If I were to introduce someone to backpacking, I'd do it through car camping and day hikes. That way the gear doesn't much matter. If the car camping went well, I'd do a short overnight trip leaving late in the day, weather permitting, and coming back before about lunch time the next day. Maybe hiking only a couple of miles in.

Clothes are the easiest thing to compromise on and that's about $470 of my list. Sure a person can scrounge, borrow, rent, etc. and maybe come up with some good deals. That's easier when you have a basic set of good enough gear and want to upgrade as it's possible to wait until something came along. I did some of that this year and it worked on some items.

I'm not a big believer in misery as misery is often one event from something dangerous. For instance, if a person is cold sleeping under a tarp in the rain, they are just one gust of wind away from being cold and wet. A bad combination. Most of us would know to quickly protect our sleeping bag and clothes and then quickly deal with the tarp. A new person might not be able to set up the tarp quickly in the dark, wind and rain and end up in a more miserable situation or possibly hypothermia.

Tarps have other issues. The flattest spot in a campground is often that way because it's where the water settles. It takes some experience in actually seeing rain run-off to pick a good place for a tarp.

Tarps won't keep out the bugs. Personally, I don't care as bugs don't bite me. But for others it might be an issue.

A person who is fatigued from carrying a 50 pound pack is only a step away from a sprained or broken ankle.

Sometimes we can't give people what they want. The OP went on a week long trip and his friends wanted to join him on his next trip. NC is warmer than here, so the criteria for comfort might be different. But if I were to take someone new on a week long trip, I'd want them to have things that are functionally equivalent to the list I made. I might lend it to them. Some we could share. Some they might buy used. Some might be a step lower in quality, like the sleeping bag or pack.

There is a part of me that also says a person needs to experience a certain amount of misery in order to appreciate avoiding it in the future. So, I am on both extreme ends of the discussion. So to add to the cheap gear discussion. If you get to know some backpackers, just let them know you'd like to buy some good used gear. Many of us have stuff we'd just give away or sell for a reasonable price.