our best hoods under $100 article here. We recommend checking out entry level hoods if you aren’t sure about this whole welding thing. Some folks end up not sticking with it and that is totally ok.
Featured image credit : Techniweld Auto Dark Lens