Hi CONAC! Welcome to HF. I am new to all of this as well. As a matter of fact I am in the process of getting ALL of my hiking/backpacking gear together and it is certainly a bit overwhelming. I have done some backpacking in the past but have always used rented gear. This year I decided to gear up so I will give you a quick rundown on what I have gotten and the cost involved (which is quite a bit more than I was hoping it would be...but then again, I hung around these forums a little too much and I have been pointed toward, what I hope to be, some of the best gear out there).
Here is what I have on order:
~ Warbonnet Blackbird 1.1 DL - (I was almost ready to get a HH, but after spending some time reading the reviews here from folks who had tried both I just had to get the BB) I ordered this on Tuesday so I still have a couple of weeks before it comes in.
~ MacCat Deluxe Tarp (Again found out about them here and they are supposed to be top-notch)
~ Exped Downmat 9 - I decided to get this mat because when my wife goes I will be dwelling on the ground and I wanted to be as comfortable as possible in both the hammock and a tent. The Exped has the highest R-value of any mat/pad I could find and the main complaint I have heard about hammocks is that they can be cold so I wanted something with really good insulation that would keep me as warm as possible. I have also talked with people here at HF that have used the Exped in their hammock and they say it keeps them warm and toasty into the 30's or 40's which is as low as I plan to go with this setup.
~ The North Face Cat's Meow Sleeping Bag - I haven't actually ordered this yet and am still looking for the best sleeping bag for me, but this is the front runner right now. (If anyone has any suggestions on a great, lightweight bag I would love to hear them)
That is what I plan to be my complete setup...at least to start out with. I am also looking at packs. I have ordered both a Gregory Z55 and a Gregory Triconi 60 and am going to keep the one that is most comfortable. The complete setup that I have listed above is totalling up to about $770 (that number makes my stomach hurt) and it all weighs about 13lbs. I ordered everything except the WBBB and the MacCat from Moosejaw. Their prices were the best I could find and they have a super simple return policy and great customer service.
I hope this helps and doesn't scare you away. Keep in mind that I am new to all of this and am pretty much starting from scratch. I also decided to go with the best gear that I could find starting out which I am hoping will pay off in the long run, but as others will tell you (and already have) there are MUCH less expensive options out there. There are posts that will give you tips for getting started on almost any budget.