Based on spectroscopy and multiband wide-field observations of the gravitationally lensed quasar HE 0435−1223, we determine the probability distribution function of the external convergence κext for this system. We measure the under/overdensity of the line of sight towards the lens system and compare it to the average line of sight throughout the Universe, determined by using the CFHTLenS (The Canada France Hawaii Lensing Survey) as a control field. Aiming to constrain κext as tightly as possible, we determine under/overdensities using various combinations of relevant informative weighting schemes for the galaxy counts, such as projected distance to the lens, redshift and stellar mass. We then convert the measured under/overdensities into a κext distribution, using ray-tracing through the Millennium Simulation. We explore several limiting magnitudes and apertures, and account for systematic and statistical uncertainties relevant to the quality of the observational data, which we further test through simulations. Our most robust estimate of κext has a median value κmedext=0.004 and a standard deviation σκ = 0.025. The measured σκ corresponds to 2.5 per cent relative uncertainty on the time delay distance, and hence the Hubble constant H0 inferred from this system. The median κmedext value varies by ∼0.005 with the adopted aperture radius, limiting magnitude and weighting scheme, as long as the latter incorporates galaxy number counts, the projected distance to the main lens and a prior on the external shear obtained from mass modelling. This corresponds to just ∼0.5 per cent systematic impact on H0. The availability of a well-constrained κext makes HE 0435−1223 a valuable system for measuring cosmological parameters using strong gravitational lens time delays.