Umpire Masks & Helmets Buying GuideJul 4th, 2022
Note: Look for red italics for important safety warnings.
Picking the right umpire mask or helmet depends on what you want out of your umpire headgear. Find the header below that reflects what matters the most to you:
In general, umpire helmets protect best due to their 360 degree protection. Backswings at all levels and balls from the backstop at some parks do happen. Helmets also deflect more force when balls impact the sides due to their extreme angles. However, helmets will be hotter, heavier and more cumbersome to manage than masks - so they take more getting used to.
WARNING: Not all umpire helmets are built the same. Entry level helmets, not provided here, have thin shells and padding.
Of umpire helmets the most protective helmet tested for baseballs at 100 MPH are the:
- Force3 Diamond Defender (F3's latest)
- Patented shock suspension system, non-attached frame and kevlar-lined pads all combine to reduce more force on frontal impacts
- All-Star MVP 4000 (just discontinued, updated MVP5 coming 2023)
- Vinyl Nitrile forehead band absorbs more force than standard forehead helmet padding. Polycarbonate shell provides better protection than standard ABS plastic.
Of umpire masks, the most protective are below with reasons listed for the protection upgrade:
- All-Star Magnesium Masks
Unique ABS insert is in the bottom pad; bottom pad is extended; angled top pad provides optimal vision but only allows for a 4-stitch cap or skull cap; angles within no-weld frame for more deflection; multiple frame and pad color options; lightest of those with most protection
- Force3 Defender Masks
Double-frame shock absorption springs with advanced padding technology that includes kevlar; Added weight absorbs more force but does take some getting used to by most; multiple frame and pad color options
- Wilson Aluminum Dyna-Lite Masks with Wrap-Around Padding
Wrap-arounds are thickest pads and protect from the frame that could move on impact; thicker padding will sacrifice closer vision; limited frame and padding color options
In the middle-tier of protection are:
- All-Star System 7 Masks
More substantial padding and hollow steel for greater flexibility
- Champro Rampage Masks
Multiple angles within frame to maximize deflection and hollow steel for flexibility
- Diamond Big League Masks (Best overall value of these 4)
Aluminum is more flexible, thick padding and U-bar for balls that skim the top of your head.
- Wilson Dyna-Lite Steel Masks
Thicker padding and steel weight absorbs more force. (The memory foam padding option will add to comfort but will be less protective than standard Wilson leather pad options.)
In the lower tier:
- Champro CM72-B Mask: Great beginner's mask at lower youth levels.
- Diamond iX3: This is a great mask at youth levels. Its frame set the standard in aluminum mask frames, plus it has a U-bar at the top. However, you'll want a padding upgrade at high school or above. If you do add Team Wendy or Wilson Wrap-Around Pads, you'll get a nice protection upgrade.
- Wilson Aluminum with Memory Foam (Most Popular of These 4): Lighter weight and less dense pads mean superior comfort but with less protection than that of thicker and/or denser Wilson padding options and steel frames.
- Wilson Titanium: Titanium does not give as much as Aluminum, Magnesium or Steel. Therefore, more force is transferred in titanium than the other metals. You sacrifice protection to get great vision.
Supplemental Head Protection
For an additional layer of protection, consider All-Star's Hard Shell Skull Cap with a shorter bill designed just for umpires instead of your traditional umpire cap; or a protective layer that fits inside your traditional cap called the Unequal Uncap Flexshell. After several years on the market, most umpires say the All-Star skull cap fits more snugly and comfortable on the plate and is worth the upgrade. Read reviews of each as you consider this valuable protective add-on when you wear a traditional umpire mask.
- Wilson Pro Stock Titanium - 2.2 lbs (extremely lightweight for an umpire helmet)
- Wilson Pro Stock Steel - 2.5 lbs
- All-Star MVP 4000 (discontinued) - 2.75 lbs
Of umpire masks, you'll find that every brand claims to have a Dyna-Lite, super-light or featherweight mask, but what's true is that most mask frames now are made of some lightweight material. Our traditional style masks are just under 1.0 to 1.6 lbs (without harness - harnesses typically weigh around 0.3 lbs). A few ounces may not sound like much, but your neck might appreciate a lighter mask over several hours of plate work.
See the complete blog for Best Lightweight Umpire Masks.
In umpire helmets, comfort is in the head of the beholder. Within brands, the higher model has padding upgrades and/or is lighter making it more comfortable than the lower. For example:
Umpire masks with leather padding (most Wilson masks on steel or titanium frames and Diamond Big League) are more comfortable and better absorb perspiration.
The soft synthetic pads in Wilson Aluminum Dyna-Lite Masks with memory foam pads and Diamond featherweight wick away perspiration. As a result, none of these will slide around your face as you perspire.
Lighter color pads such as doeskin (actually calfskin leather) have the added benefit of being cooler in hotter conditions.
It is difficult to separate the comfort of padding on your face from the lighter weight of the mask when you are talking about overall comfort.
The top 3 in comfort when combining comfortable padding in a lighter weight mask are:
You would be surprised to know that traditional umpire helmets have better vision than umpire masks. The helmets' angled frames sit closer to the face from all sides.
Of umpire helmets, the best for vision are 1-2:
- Wilson Helmets: Better vision sacrifices space. If you have a big head or want to wear glasses under your helmet, the Wilson helmets are not for you.
- All-Star Helmets: Roomier for larger heads. Should have no problem wearing glasses or sunglasses underneath.
In umpire masks, the best vision ones have a trade-off in protection and vice-versa:
- Wilson Titanium
Because titanium is denser and stronger than other metals, the bars’ circumference is smaller than that of standard frames. When it comes to traditional masks, you will see best out of a Wilson titanium mask.
Also, you'll find that silver frame masks and helmets provide a better perceptual vision than that of black frames.
In umpire masks, those with the least vision are the ones that sit farthest from your face. These include the Force3 Defenders and Wilson models with wrap-around pads. Their double-frame and pad thickness - the features that make them more protective - are the (good) reasons for the trade-off.
The best value umpire helmet is the All-Star 2500. It is in the midrange of protection, weight and vision. It has a lower price point plus its removable & replaceable padding makes it a better longer term investment than those without replaceable padding (which is not found at that price point).
The best value umpire masks are the ones that strike a compromise in the above benefits, especially protection and vision. If you paid attention, you can probably figure those out by now. Let's put best value in 2 categories of entry-level and advanced-level protection-wise.
- All-Star System 7
- Diamond Big League (Overall best value if you had to pick just one)
- Wilson Steel Dyna-Lite with Doeskin (Best value in a lighter pad color)
While masks are considered one-size-fits all, helmets have a more limited range of hat sizes - roughly 7 to 7 1/2. This is an imperfect measurement given differences in head shapes. The All-Star models are roomier given the Wilson models are intentionally lower profile for improved vision and decreased weight. Therefore, if you have a larger head size or wear glasses, All-Star models could potentially work better.
Umpire helmets with fully removable padding are considered a better longer term investment.
- All-Star Helmets (Fully removable & replaceable)
- Wilson Pro Stock Titanium Helmet (Fully removable & replaceable)
- Force3 Defender (Chin pad removable & replaceable)
- Wilson Pro Stock Steel Helmet (Chin pad removable & replaceable)
Umpire masks have Velcro straps that allow you to replace or upgrade your padding. For optimal safety, you should replace your pads every 1 or 2 years as padding's protective properties diminish with time. For more details on replacement padding, including which pads fit which mask, visit the mask pads buying guide. Need to know how to replace your padding? See our Crew-How-To Video.
REPLACEMENT MASK HARNESSES
All masks come with adjustable harnesses. Multiple universal replacement harnesses are available that can be used on any mask. Learn how to replace your harness in this Crew-How-To Video.
For throat protection, mainly from balls in the dirt, we highly recommend a 4 inch or 6 inch throat guard. These will attach to your umpire mask or helmet to cut down on the gap that results between the bottom of your frame and chest protector. For best safety, we show you where to place your throat guard on your mask and how to size for it in this article. View All Throat Guards. Learn how to install them properly in this Crew-How-To Video.
Some like adding a sun visor (also called a shield) at the top of their mask frame. This adds no protective qualities. It is done mostly for appearance, but it also keeps sun glare out and light rain off your face.
Traditional sun visors will fit traditional umpire mask styles, but will not fit helmets, low profile masks or no-mold magnesium masks due to differences in frame shape. There is a Force3 Defender mask specific sun visor and All-Star has one, too, made solely for those masks. See each sun visor product page for details. See our Crew How-To Video on proper installation.
You will not need a cap if you wear a helmet, although some have mastered the art of wearing one. Learn how they do it here if you prefer to cover your head & hair with a cap. However, your 4-stitch and 6-stitch caps will stick out of most umpire helmets, leaving the bill exposed beyond the frame for a direct shot.
All of our umpire masks will allow for umpire caps up to 4-stitch bills (combo style) or the All-Star Hard Shell Skull Cap. Designed just for umpires, its bill length is the equivalent a 3-stitch length. Some veteran umpires wear a 6-stitch bill cap under your masks. We warn you to make sure the cap has room between the bill and mask frame for safety's sake. Note that just because you can fit a 6-stitch under one style mask, does not mean it will fit under another. (Learn more about cap bill length & safety.)
|Umpire Helmets or Masks||Weight*||Shell||Padding Type||Frame||Protection|
|All-Star System 7 Pro Model Helmet #MVP4000-SL (discontinued)||2.75 lbs||Poly-carbonate||Vinyl Nitrile forehead band and ArmorClad liner / Full Padding is removable, washable & has replacements available (sold at All-Star)||Steel||Complete|
|All-Star System 7 Pro Model Helmet #MVP2500 (gloss & matte black)||3.2 lbs||ABS||ArmorClad liner / Full Padding is removable, washable & has replacements available (sold at All-Star)||Steel||Complete|
|Force3 Defender Helmet #HSMv3||3.25 lbs||ABS / Kevlar||Chin Padding is leather, kevlar lined removable & washable||Steel with Springs||Complete|
|Wilson MLB Pro Stock Titanium Helmet #A5800||2.2 lbs||ABS||Standard foam with moisture-wicking fabric / Full Padding is removable & washable||Titanium||Complete|
|Wilson MLB Pro Stock Steel Helmet #A5801||2.5 lbs||ABS||Standard foam / Chin Padding is removable & washable||Steel||Complete|
|1.05 lbs||Lightweight Ultra Cool Foam Padding with Moisture Barrier / Synthetic Moisture-Wicking Outer Lining / Extended Bottom Pad with Additional ABS Plastic Layer||Magnesium||Ears and Throat|
Lightweight UltraCool™ padding (LUC) with moisture wicking fabric
|Steel Tube||Ears and Throat|
Champro #CM-72B Umpire Mask (also cm71 2-tone option)
|1.1 lbs||Synthetic Ergofit Foam Pads / Vinyl Outer Lining||Steel Tube||Ears and Throat plus U-Bar|
|1 lb||Ergo-fit Pads with Memory Foam||Magnesium||Ears and Throat|
|Diamond iX3 Umpire Masks #DFM-UMP||1.0 lb||Traditional Foam Padding / Quik-Dry Synthetic Moisture-Wicking Outer Lining||Aluminum||Ears, Throat plus U-Bar|
|Diamond Big League Umpire Masks #DFM-BL||1.05 lb||Traditional Foam Padding / Full-Grain Leather Outer Lining||Aluminum||Ears, Throat plus U-Bar|
|Force3 Defender Umpire Masks #F3-DEF||1.7 lbs||Pads Lined with Kevlar with Lower Pad Inner Lined with Full Grain Leather||Chrome Alloy||Ears and Throat|
|Wilson MLB Dynalite Aluminum Umpire Masks #A3009-AL||1.3 lbs||Memory Foam with Synthetic Moisture-Wicking Fabric||Aluminum||Ears and Throat|
|Wilson MLB Dynalite Aluminum Umpire Mask with Wrap Around Padding #A3009-AL-BK/GY||1.3 lbs||Wrap-Around Style Foam with Full Grain Leather||Aluminum||Ears and Throat|
|Wilson MLB Titanium Mask with Two-Tone Padding #A3007T||1.1 lbs||Traditional Foam Padding / Full Grain Leather Inner & PU** Leather Outer Lining||Titanium||Ears and Throat|
|Wilson Dynalite Steel Umpire Mask #A3009X - MEM||1.8 lbs||Memory Foam Padding with Synthetic Moisture-Wicking Fabric||Steel Tube||Ears and Throat|
|Wilson Dynalite Steel Umpire Mask with Doeskin #A3009X-DS||1.8 lbs||Traditional Foam Padding with Calfskin Leather||Steel Tube||Ears and Throat|
*Weight of masks is shown without harness
**PU Leather is a bi-cast leather (not full grain)
WARNING: Participants in any sports activity assume risk of injury. This equipment may be used to help aid in preventing or reducing the extent of injury. No equipment can guarantee umpire or player safety from injury during participation, and use of this equipment carries no such guarantee. Do not use any umpire equipment that is damaged in any way.
About the Author
President Jim Kirk
Jim is a leading expert, educator and author on umpire gear, safety & appearance. After playing baseball at Centre College, he worked as a high school umpire. He became involved in E-Commerce while working on an MBA in the early 2000s and bought Ump-Attire.com in 2006, He eventually led it to the leading umpire gear & attire retailer worldwide, a “Best Places to Work in Louisville” honor in 2020 & 2021 and a National Association of Sports Officials (NASO) Preferred Vendor. He maintained a long-standing relationship with Minor League Baseball Umpire Development & Training Academy for 10 years. He serves as an adviser to UMPS CARE Charities, the charity of MLB umpires, served as a 2-term board of director from 2012-2018, and was named their 2015 Ambassador Award recipient. A supporter since the inception of the Wounded Warrior Umpire Academy, he was named to their Board of Directors in 2020.