The jobsite can be a danger zone, and various home improvement projects come with their share of injury risks as well. Head injuries are among the hazards, and they can cause long-term disability or even death. Hard hats can protect the wearer from impact, penetration, and electric shock. At the very least, they can save the wearer from cuts and bruises.
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.
But it’s not all just numbers on a screen. We spent a full day performing hands-on testing with each of the best construction hard hats to ensure that they could really meet shoppers’ needs. We set them up, adjusted them, and wore them for 8 hours to test their comfort level and features.
- BEST OVERALL: Klein Tools 60407 Vented Hard Hat With Headlamp
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Malta Dynamics 4-Point Ratchet Cap Style Hard Hat
- BEST LIGHTWEIGHT: Pyramex HP54110V Ridgeline Full-Brim Hard Hat
- BEST BUMP CAP: Ergodyne Skullerz 8950 Bump Cap Hat
- BEST FOR CONSTRUCTION: Pyramex HP44117 Ridgeline Cap Style Hard Hat
- BEST FOR WELDERS: Honeywell Fibre-Metal Roughneck P2 Hard Hat
- BEST FULL-BRIM: MSA 475369 V-Gard Slotted Full-Brim Hard Hat
- ALSO CONSIDER: JSP Evolution Deluxe 6161 6-Point Full-Brim Hard Hat
How We Tested the Best Hard Hats
We wanted to ensure that we were suggesting only the very best hard hats to our readers, so we performed hands-on testing to determine each hat’s quality. First, we put our heads together to come up with some of the most important features of the best work hats and hard hats and compiled a list of top products for testing.
Since testing hard hats is more about comfort than safety, we ensured that all our hard hats met safety standards before ordering them (other than the bump cap) so we didn’t have to hit ourselves over the head to test them. However, we did set each model’s suspension up and checked out the different features like lights, accessory slots, and ratcheting adjustments.
Then, we spent 1 day testing each model to ensure that it was indeed comfortable throughout a workday and to find out if it met our criteria. Those that didn’t (and there were a few premium products that simply did not) were removed from consideration, while those that passed our tests were given awards based on their strengths.
Our Top Picks
Before studying 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.
While there are hard hats for half the price, we think the Klein Tools 60407 is worth every penny. This model features a comfortable foam-padded ventilated 4-point suspension system that distributes weight over the entire head. It also has built-in adjustable vents that allow the user to choose between no airflow (in rainy conditions, perhaps), full airflow, or anywhere in between. It’s a Type 1, Class C hard hat (because of the vents) that’s made from durable polycarbonate ABS plastic.
This Klein Tools hard hat solves the age-old problem of saggy, floppy work lights on a hard hat with a rechargeable magnetic light. It clips into the accessory slot on the front or the back of a hard hat for reversed wear but also sticks to metal objects on work sites, making it one of the best hard hat headlamps on the market. This full-brim hard hat also has a ratcheting headband and built-in accessory slots.
The built-in light clip and headlamp are excellent, though they do add a bit to the hat’s heft. Due to the best hard hat light and the heavy-duty acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS)plastic, this hard hat is considerably heavier than most others (and the weight is especially noticeable after wearing it for 8 hours). However, we really liked the adjustable vents, and we found them to be easy to manipulate with ungloved hands while wearing the hard hat.
Since the suspension system is so well designed, it was never really uncomfortable on our heads. The weight was distributed quite well and the foam padding offered a comfortable grip.
- Type/class: Type 1, Class C
- Material: ABS
- Weight: 1.3 pounds
- Comes with a work light that snaps into the grooves in the hard hat or sticks to metal surfaces with built-in magnet
- Has positionable vents that users can open and close to control airflow or shut out rain
- Well-designed foam suspension system is comfortable but provides plenty of grip
- This hard hat is heavier than most others, so folks who don’t need a light or adjustable vents may prefer something lighter
Read our full review: Klein Tools 60407 Vented Hard Hat With Headlamp
Get the Klein Tools hard hat at Amazon or The Home Depot.
Folks looking to save some money on their on-site headgear may want to check out Malta Dynamics’ 4-point ratchet-cap-style hard hat. This affordable hard hat costs almost half of some other models, yet it’s made with durable high-density polyethylene (HDPE)and features a comfortable 4-point suspension system with ratcheting adjustments.
This Type 1, Class E and G hard hat feature is light on frills but also just generally light. While it doesn’t have built-in accessory slots, a fancy suspension harness, or vents, it does weigh just 0.7 pounds. Also, the design is reversible for folks who prefer a backward fit. It’s also LT
(low temperature) and HT (high temperature) approved, which makes it quite a steal at this price point.
It might seem like there isn’t much to the Malta Dynamics 4-point hard hat, but we enjoyed it during testing. We liked that the hard hat is reversible, which is a good thing since the brim is large and pronounced and could get in the way in a confined space. We also liked that this model stays relatively low along the side of the hard hat, offering more protection for the sides of our heads than those that have a higher cut around the ears. However, we’re not sure that the brow pad is actually removable as the manufacturer suggests. For the price, we were surprised with the comfort and low weight, and we think those details make it a great deal.
- Type/Class: Type 1, Class E and G
- Material: HDPE
- Weight: 0.7 pounds
- Affordable price point allows users on a budget to protect themselves on the jobsite
- Lightweight design is barely more than 0.5 pound, allowing users to stay comfortable for all-day wear
- Reversible design allows users to put the large brim behind their heads if needed; low-cut profile along the sides protects the areas over the ears
- We’re not sure the brow pad is actually removable; it feels like it will rip
- The brim is large and pronounced; could get in the way in a confined-space scenario
Get the Malta Dynamics hard hat at Amazon or Hose Warehouse.
Folks who don’t want to trade safety for a lightweight hard hat may prefer the Pyramex Ridgeline full-brim hard hat. This model features a 360-degree brim and is made from ABS plastic, the combination of which weighs just more than 0.5 pound (0.83 pounds or 376 grams). It’s a Type 1, Class C hard hat (G and E ratings are available but not in the vented models). It is also LT and HT, meaning it can withstand most extreme working conditions.
The tough ABS shell is supported by an effective 4-point suspension system with a replaceable soft brow pad. There is also a head pad (more like a liner) for additional comfort. The Pyramex hard hat adjusts from sizes 6.5 to 8, and users can convert it from 4-point (standard) to 6-point ratchet suspension with an additional suspension purchase.
Here is what we didn’t like: The rubber pad on the ratcheting adjustment doesn’t breathe well and did grab some hair. But otherwise, this lightweight full-brim hard hat is excellent. We liked that the adjustments were easy to make, including the depth adjustments inside that determine how deeply the user’s head sits in the hard hat. We also liked that it’s HT and LT, making this model a bit more flexible. The vents were also a nice touch as they allowed for plenty of airflow during all-day wearing.
- Type/class: Type 1, Class C, G, E
- Material: ABS
- Weight: 0.83 pounds
- It’s lightweight at just 0.83 pounds despite being a full-brim hard hat (which usually weigh quite a bit more)
- Making adjustments to the headband and depth was easy and straightforward
- It features vents as well as LT and HT compatibility for improved flexibility
- Rubber padding doesn’t breathe well and pulled hair until it got sweaty
Get the Pyramex Ridgeline full-brim hard hat at Amazon or Northern Tool + Equipment.
The Ergodyne Skullerz 8950 safety bump cap is a lightweight alternative for those who don’t need the full protection of a bulky hard hat. However, it is important to point out that bump caps do not meet the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Type 1 or Type 2 requirements and are not American National Standards Institute (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 (1 inch, 2 inches, or 3 inches), and features 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.
Believe it or not, we didn’t think the Skullerz was the most comfortable option on this list. After about 4 hours of wearing it, we felt a pressure point toward the front of the head, so we ended up taking it off. However, bump caps aren’t really meant to be worn all day, so we don’t hold this against it. Things we liked included that it was very easy to put on and take off quickly, even with one hand, and that it’s a streamlined design that wouldn’t bump into anything that a standard hat wouldn’t. We also liked that it’s lightweight, which is truly one of the top selling points of this bump cap.
- Type/class: EN 812-2012
- Material: Nylon, polyester, polyethylene
- Weight: 0.5 pound
- Easier to put on and take off with 1 hand than a standard hard hat
- Resembles a baseball cap in size and shape, so it’s less likely to bump into anything when compared to a standard hard hat
- Lightweight design means the user’s neck won’t fatigue if they have to wear it for several hours at a time
- Not the most comfortable option, but it isn’t designed for all-day wear
Get the Ergodyne hard hat at Amazon or Acme Tools.
Construction workers and personnel who need an all-around capable hard hat may find the right pick with the Ridgeline cap-style hard hat from Pyramex. This hard hat is made from ABS plastic and is very lightweight, allowing users to protect their heads without feeling fatigued, making it one of the best hard hats for construction.
Due to its vents, this hard hat is a Class C model with a Type 1 designation. It can be worn forward or backward with the swap of the harness. It has built-in accessory slots, comes in Hi-Viz color, and is suitable for both low and high temperatures.
We liked that this model is lightweight (0.66 pounds), even more so than the full-brim variation. We also liked that it’s easy to adjust in both diameter and depth, as depth adjustments require just tweaking the harness slightly to the side to release the clip—a very easy move. We’re also big fans of the vents as they really do allow for a lot of airflow, and the reversible design is a big benefit. The issue we did experience was the same as the full-brim Pyramex: The rubber pad in front of the ratchet doesn’t breathe, and it does grab some hair until it gets sweaty.
- Type/Class: Type 1, Class C
- Material: ABS
- Weight: 0.66 pounds
- Lightweight design is comfortable for all-day wear as it won’t fatigue the user’s neck
- Adjustments to both diameter and depth were easy, allowing users achieve a great fit quickly
- Ventilation provides plenty of airflow and heat to escape the hard hat rather than building up inside
- The rubber pad on the ratcheting adjustment doesn’t breathe and it can pull hair
Get the Pyramex Ridgeline cap-style hard hat at Amazon or Industrial Safety Gear.
Welders who work on structural steel need a hard hat that can be compatible with their welding masks, and the Honeywell Fibre-Metal Roughneck P2 hard hat comes that way from the start. This Type 1, Class G model may be the best hard hat for welding since it features Quick-Lock blocks that attach to welding mask cups in just a few seconds. All the user has to do is press the buttons in the blocks, place them in the cups of the welding helmet, and release the buttons to attach the mask.
This model is made from fiberglass, so it’s a little heavier than most other models (almost a pound). However, it features a comfortable swinging back band with a ratcheting adjustment, allowing users to swap between front- or back-facing orientation in just a few seconds. The biggest downside is the headband is a synthetic leatherlike material, and it doesn’t breathe well despite the perforations.
When it comes to switching between front- and back-facing orientations, it doesn’t get any easier than with Roughneck P2. We were able to swing the back band to either end, instantly changing orientation without removing the harness. This makes it useful for welders as well as other tradespeople. We liked that it had a relatively low-profile fit and that setup was very easy to handle. The sweatband inside the helmet is a big drawback, as Honeywell states it’s terry cloth, but it isn’t, and it isn’t terribly comfortable, either.
- Type/Class: Type 1, Class G
- Material: Fiberglass
- Weight: 0.81 pounds
- Switching between frontward and backward facing takes just a second thanks to the swinging back band
- Features a low-profile fit that will be helpful for welders with masks on top of their heads
- Setup and adjustment was easier than a lot of the competitor hard hats, allowing the user to attach it to a welding mask and get to work quickly
- Sweatband is relatively low quality and doesn’t breathe well
Get the Honeywell hard hat at Amazon or Airgas.
Those looking for the best full-brim hard hat may be quite happy with the V-Gard from MSA. This model features full-brim coverage but also benefits from a self-adjusting headband that slides into a comfortable position as the user tightens the ratchet adjustment.
This hard hat from MSA is a Type 1, Class E hat, offering a bit more protection in lieu of vents. It’s made from high-density polyethylene, is LT and HT compatible, and weighs just 0.88 pounds despite being a full-brim model. Users can reverse the headband and wear it backward if desired, and there are accessory slots on either side.
There is a lot to like about this hard hat, but we have one complaint: This suspension creates pressure points where the rear strap ends connect, and this is likely due to the amount of plastic at the attachment points. But everything else, we liked. The ratchet’s pad is suspended, allowing for comfortable compression and airflow, and the self-adjusting straps allow for seemingly universal fit. This design also does away with the need for the headband strap to surround the entire head, leaving a space at the back of the head free for airflow, making it a bit more comfortable than a traditional design. Also, swapping the headband between front and backward wearing is easy.
- Type/Class: Type 1, Class E
- Material: HDPE
- Weight: 0.88 pounds
- The self-adjusting design creates a universal fit but also allows the back of the head to be free from 1 continuous strap
- Hard hat is lightweight despite being a full-brim style, reducing fatigue on wearers’ necks
- Can be worn frontward or backward and is easy to swap, allowing users to choose between the 2 at any time
- Creates pressure points where the rear strap ends connect to the hard hat
Get the MSA hard hat at Amazon or Cooper Safety.
Full-brim hard hats aren’t usually light, so they need to be able to distribute the weight comfortably while also protecting the wearer. This model from JSP does both, offering a wider area of protection from falling debris and rain while also featuring a 6-point suspension system with well-designed straps for comfort. It’s a Type 1, Class C HDPE shell hard hat that weighs just under 1 pound.
Given its competitive price, the 6-point suspension system is also a bit of a nice surprise. It’s also reversible, allowing the user to choose the direction they’re most comfortable or that is most convenient. There’s also a dermatologically tested sweatband with a hard-wearing, breathable chamoislike cover and an Egyptian cotton core. The Evolution Deluxe is adjustable from size 6⅝ to 8.
Now, let’s talk about what makes the JSP great: We found it to be comfortable and secure throughout the day, but part of what made it so comfortable was the airflow. The vents in the hardhat allow for plenty of air movement rather than trapping heat. Also, this is the only hard hat in the test with a chamoislike material for the brow band, and we found it to be absorbent and comfortable throughout the day. It also has a 6-point suspension system when most of the other hard hats were 4, and the straps were wide enough to distribute the relatively hefty weight (15 ounces) comfortably. We do have a complaint, though: The adjustment knob is too small to operate with a pair of heavy gloves.
- Type/class: Type 1, Class C
- Material: HDPE
- Weight: 15 ounces
- 6-point suspension is the standard, and the straps are wide enough to distribute the weight comfortably
- Built-in vents allow for plenty of airflow to keep heat from building up inside the hard hat
- Dermatologically tested sweatband is made from a chamois material, and despite not being the thickest in the test, it was one of the most absorbent
- The adjustment knob is difficult to manipulate with gloved hands (it’s too small)
Get the JSP Evolution hard hat at Amazon or PK Safety.
Both of the following products’ suspension systems failed. The hard hats themselves are of incredibly high quality, but their suspension systems, which cost nearly $20 to replace, are prone to failure.
The Lift Safety HDC50C DAX Fifty 50 carbon-fiber cap was one the most premium hard hats in the test. In fact, we hoped it would take our best carbon-fiber hard hat spot. It features a sophisticated 6-point suspension system, a self-adjusting strap, and a high-quality carbon-fiber shell.
But here’s the issue: The suspension tab on ours broke immediately. We didn’t even have the chance to adjust it. The metal tab broke as soon as we touched it, and for a premium product, this isn’t acceptable.
The Lift Safety 17KG Dax carbon-fiber cap hard hat is a premium carbon-fiber hard hat with an equally premium price tag. But, after our other Lift hard hat’s suspension failed, we were extremely careful with this one to see if we could identify flaws without breaking it. Turns out, we could.
Several of the Lift’s suspension tabs (which are metal and very thin) slide off far too easily, while others would not budge whatsoever. We did some research and found that this is a very common theme with Lift’s suspension systems: The tabs break, slide on or off too easily, or don’t budge at all. And for this price point, we can’t recommend them.
What to Consider When Choosing a Hard Hat
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. Keep reading to learn about some key factors that affect hard hat choice.
Types and Classes of Hard Hats
In the U.S., OSHA requires employers to provide hard hats for those working in certain environments. The standards for those hard hats are set by the 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 standards 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 may have one or all of these features:
- A reverse donning arrow indicates that 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 indicates suitability for low temperatures (down to -22 degrees Fahrenheit).
- HT indicates suitability for high temperatures (up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit).
- HV indicates 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 jobsite.
- 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 a shopper’s choice.
- HDPE: A low-cost, lightweight material usually found in budget hard hats. It’s tough but can be subject to cracking.
- ABS: Another tough, affordable material. However, it doesn’t have high solvent resistance.
- Fiberglass: Usually made with a laminating process that provides great strength. Fiberglass hard hats cost more to make, and therefore more to 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 price tag.
- 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 it is a matter of personal preference in most cases.
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 the head by placing a flexible measuring tape slightly above the ears and around the circumference of the 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 usually a knob at the back of the hard hat, which loosens or tightens a brow band. A padded sweatband 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 to be uncomfortable by the end of the day and would likely cause neck pain.
- 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 with a hard hat.
Wondering 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 wear a hard hat backwards 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 backwards.
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.
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