9 Lightweight Welding Helmets That’ll Save Your Neck
Is your welding helmet a pain in the neck?
If you’re looking for a more comfortable and easier way to weld, consider upgrading your heavy helmet. Weighing in at half the weight of a traditional welding helmet, the lightest welding helmets will make you forget you’re even wearing one.
There are several great benefits to wearing a new lightweight welding helmet. The obvious one is that it will be much more comfortable. You’ll be able to wear the helmet for longer periods of time without feeling fatigued or experiencing neck strain and tension.
On top of that, your eyes will appreciate the new auto darkening filter (ADF) technology that provides more protection and a better view with less eye-strain.
I looked at helmets from top companies like 3M, Lincoln Electric, and ESAB to find their lightest helmets for welding. I looked for all-purpose models with an ADF suitable for stick, TIG or MIG welding. For example, ESAB’s Savage A40 weighs just 500 grams (1.1 lbs) but isn’t the lightest welding hood you can buy.
Since I don’t get many questions about specialty or passive lens helmets, I left those out.
Lightest Weight Welding Helmets From Top Brands
Many brands offer lightweight helmets weighing under 24 ounces, and a few have ultra-light models weighing 16 ounces or less.
Optrel Sphere Series Welding Helmet
Part of Optrel’s Sphere Series, the Crystal 2.0 is as easy on your eyes as it is on your neck (although not your wallet). According to its owner’s manual, this feather-light welding helmet weighs in at only 482 grams or 17 ounces, despite being full-sized and rated for overhead welding.
While expensive, it backs up the high price with top-of-line features.
You get Optrel’s version of true color technology they call Crystal Lens, coupled with a generous viewing area. This means you’ll see enhanced color definition with a brighter, expanded view of your surroundings without the green or yellow tint found in traditional filters.
With an extra bright #2 light state, you won’t need to lift the hood as often just so you can see to set up your next weld or grind. This means less “head nodding” to drop the hood, another cause for sore “welder’s neck”.
A grind mode disables automatic darkening. This way, sparks from grinding won’t trigger the ADF and you can see what you’re doing. Manually control this feature with a convenient switch on the outside of the helmet (where it belongs). They provide an indicator light to remind you that auto darkening is off.
Better yet, choose fully automatic operation and let the Crystal 2.0 detect and select on-the-fly the amount of darkening you need. It gets it right whether you’re doing light grinding, low-amp TIG welding or 600-amp stick welding. And you can even dial in more or less darkening, if you prefer.
It’s a luxury feature, but the twilight mode is one of my favorites. Instead of a sudden switch from dark to light state, you get a gradual fade up that’s easier on the eyes.
Lincoln Electric Viking Series Welding Helmet
The lightest helmet from Lincoln is also their least expensive ADF series. At just over one pound, the full size Viking 1740 welding helmet provides good protection from sparks, including your neck and ears. To keep weight down, Lincoln used a fairly small, but excellent filter giving clear true color visibility.
A red light lets you know the AAA batteries are low, and the green light shows you’re in grind mode. Unfortunately, that switch is small, and inconveniently located inside the helmet.
The padded headgear allows fore-and-aft control to set the distance between your face and the mask.
Lincoln provides two inside protective lens covers, and five for the outside. A limited warranty runs for two years.
3M Speedglas SL Welding Helmet
The “SL” stands for “Super Light” and it’s an accurate designation. This is the feather-weight champion.
While 3M’s spec sheet puts its weight at 357 g (12.6 oz), the owner’s manual lists it at approximately 385g (13.6 oz). Either way, the SpeedGlas SL is the lightest welding helmet with ADF I could find.
But there are trade-offs to get the weight down to this level.
First, this is a narrow, compact design so there is less helmet overall. The above illustration shows how the neck, sides and top of the helmet are reduced. This leaves your neck, but more so your ears and top of the head less protected than with a full helmet.
Second, the larger the ADF, the heavier they can be. To minimize weight, the Speedglas viewing area is reduced and modest for a helmet in this price range.
Finally, the ADF technology is outdated. 3M didn’t use a true color filter, so you’ll have to look through a traditional green tint.
Jackson Safety Insight Series Welding Helmet
Because a large ADF can be heavy, it’s no surprise that Jackson’s Insight HLX100 is the heaviest helmet on this list at 1.5 pounds.
For some, it’s a fair compromise because in exchange for the extra weight you get a huge true color viewing area with excellent optical characteristics. This ADF uses four independent sensors to sense the welding arc from more angles and reliably trigger the dark shade.
This is a narrow design helmet, yet it provides good protection from welding debris.
Antra Super Lightweight Welding Helmet
If you like the large screen of the Jackson Insight, but not the extra weight (or price), take a look at the big, true color screen on Antra’s Super Lightweight welding helmet.
With this feather-light Antra, you get a larger viewing area, optics that are nearly as good, and it weighs a full half-pound less than the Jackson. Even better, it’s also half the price, making the Antra the best value I found among lightweight welding helmets.
The ADF uses four responsive arc sensors able to detect low-amp TIG arcs and reduce any chance of blocking the arc in most welding positions.
The handy external grind mode switch is raised just enough to feel while wearing gloves, but it won’t snag in tight quarters.
Miller Electric Digital Performance Welding Helmet
At just over one pound, the lightest helmet from Miller offers full coverage for your face and neck. The Digital Performance Series includes padded headgear for all-day and comfort.
You get an average-sized filter with Miller’s ClearLight technology that enhances contrast and clarity in both dark and light shade states.
This brief video from Miller highlights this technology
The improved digital control panel on the Digital Performance series is simple to understand and adjust. Besides the normal weld and grind modes, you can also select a cut mode when using a plasma cutter. On the downside, this expensive helmet lacks an external grind switch.
ESAB Savage A40 Welding Helmet
ESAB’s lightest auto darkening welding helmet, the Savage A40, comes in at just over a pound. This is a full size helmet, so you’re not giving up protection from sparks and spatter for something lighter to ease strain on your neck.
The true color lens boasts bright and clear optical characteristics with a medium-large viewing area. You’ll get a high-definition view, whether you’re tracking the weld puddle, or setting up your next weld.
You can adjust shade level, or activate the grind mode with a convenient external control knob that is easy to operate while wearing welding gloves.
Four sensors at the corners of the ADF ensure responsive darkening of the shade as the arc is struck. Adaptive sensitivity enables detection of less intense arcs for trouble-free TIG welding at low-amperage settings.
You won’t find skull or flame graphics on the A40. This one’s all business and available in ESAB black or yellow.
Hobart Creator Series Welding Helmet
A solid, no-frills helmet, the Creator Series from Hobart weighs in at a respectably light 19 ounces.
Three arc sensors and fast 1/25,000 second response time provide reliable auto darkening. Simple analog controls, including the grind mode switch, are all located under the hood.
The ADF size is average, and it isn’t a true color lens. Many people prefer the view through a traditional green shade, so a market remains for this style. But other buyers will probably have a hard time justifying the price of this helmet.
You can save money (and weight) by going with the Antra. Or, for not a lot more, you can get the ESAB with a modern true color lens.
Here’s a heads-up about another helmet by Hobart. It’s the Pillar series. It’s lighter and costs less than the Creator, but it’s a basic ADF. This means it doesn’t have a variable shade. So you start off with a #3 shade in the light state that switches to a fixed number 10 shade in the dark. I can’t tell you who they designed this helmet for, but I can’t shake the feeling that people who buy it don’t really know what they’re getting.
Wrapping it up
There’s good news for any welder trying to reduce the load on their neck and shoulders. My search for the lightest auto darkening welding helmet came up with options for everyone.
While the Speedglas SL is the lightest welding helmet on the market, its shortcomings will cause many welders to strike it from their list.
If you’re a hobbyist or casual welder, the affordable but super-lightweight helmet from Antra is a solid choice.
If you weld all day long, consider the Optrel Crystal 2.0. It’s light enough and includes great features that actually take care of you, and make the work more enjoyable.