Welding Helmet Selection Guide and Frequently Asked Questions
How to pick the right welding helmet, and what is the best helmet for me? In this blog I will talk about the best welding helmets for sale in Canada, as well as the cheapest helmets, and the best value helmets. We will work from a $60 lid, all the way up to to $1,000 state of the art pieces of technology.
What is the cheapest helmet weld-ready.ca sells that meets all Canadian safety standards and isn’t going to flash me?:
At $60, it's hard to go wrong with the Crossfire AF-220i. It reliably auto darkens, has a near perfect 1/1/1/2 optical clarity rating, can work from shade level 9-13, has adjustable delay/sensitivity, weighs less than 1 pound, and has a grinding mode at shade level 4.0. It should be noted that every helmet on this list except one achieves the 1/1/1/2 clarity rating. It is that last score (angular dependance) that is rare to see a perfect 1.
At 3.62" x 1.65", the viewing area is quite small, and the shell and head gear are nothing special, but if you are an occasional welder, or just starting out for the first time as a hobbyist, it will meet all of your needs until you are ready for an upgrade.
I can't stress enough that this helmet does meet all Canadian safety standards and will not flash you. Most helmets in this price range will leave you seeing spots after you weld, and don't actually meet the requirements to legally be sold in Canada.
What is the best cheap welding helmet for a professional welder or an experienced hobbyist? What is the most popular welding helmet?:
At $149, the ESAB Savage A40 is easily our best selling welding helmet, and there are a lot of reasons why. This is the cheapest welding helmet to offer the true color feature. Instead of seeing the old school green tinge while welding, the color of the arc will appear in it's true form. This is especially important for TIG welders that need to closely watch the arc and observe their puddle, but all welders will appreciate the increased clarity that true color has to offer. While in the inactive state, the lens is at shade level 4.0 which is a bit darker than other helmets on this list but still within industry norms.
The ESAB Savage has external shade level control and grind button, while sensitivity and delay are controlled internally. What this means is that you don't have to remove your helmet or gloves to change the shade level or activate grind mode. If you find it's too dark, you can simply rotate the knob and quickly be on your way.
The viewing area is 3.93" x 1.96" which is more or less the industry standard. As a bonus, replacement outer lenses for the ESAB Savage are quite cheap. If you do a lot of stick welding or otherwise frequently destroy outer plastics, this helmet is a great option. The front face does have a very slight curvature to it which helps to keep spatter from sticking to it.
The headgear and shell are nothing special, but that that is common among lightweight helmets such as this. If you are welding for extended periods, every gram matters to your neck!
What is the best value welding helmet for a professional welder or an experienced hobbyist?:
At $421, the ESAB Sentinel A50 is our second best seller. This is where you first start getting in to top end welding helmets without paying top dollar. The sentinel is the first helmet on this list to feature curved outer cover lenses, and the only helmet on this list to feature an internal touch screen control that offers hyper visibility of all settings. Spatter and sparks are much less likely to stick to a curved outer cover than they are a flat face.
The unique internal control allows you to save your preferred settings to memory for quick adjustment. For example, if you know how you like it for general purpose MIG work, save that to slot 1. When you find the perfect setting for low amp TIG work, save that to memory slot 2. Doing some oxy cutting, set that to slot 3 and so on up to 8 slots. This is incredibly convenient, and is very popular with our customers. Speaking of low amp TIG work, the sensors on the sentinel are so sensitive that you can go all the way down to 2 amps!
Much like the Savage A40, the Sentinel features true color technology, but with a broader spectrum of visibility. I won't get in to the specifics of this, but it's true color feature is even more colorful! While in the inactive state or grind mode, the helmet is at shade level 3.0 which is industry standard for nice helmets.
The sentinel features the infinitely adjustable five point "halo" headgear that is both durable and extra comfortable. Unfortunately, the helmet itself weighs 1.5 pounds which can be heavy on the neck to some, but the headgear certainly helps make up for it.
ESAB was very generous when packing the box for the Sentinel, as it comes with a storage/carrying bag, as well as 2 clear replacement outer cover lenses, and 2 amber replacement outer cover lenses.
As a bonus, the sentinel looks super cool on your head!
What is the best welding helmet?
To answer this question, I first have to take you on a trip to switzerland, where Optrel manufactures the highest quality welding helmet lenses on planet earth. Every other brand has moved their manufacturing to China to save costs, but Optrel continues to make these lenses in a small region of Switzerland that is notorious for crafting fine watches and precision measurement devices. There are a handful of helmets that could all be considered the best welding helmet in existence, and all of them come from Optrel.
The helmets I am about to discuss have an optrel exclusive feature known as autopilot. Instead of adjusting the shade level for each job, or even programming your preferred settings to memory for later use, high end optrel helmets will auto adjust by the millisecond as your arc changes. This is invaluable for TIG welders, as the shade level will perfectly adjust as you work the foot pedal and cause the arc to brighten/dim. As an example, perhaps you used to set your helmet to a shade level 10 and leave it there. Now, the lens will be fluctuating seamlessly from 9.67 up to 10.31 as your arc dances. You won't even notice, it will just always let in the perfect amount of light. There's no going back to the old days of static shade levels, once you get a taste of this you will be ruined forever and any other helmet you wear will suck.
Additionally, Optrel is the only manufacturer to achieve a shade level of 2.0 in the inactive state. This is the current world record, and an optrel exclusive. It's so dang clear you could read a book through it, there's nothing else like it. Why have a flip up front when you can just have a shade level of 2.0.
At $600 the Optrel Crystal 2.0 is the cheapest way to get both autopilot and the crystal 2.0 technology. It is also the answer to the question "what do you personally wear when you weld?". Ever since trying one, I immediately became spoiled and was unable to weld with anything else. This bad boy takes world class optical clarity, world record shade level, patented autopilot, and combines it in to a helmet that weighs less than 1 pound. My only complaint is that the headgear is fairly basic, but for $85 you can upgrade it with the Optrel Isofit headgear which is beyond comfortable.
The Image below is not just marketing hype, the crystal 2.0 lens is genuinely this clear.
At $811, the Optrel Panoramaxx CLT takes the same crystal 2.0 technology but puts it in to the Panoramaxx shell. The panoramaxx has a nose cutout, and goggle shaped lens shape which brings the ADF very close to your eyes allowing the viewing area to be truly maximized. Every helmet in the Panoramaxx lineup has a USB port and a rechargeable battery allowing you to avoid the pesky situation where your batteries have run out, but you need to use your helmet. The isofit headgear is standard for this lid, and as a bonus, the nose cut out ensures your breath does not fog up the lens. Oh yah, and did I mention this thing makes you look like a total badass?
At $750, the Optrel Panoramaxx Quattro is identical to the CLT except it sacrifices 0.5 of a shade level in the inactive state, to achieve the highest possible optical clarity rating. This is one of very few helmets available to Canadians that achieves a perfect score of 1/1/1/1 on the optical clarity rating scale. There's no asterisk next to this score, every single time it has been tested it scored a 100% perfect rating. I will write more about optical clarity ratings in a future post, but for now all you need to know is that it is impossible to get a clearer view. There are a couple helmets that can match it, but nothing can beat it.
I work in some tight spaces and treat my helmet very roughly, what helmets can stand up to brutal use cases without breaking?:
One word, speedglas. If you are going to be bonking your head on metal in tight spaces, crawling through pipes, laying in dirt and rocks, accidentally knocking your helmet down to the ground from heights, or just generally abusing your lid, stick with anything from the speedglas lineup. There's nothing else this durable, these things are absolute tanks and will outlive any other helmet. There's no competition, it's not even a conversation. Sometimes when a customer doesn't believe me when I say Speedglas is bulletproof, I throw a demo helmet straight at the ground gronk spike style. I haven't broken one yet. You will pay a premium for this exceptionally high durability and manufacturing quality, but it is cheaper than buying a new lid every year.
The cheapest helmet we carry with this legendary toughness is the 3M Speedglas 9002NC. This is a fairly basic welding helmet, and is a common choice for shops that need to have a few loaner helmets for employee use. They are $320 each, have comparable clarity to the ESAB savage, but will last forever.
For the rest of the Speedglas lineup, there are three main filters; the X, the XX, and the XXi. The number of X's refers to the size of the viewing area. One X has a 2.1" x 4.2" viewing area, while two X's have 2.8" x 4.2" viewing area. Both these sizes are considerably above industry standard, and will not leave you wanting more. The XXi has the added benefit of having true color and programmable memory for settings much the same as the ESAB sentinel.
These three filters can go in to a variety of speedglas shells. The 9100 series shell has side windows, which are unique feature and a 3M exclusive. These allow you to stay aware of your surroundings while still providing protection from the brightness of your welding arc. Staying aware of your surroundings is important if you work in a shop with lots of forklift or other material handler traffic. We all know how easy it is to get in to the zone while welding and forget about your surroundings!
The same three filters, can go in to the 9100FX series shell which is identical to the 9100 series but with a flip up front. When flipped up, this provides a perfectly clear viewing area which is great for grinding and looking at drawings without having to take the helmet off. Ranging from $780 for the X filter up to $935 for the XXi filter, this helmet does not come cheap, but it is the type of helmet that will last through a career.
I hope this guide has helped you to consider which welding helmet is right for you. If you have any questions or just want to talk about welding, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or message us over facebook/instagram. Thanks!