Best Welding Helmets For MIG – Auto Darkening Picks

As someone who’s been in the welding industry for a while, I’ve had the opportunity to use a variety of helmets from many brands, like Miller, Optrel, Lincoln, and ESAB.

And while it may be tempting to save a few bucks on cheap brands imported from China, the truth is that these helmets often don’t provide the protection and features you need to work safely and efficiently. They usually end up in the trash.

When select the best options, I look for:

  • Viewing area
  • Optical clarity
  • Comfort & head strap adjustability
  • Tech features
  • Construction quality
  • Brand reputation

My personal favorite is the Lincoln Viking 3350. It ticks all the boxes above, with excellent visibility, versatility with all processes including TIG and is the most used helmet among professionals I know. 

Note: I purposefully avoided the cheapest helmets as I have had bad experiences with them. Either they weren’t reliable, the parts were hard to find, or their support was non-existent. If you’re on a tight budget, check out my cheap welding helmets guide under $100.

With that in mind, let’s dive in.

Our Top Picks


Best Overall: Lincoln Electric Welding Helmet

Best Budget: Antra Wide Shade Range 4/5-9/9-13 Auto Darkening Welding Helmet

Best High-End: 3M Speedglas Welding Helmet

Best Auto-Darkening: Jackson Safety Insight Auto Darkening Welding Helmet

Best for Tight Spaces: Jackson Safety Welding Helmet

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Best Welding Helmets

Here are reviews of some of the best welding helmets we found on the market:

Welding Helmet, Black, 3350 Series

Extremely Comfortable

There are several features that make this welding helmet one of the best options available in terms of comfort and fit.

Our Review: Lincoln Electric makes some of the best welding helmets in the world, including their top-of-the-line Viking 3350 Series, which is widely regarded as one of the best welding helmets you can buy today.

The viewing area of this helmet measures 3.74 x 3.3 inches. There is a grind mode as well as a variable shade lens that adjusts from shade #5 to #13.

As a result of its 4C Lens Technology, you see a reduced amount of lime green on the screen, which improves visibility and reduces eye strain..It’s ideal for a variety of welding tasks, include Stick, MIG and TIG welding. In addition, it has an impressive lens-switching speed of 1/25,000, four arc sensors, cheater lens compatibility, and a longer battery life.


Affordable Pick

The helmet is extremely affordable, and it’s a great option for those who are just starting out in welding.


Our Review: The Antra AH6-260-0000 Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet offers the basic features you need at a budget price. Industrial-grade welding helmets can cost hundreds of dollars. The lightweight helmet can be used for TIG, MIG, MMA, and plasma welding.

With a viewing area of 3.86 x 1.73 inches, this welding helmet from Antra is solar-powered. Due to its four-sensor design, it is highly sensitive and weighs less than one pound. It switches lenses at a speed of 1/25,000, and the delay time and sensitivity can be adjusted with knobs. Cheater lens compatibility and six bonus exterior lens cover plates are included with the Antra Welding Helmet.


3M Speedglas Welding Helmet 9100, 06-0100-30iSW, with Auto-Darkening Filter 9100XXi 3 Arc Sensors for MMAW TIG MIG Tack Plasma Arc Welding and Grinding Mask, 1 Each

Easy Access

Professional-grade eye and face protection is provided by this option.


Our Review: With this pick, you can’t go wrong if you’re looking for a top-notch welding helmet. This helmet provides professional-grade eye and face protection, as well as better visibility so you can recognize colors more easily. The lens comes in a variety of dark shades, including #5, #8, #9, and #9 through #13, as well as a light shade, #3.

You can customize your dark shade, switching sensitivity, dark-to-light delay, and light-to-dark delay for this 3M auto-darkening welding helmet with two memory modes. Both grinding and memory modes are controlled by external controls on the silver front panel. In around 1/10,000 of a second, the lens switches from light to dark shade. In addition, the battery lasts up to 2,000 hours!

 


Jackson Safety Insight Auto Darkening Welding Helmet - Ultra Lightweight Protective Welder Helmet with Digital Variable Auto Darkening Filter and HLX100 Shell for Men and Women, Universal Size

Several Designs

Infrared and UV rays are completely blocked.


Our Review: The two types of welding helmet lenses are passive and auto-darkening. Increasingly popular are auto darkening options, which provide 100 percent protection against infrared and UV rays, can be used for a variety of applications, and eliminate the need to flip the helmet repeatedly. 

There are several great auto-darkening welding helmets on the market, but many welders like the Jackson Safety 46131 Insight Variable Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet, which has a variable-shade lens that adjusts from #9 to #13.

The welding helmet is suitable for MIG, TIG, and arc welding, and it has a wide viewing area. Four independent dimming sensors, sensitivity and delay adjustments, and an easy-to-use digital interface are included. 

Many say it’s a good helmet for beginners as well as more experienced welders due to its comfortable and easy-to-adjust headgear.


Jackson Safety Welding Helmet, Auto Darkening Hood, Durable Protective Welder Face Mask for Men and Women, Fixed Shade, Hard Hat Adaptable, HSL-100 Shell, Universal Size, Black, 14975

Durable Design

The narrow design makes it the perfect choice for small spaces.


Our Review: Occasionally, welding tasks may require you to work in tight spaces, so a bulky helmet will not be ideal. Wearing protective gear with a narrow design is best, such as this option.

Featuring an extended front that provides additional neck protection, this passive helmet comes with a standard shade #10 lens. There is a large viewing area and a padded head strap on this helmet, so you can see the weld puddle clearly.

What To Look For In Welding Helmet – Buyer’s Guide

Welding helmets are a crucial piece of welding equipment, and they are expensive. But, selecting a welding hood is not straightforward, and it’s easy to make a mistake.

So, we made a concise buying guide to help you find the welding helmet that best suits your needs.

Set Your Budget: Best Helmet Brands

The most recognised helmet brands are:

  • Optrel
  • ESAB
  • 3M
  • Miller
  • Hobart
  • Lincoln Electric
  • Jackson Safety

Optrel, ESAB, 3M, and similar brands target professional welders whose work demands high precision and productivity. Their helmets are expensive, but one exception is ESAB’s Sentinel A50 which is relatively affordable.

While providing an exceptional welding experience, these high-end helmets don’t benefit beginners, and it is hard to justify the cost for new welders. Professional welding helmets are designed to improve productivity, reduce effort, increase weld quality, and ultimately help you earn more money. That’s why experienced welders buy them, even if they cost more.

Miller, Lincoln Electric, and Jackson Safety work great for hobby welders and professionals alike. They compete well against sophisticated helmets from the brands mentioned above. What they lack in technology, they make up with in endurance. For example, the Miller and Lincoln welding helmets can handle harsh working conditions better than the Optrel or ESAB offerings.

YesWelder, Hobart, and Ironton are geared toward the hobbyist market. Hobart is a big brand name, but their welding helmet line cannot compete with Miller or Lincoln. Hobart’s helmets are more affordable but limited in features. YesWelder’s 900B helmet comes close to the big brand names, but the warranty is not as long. Plus, YesWelder is a hobbyist-grade brand, so don’t expect the helmet to endure the same conditions as welding hoods from Miller or Lincoln.

Features To Assess

Viewport Size

The bigger the viewport, the more light will enter through the ADF. But, most importantly, with a big viewport, you’ll see more of your workspace. If you put the helmet in grind mode, you can work efficiently with a large viewing area. But, if you have a small viewport like on the Ironton helmet, you cannot complete every task without removing the helmet.

Color And Light

Once you put on a helmet from Optrel, you’ll likely not be satisfied with any other helmet’s color and light transmission. Seeing clearly with real-life colors is a must for a welding professional.

But using old, green-tinted ADF does the job, even if the welding experience is inferior. You will have to deal with things like you can hardly see the weld puddle, and you won’t be able to tell if a slight color or length change happens with the welding arc.

On the other hand, true color technology lets you see the tiniest details. So, you can prevent weld defects by reacting in real-time. Why finish the entire weld if you noticed that porosity occurred mid-way? Just stop, re-grind, and restart the weld. That’s why accurate color and light transmission saves time and money.

Lens Quality

Almost all welding helmets on the market are either 1/1/1/1 or 1/1/1/2 rated for optical clarity. Either is a good choice. The 1/1/1/1 lens provides the best image accuracy; there is no distortion. However, the 1/1/1/2 lens distorts the image slightly when looking at an angle. But, this is minimal, and unless you are a precision TIG welder, you are unlikely to have any issues with 1/1/1/2 helmets.

Just avoid helmets with a rating other than these two. There is no reason to get inferior lenses when the two best ratings are widely available nowadays.

Grind Mode

Grind mode prevents the ADF from activating and darkening your view. This mode keeps the helmet at the lightest available shade to help you see better. The shades are usually DIN 3 or DIN 4. But, some high-end helmets like Optrel Panoramaxx CLT offer DIN 2, which is near life-like illumination.

It’s always preferable for the grind mode button to be external. Hobbyists can work with an internal grind button. But, constantly taking off the helmet to click the grind mode button and putting the helmet back on is very frustrating in a professional environment.

Headgear

Your headgear quality determines the fit adjustability and comfort. For example, you cannot adjust the basic headgear provided by Ironton and Hobart for a comfortable, balanced fit. You may have gaps between the headgear straps and your head, the straps may catch your hair, and the lack of padded cushions reduces comfort.

High-end helmets from ESAB, Optrel, Miller, or Lincoln offer good headgear designs. If you weld all day, get a helmet with a headgear that allows multi-point adjustments. Properly balancing the helmet’s weight goes a long way in reducing strain, neck pain, and neck joint degeneration.

Durability

The most durable helmets usually have simple designs and heavy shells. For example, helmets from Optrel are ultra-light, but their shells are thin. While made with excellent plastics, they shouldn’t be used in extreme conditions where slag constantly falls on the shell.

On the other hand, Miller and Lincoln’s helmets have a simple design with minimal crevices and thicker shell plastic, allowing them to handle harsher conditions. But, the 3M Speedglas welding helmets are made to endure the work in the toughest welding industries like mining and construction.

Weight

Many people make the mistake of buying an overly heavy helmet just to find out that it’s uncomfortable to wear all day. If you weld occasionally, this is not much of a concern. But if you weld often, a light helmet makes the day under the hood far more pleasant.

A large viewport, sophisticated headgear design, and thick shell plastics are always welcome. But, all of these add weight, making the helmet unbearable. However, we only picked relatively light helmets in our review since this is an area that can make or break the welding experience. Still, some helmets are heavier than others. So, if welding takes a significant portion of your day, go with the lightest helmet that gives you all the features you need.

Lastly, this goes without saying, but the helmet should meet safety standard ANSI Z87.1.

Wrapping Up

Choose your auto-darkening welding helmet based on your needs, and you won’t spend too much money or buy a helmet that hinders your productivity. You should get the YesWelder 900B or the Hobart Inventor as the best low-cost option if you are a hobbyist.

Alternatively, you can also get the Miller Digital Elite as a low-cost version of the Digital Infinity to save some money. You get a professional-grade hood with a slightly smaller viewing area. So, it is a good intermediate-level choice.

But, if you don’t weld often and prefer to save money when buying your startup welding equipment, the Ironton is a safe choice.

If you are a professional welder and have never owned a high-end welding helmet, getting any of the big brand names we discussed will increase your productivity. Miller and Lincoln Electric offer slightly better durability, while Optrel provides unmatched light and color transmission. The 3M Speedglas is best suited for industrial-level work, while still providing an exceptionally clear view.

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