On the other hand, getting out there is the most important, IMO. If you have to start out with cheap gear, at least you find your pain points! I have a very cheap tent, which having used it for several years I can now scientifically support why I need a new one (though I'm still getting a sideways look from the accountant... oops sorry husband) - AND I can tell you what I want in a tent! Hubby bought a bunch of equipment for one trip we went on and, in my opinion, some of it wasn't right equipment for how we hike. If we had made do, we would have made better purchases later after he remembered how heavy things got after a few miles grin

Now of course I'm saying this within safety margins. If you hike in the rainy area of Washington state, you probably should have decent rain equipment or only hike in warm temperatures. If you hike in Alaska, you shouldn't skimp on your sleeping bag (well... _I_ wouldn't feel comfortable skimping on my sleeping bag.)