The Best Hard Hats of 2022

At home or at work, the right hard hat can save you from severe or even fatal head injury.

By Bob Beacham | Updated Feb 27, 2022 8:04 PM

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The Best Hard Hats Option

Photo: depositphotos.com

The job site can be a danger zone, and various home improvement projects come with their share of injury risks as well. Hard hats can protect the wearer from impact, penetration, and electric shock. At the very least, they save the wearer from cuts and bruises. In severe cases head injuries can cause long-term disability, or even death.

Hard hats are a legal requirement on many work sites, and wearing one also makes very good sense for the DIY enthusiast. However, with various classes, materials, and comfort systems to choose from, deciding on the right model can be difficult. This guide provides technical details to consider when shopping as well as an assortment of models to help you pick the best hard hats for a range of different purposes.

  1. BEST OVERALL: PYRAMEX Ridgeline Full Brim Hard Hat
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: 3M Hard Hat, White, Lightweight
  3. BEST LIGHTWEIGHT: Evolution Deluxe 6161 280-EV6161-10V Hard Hat
  4. BEST BUMP CAP: Ergodyne Skullerz 8950 Safety Bump Cap 
  5. BEST WITH LIGHT: Klein Tools 60407 Hard Hat, Light, Vented Full Brim
  6. BEST FOR CONSTRUCTION: ACERPAL Full Brim Hard Hat OSHA Construction Work
  7. BEST FOR WELDERS: Honeywell Safety Fibre-Metal Hard Hat
  8. BEST COMFORT SYSTEM: Lift Safety HDF-15NG DAX Hard Hat
  9. BEST FULL BRIM: MSA 475407 Skullgard Full-Brim Hard Hat
  10. BEST CARBON FIBER: DAX Cap Style Safety Hard Hat
The Best Hard Hats Option

Photo: depositphotos.com

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Hard Hats

There’s a lot to think about when choosing a hard hat. The safety they provide is a key consideration of course, but comfort is another significant factor, especially if the hat will be worn all day. Here, learn about the key factors that affect hard hat choice.

Types and Classes of Hard Hats

In the U.S., the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to provide hard hats for those working in certain environments. The standards for those hard hats are set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). To be approved by OSHA, the hard hat must meet ANSI/ISEA Z89.1-2014 (ISEA is the International Safety Equipment Association) and ANSI 1926.100. These cover type, class, and other details:

Hard hats are of two types:

  • Type 1: Protects the top of the head.
  • Type 2: Protects from side and off-center impacts as well as the top of the head.

Hard hats are divided into one or more of the following classes:

  • Class G: General purpose, which also protects against electric shock up to 2,200 volts.
  • Class E: Electrical, which protects against electric shock up to 20,000 volts.
  • Class C: Conductive, which offers general purpose impact protection, but no protection against electric shocks.

Hard hats have one or all of these features:

  • The “reverse donning arrow,” which indicates the hard hat can be worn forward or backward. Hard hats are sometimes reversed if the wearer finds the peak is an obstruction in confined spaces, or to allow for a face shield or a welding helmet if the peak interferes with the fit.
  • LT, to indicate suitability for low temperatures (down to -22 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • HT, to indicate suitability for high temperatures (up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • HV, to indicate high visibility.

Work Type Color Code

A color system exists that relates either to the job being undertaken or the type of person wearing the hard hat. These are not a legal standard or a requirement, and they have no impact on those buying a hard hat for use at home, but they may be relevant for those who are asked to supply their own personal protective equipment (PPE) for the job site.

  • Yellow: a catch-all color for tradespeople and laborers
  • White: site forepersons, supervisors, managers, architects, surveyors, and engineers
  • Red: firefighters and fire marshals
  • Orange: crane/lifting gear operator, road crews, and traffic marshals
  • Blue: electricians and carpenters
  • Green: building or safety inspectors, occasionally trainees
  • Brown: welders
  • Gray: site visitors

Material and Design

All hard hats for sale in the U.S. should be either Type 1 or 2, since both of these give a minimum standard for protection. However, there’s no doubt that some materials are stronger than others, and this may affect your choice.

  • High-density polyethylene (HDPE): A low cost, lightweight material usually found in budget hard hats. It’s tough but can be subject to cracking.
  • Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS): Another tough, affordable material. However, it doesn’t have high solvent resistance.
  • Fiberglass: Usually made with a laminating process that provides great strength. But fiberglass hard hats cost more to make, and therefore purchase. Plus they can be comparatively heavy.
  • Carbon fiber: A super-tough, lightweight material that is also brittle so it is usually combined with some form of resin. The result is a high level of protection from impact, good electrical resistance, but an expensive choice.
  • Phenolic resin: A very hard synthetic polymer often laminated with fiberglass. Its main advantage is having heat resistance of up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In terms of design, the most obvious difference is whether the hard hat has a peak or a full brim. While full-brim models offer a wider area of protection from falling debris, some wearers find the size increase inconvenient. In technical terms, it makes no difference to the ANSI standard, so to some extent it is a matter of personal preference.

Size, Comfort, and Suspension System

To ensure a hard hat provides the maximum level of protection, it’s important to purchase the correct size. Measure your head by placing a flexible measuring tape slightly above the ears and around the circumference of your head, then consult one of the many online hat sizing charts to determine the correct size to order. Hard hats don’t usually sit directly on the head, because impact energy would be transferred directly to the skull, which could cause a concussion or even a skull fracture. Instead, they are designed with a suspension system that provides a gap between the head and the hard hat interior.

Generally speaking, the more adjustment points available, the better the possible fit and the more comfort provided. The main adjustment is a knob at the back of the hard hat, which loosens or tightens a brow band. A padded sweat band may be incorporated as well.

A proper fit isn’t just important for safety and comfort. If safety glasses must be worn, as is often the case, it is important that the hard hat doesn’t sit too low and interfere with them.

Weight is another consideration, particularly if the hard hat is worn all day or the wearer is involved in a trade that requires moving the head frequently—a crane operator, for example. A heavy hard hat would prove uncomfortable by the end of the day and would likely cause neck pain.

Additional Features

  • Hard hats may be vented to aid airflow and cooling, though in some environments this might allow dust and debris onto the wearer’s head. Vented hard hats often don’t meet Class G or E electrical requirements.
  • Accessory slots or lugs may be provided on the sides of the helmet. These allow for the fitting of neck shades, sun shields, ear muffs, chin guards, face shields, headlamps, or welding masks.
  • In cold weather, it may be inconvenient to wear a winter hat and a hard hat together. Thermal fleece liners are a popular solution, but are rarely included in the price.

Our Top Picks

Now that you’ve had the chance to study the technical aspects associated with hard hats, it’s time to look at some high-quality models. The following lineup represents what we deem to be among the best hard hats in their respective categories.

Best Overall

The Best Hard Hats Option: PYRAMEX Ridgeline Full Brim Hard Hat, 4-Point Ratchet
Photo: amazon.com

The Pyramex Ridgeline is an understandably popular model that offers high safety levels at an affordable price. In addition to Type 1, Class C, G and E ratings, it is also LT and HT, with an operating temperature range of -22 degrees Fahrenheit to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

The tough ABS shell is supported by an effective four-point suspension system with a replaceable soft brow pad. There is also a head pad for additional comfort. The Pyramex hard hat adjusts from sizes 6½ to 8.

One potential downside is that this Pyramex hard hat resembles carbon fiber, so don’t be fooled into thinking it’s the superior material. Also, while a vented version with accessory slots is available, these features compromise the shell in terms of electrical resistance, so protection drops to Class C.

Product Specs 

  • Type/class: Type 1, Class C, G, E
  • Material: ABS
  • Weight: 12.6 ounces

Pros

  • High levels of protection
  • Operating temperature range of -22 degrees to 140 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Great value

Cons

  • Fake carbon fiber look
  • Fairly tall shell may bump into objects

Get the Pyramex Ridgeline hard hat on Amazon.

Best Bang for the Buck

The Best Hard Hats Option: 3M Hard Hat, White, Lightweight, Adjustable 4-Point
Photo: amazon.com

In spite of the remarkably low cost, this 3M hard hat offers all the safety demands of more expensive alternatives. The HDPE shell meets Type 1, Class C, G and E standards. It is also reverse donning, so it can be worn backward if required.

A four-point suspension system is supplied along with a comfort brow pad, but the hard hat comes unfitted. According to 3M this is to prevent distortion during shipping, though some wearers may find installation a little frustrating. Though sizes aren’t stated, similar models in the 3M range come in hat sizes of 6⅝ to 7¾.

The 3M hard hat has useful accessory slots, and because they do not go through the shell they don’t negatively affect electrical protection. However, the slots are a nonstandard size, and while 3M-branded hard hat accessories will fit, those from other brands may need an additional adapter.

Product Specs 

  • Type/class: Type 1, Class C, G, E
  • Material: HDPE
  • Weight: 12.8 ounces

Pros

  • Padded brow and dome for comfort
  • Accessory slots
  • Low price

Cons

  • Fitting the suspension is a bit fiddly
  • Some accessories require adapters

Get the 3M hard hat at Walmart, on Amazon, or at Acme Tools.

Best Lightweight

The Best Hard Hats Option: Evolution Deluxe 6161 280-EV6161-10V Full Brim Hard
Photo: amazon.com

Full-brim hard hats like this one offer a wider area of protection from falling debris and rain, but they’re often slightly heavier than their peaked counterparts. Not so with this Evolution Deluxe model: The Type 1, Class C HDPE shell is among the lightest we found.

Given its competitive price, the six-point suspension system is also a bit of a nice surprise. There’s also a dermatologically tested sweatband with a hard-wearing, breathable polyurethane cover and an Egyptian cotton core. The Evolution Deluxe is adjustable from size 6⅝ to 8.

A minor issue is that some wearers may wish that the polyester straps were stronger. Also, unfortunately, this hard hat doesn’t offer any electrical protection.

Product Specs 

  • Type/class: Type 1, Class C
  • Material: HDPE
  • Weight: 8 ounces

Pros

  • 6-point suspension
  • Vents and accessory slots
  • Dermatologically tested sweatband

Cons

  • No Class G or E protection
  • A few reports of strap weakness

Get the Evolution Deluxe hard hat on Amazon, at Walmart, or on PK Safety.

Best Bump Cap

The Best Hard Hats Option: Ergodyne Skullerz 8950 Safety Bump Cap
Photo: amazon.com

The Ergodyne Skullerz 8950 Safety Bump Cap is a lightweight and stylish alternative for those who don’t need the full protection of a bulky hard hat. It is important to point out that bump caps do not meet OSHA Type 1 or Type 2 requirements and are not ANSI certified. However, this model is covered by British and European safety standards.

This Ergodyne Skullerz model is a solid option for mechanics who are often under vehicles or tradespeople who work in confined spaces. It is designed for areas with the potential to cause painful but not severe injuries.

It has a tough ABS liner that is vented and padded for comfort, comes with a choice of three brim sizes, and it has reflective piping around the edge for increased visibility. Although there’s an elasticized Velcro strap at the back for adjustment, it might not be the best hard hat for big heads.

Product Specs 

  • Type/class: BS EN 812-2012
  • Material: HDPE
  • Weight: 8.2 ounces

Pros

  • Resembles a baseball batting hat
  • Reflective piping for improved visibility
  • Choice of brim sizes

Cons

  • Not OSHA/ANSI approved
  • Not the best choice for larger heads

Get the Ergodyne Skullerz Safety Bump Cap on Amazon or at Acme Tools.

Best with Light

The Best Hard Hats Option: Klein Tools 60407 Hard Hat, Light, Vented Full Brim
Photo: amazon.com

Strapping an elasticized lamp to a hard hat is workable but the band can snag, and it will likely stretch and loosen over time. This Klein Tools hard hat solves that problem with a rechargeable, magnetic light. It clamps to the front or the back of a hard hat for reversed wear, making it the best hard hat headlamp we have seen.

The full-brim shell is durable ABS, rated as Type 1, Class C. The hard hat is vented (unusually, these can be opened or closed), it has accessory slots, and is available in sizes 6½ to 8. Klein Tools focused on comfort to compensate for the extra weight of the light, with padding in the top and a wide, moisture-wicking sweatband. That said, it’s a heavy hat that may start to feel uncomfortable after a while.

Product Specs 

  • Type/class: Type 1, Class C
  • Material: ABS
  • Weight: 21 ounces

Pros

  • Quick-release work light
  • Open and close venting
  • Accessory slots

Cons

  • Heavier than most
  • Occasional light failures

Get the Klein Tools hard hat on Amazon, at The Home Depot, or at Walmart.

Best for Construction

The Best Hard Hats Option: ACERPAL Full Brim Hard Hat OSHA Construction Work
Photo: amazon.com

AcerPal’s tough ABS full-brim model is among the best hard hats for construction. It boasts wider coverage against falling debris than standard peaked models, as well as Type 1, Class C, G, and E protection. It is also rated LT and HT as safe for site-working temperatures between -22 degrees Fahrenheit and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

This AcerPal hard hat has a head pad and soft brow padding for comfort. It is available in sizes 6½ to 8. Its suspension can be upgraded from a four-point to a six-point, and there’s also an optional chin strap, though both are available at an extra cost. Plus, AcerPal offers a range of 28 color schemes and graphics to give the fashion-conscious worker plenty of choice.

Product Specs 

  • Type/class: Type 1, Class C, G, E
  • Material: ABS
  • Weight: 13.4 ounces

Pros

  • LT and HT rated
  • Vented option available (Class C)
  • Huge range of colors

Cons

  • A bit expensive for ABS
  • No accessory slots

Get the AcerPal hard hat on Amazon.

Best for Welders

The Best Hard Hats Option: Fibre-Metal by Honeywell P2AQRW11A000 Super Eight
Photo: amazon.com

The Fibre-Metal hard hat by Honeywell is a heavy-duty option suitable for a multitude of construction-related trades. The high-strength injection-molded fiberglass shell offers Type 1 protection and is rated Class C and G.

Two elements help this Honeywell stand out as the best hard hat for welding. First, although not rated as HT, the fiberglass shell can tolerate heat up to 370 degrees Fahrenheit. Second, there are lugs fitted on either side specifically for the quick and easy attachment of a welding hood. Other accessories can also be fitted, though additional adapters may be required.

While a bit heavier than others, the eight-point suspension in this hard hat provides good comfort. This hard hat is sized 6¾ to 8 and there are seven color choices, although brown, which normally indicates welders, is not among them.

Product Specs 

  • Type/class: Type 1, Class C, G
  • Material: Fiberglass
  • Weight: 16 ounces

Pros

  • Easy mounting of welding hood
  • 8-point suspension
  • Accessory slots

Cons

  • Somewhat heavy
  • Not available in brown, the traditional welder color

Get the Honeywell Safety Fibre-Metal hard hat on Amazon.

Best Comfort System

The Best Hard Hats Option: Lift Safety HDF-15NG DAX Hard Hat, Natural
Photo: amazon.com

Fiberglass and phenolic resin hard hats provide tremendous strength, but they are usually heavier than HDPE and ABS. This can lead to neck pain when worn for long periods. The full-brim Lift Safety hard hat offers a high-comfort solution.

Inside the dome is a synthetic-leather pad filled with EVA foam. This provides additional impact absorption and additional padding on top of the head. The brow pad is made of a moisture-wicking microfiber, which reduces sweat buildup. This hard hat has a six-point suspension that offers excellent support, and an oversized ratchet can be operated easily with gloved hands. The brim grips allow for a firm hold of the hard hat in challenging conditions.

The Lift Safety hard hat is rated Type 1, Class C and G. It will also withstand temperatures up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Although it doesn’t compromise safety, some wearers report that the edge of the brim can chip quite easily.

Product Specs 

  • Type/class: Type 1, Class C, G
  • Material: Carbon fiber reinforced resin
  • Weight: 17 ounces

Pros

  • High comfort and shock absorption
  • Glove-friendly oversized ratchet
  • Brim grips

Cons

  • A bit heavy
  • Premium price

Get the Lift Safety hard hat on Amazon or on Toolbarn.

Best Full Brim

The Best Hard Hats Option: MSA 475407 Skullgard Full-Brim Hard Hat with Fas-Trac
Photo: amazon.com

The super-hard structure of the MSA Skullgard makes it the best full-brim hard hat we could find. For an idea of its impact resistance, consider that phenolic resin is the same material used in high-quality billiard balls. In this rugged hard hat, it delivers maximum protection over the largest possible area.

Technically it is rated a Type 1, Class C and G, but in reality it is considerably more durable than HDPE and ABS equivalents. It is rated LT and HT for temperatures between -22 degrees and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, though in fact its maximum heat tolerance is for 350 degrees Fahrenheit. The sizes available range from 6½ to 8½, making it one of the best hard hats for big heads.

Phenolic resin is quite heavy, though the MSA Skullgard counters the weight with a unique suspension that relieves pressure points on the head. The MSA Skullgard is also reverse donning. However, this handmade product does come at a premium price.

Product Specs 

  • Type/class: Type 1, Class C, G
  • Material: Phenolic resin
  • Weight: 13.6 ounces

Pros

  • Extremely hard shell
  • Choice of suspension systems
  • Reverse donning

Cons

  • Expensive
  • On the heavy side

Get the MSA Skullgard hard hat on Amazon, at Acme Tools, or at Walmart.

Best Carbon Fiber

The Best Hard Hats Option: DAX Cap Style Safety Hard Hat, New & Improved 6 Pt.
Photo: amazon.com

While full-brim hard hats offer a greater area of protection, some find that their physical size is awkward to wear. The DAX cap-style model provides the superior strength of carbon fiber in a more compact form. It is rated Type 1, Class C and G, and the crown is triple reinforced for maximum impact protection.

Although this carbon fiber hard hat offers a high strength-to-weight ratio, the use of resin to add toughness does increase the overall weight. To maintain comfort, DAX uses six-point suspension with leather and EPA foam dome padding, and a moisture-wicking sweatband. The DAX cap-style hard hat fits sizes 6½ to 8.

While this cap is reverse donning, the suspension needs to be reversed, too. Each DAX cap style hard hat is hand laid. While this makes every pattern unique, it also results in a relatively high cost.

Product Specs 

  • Type/class: Type 1, Class C, G
  • Material: Carbon fiber reinforced resin
  • Weight: 14.8 ounces

Pros

  • Triple-reinforced crown
  • Six-point suspension
  • Reverse donning

Cons

  • Premium price
  • Edges can chip

Get the DAX cap style hard hat on Amazon or at Toolbarn.

Our Verdict

The Pyramex hard hat is a great all-arounder that’s tough, comfortable, and affordable. The 3M model is so inexpensive, there’s simply no excuse not to have a hard hat, even for a one-off DIY job.

How We Chose the Best Hard Hats

Like many remodeling enthusiasts, I have personal experience of wearing a hard hat for long periods. Additionally, the Bob Vila team researched the market to check on the latest developments and consulted the national safety standards to ensure we had all the relevant information.

Selecting our top picks was quite challenging. We tried to choose stand-out examples in particular categories or models that best suited a particular trade. Our primary aim was to provide ample choice for any and all wearers.

Brand was a key part of our decision-making. It’s not unusual to see hard hats in bargain stores for just a few dollars, but these products may not meet required standards. In going with recognized brands, we have ensured minimum safety levels are always met. Budget is often important, however, so many of our picks represent excellent value for money.

FAQs

Wondering about how much to pay for a hard hat or how long they last? Read on for answers to these and other questions about these important pieces of safety gear.

Q. Do hard hat colors matter?

If the hard hat is for personal use, you can wear whatever color you prefer. In professional environments, colors are often used to define particular roles (see above for more info).

Q. Which class of hard hats does not protect from electrical shock?

Class C. The C stands for “conductive,” so these hats provide impact protection only.

Q. How much should I pay for a hard hat?

It very much depends on intended use. Lightweight HDPE models can be $10 to $15, and full-brim carbon fiber models can top $150.

Q. When do I need to replace my hard hat?

Manufacturers usually recommend every 5 years, though some say as frequently as every 2 years. If cracks or dents are noticed, the hard hat should be replaced immediately. A visual inspection should be carried out every time the hard hat is about to be worn.

Q. Can I wear my hard hat backward?

Only if there is a “reverse-donning arrow” marked inside the hat, which looks like two arrows following each other in a circle. This indicates it can be worn either way. Without that mark, safety will likely be compromised if the hat is worn backward.

Q. Do hard hats expire?

There is no firm expiry limit for hard hats, but safety organizations and most manufacturers recommend that hats be replaced after a maximum of 5 years. Some of the best hard hats have the date of manufacture stamped inside.