The Best Hard Hats Tested in 2023

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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.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Klein Tools 60407 Vented Hard Hat With Headlamp
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Malta Dynamics 4-Point Ratchet Cap Style Hard Hat
  3. BEST LIGHTWEIGHT: Pyramex HP54110V Ridgeline Full-Brim Hard Hat
  4. BEST BUMP CAP: Ergodyne Skullerz 8950 Bump Cap Hat
  5. BEST FOR CONSTRUCTION: Pyramex HP44117 Ridgeline Cap Style Hard Hat
  6. BEST FOR WELDERS: Honeywell Fibre-Metal Roughneck P2 Hard Hat
  7. BEST FULL-BRIM: MSA 475369 V-Gard Slotted Full-Brim Hard Hat
  8. 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.

ALSO TESTED

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.

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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.

Jump to Our Top Picks

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
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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.

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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 with a hard hat.

FAQs

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.

Why Trust Bob Vila

Bob Vila has been America’s Handyman since 1979. As the host of beloved and groundbreaking TV series including “This Old House” and “Bob Vila’s Home Again,” he popularized and became synonymous with “do-it-yourself” home improvement.

Over the course of his decades-long career, Bob Vila has helped millions of people build, renovate, repair, and live better each day—a tradition that continues today with expert yet accessible home advice. The Bob Vila team distills need-to-know information into project tutorials, maintenance guides, tool 101s, and more. These home and garden experts then thoroughly research, vet, and recommend products that support homeowners, renters, DIYers, and professionals in their to-do lists.

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