Firstly, welcome along Foster, to the hobby, the game and these forums!
You are correct in that buying the best is often very expensive. I would also concur with avoiding Wish: they are very cheap, and that’s the durability you’re paying for.
I note that what you’re after is “hard kit” (armour and weapons) as opposed to “soft kit” (non combat stuff, apart from the cloak.
I concur with buying at the event, ESPECIALLY weaponry. Sword/shield will need to pass an intensive safety check at the event, and alongside the benefits of getting a good feel of equipment, it’s a lot easier to get a refund if you bought the thing from that stall over there 5 minutes ago…
Note that the equipment etc on our photos and many websites tends to be the top of the market; the really good stuff. Empire costume is, by rule, aspirational: do what you can, with the budget you have (and improve it when you can), and you’ll be fine.
Additionally, if you can find a group in your target nation (there are facebook groups for each one as well as these forums) you may well make new friends happy to lend, hire, or sell spare stuff to you: many an old LARPer has a cupboard of old kit they’ll never wear again, but will happily sell for a token fee to a keen new player.
You may also be able to find decent gear on ebay or similar, look for larp kit, or even re-enactment costume. Feel free to ask us about individual bits if you’re unsure of costume details.
You may also already have found this page of our traders:
Now, assuming that you are anyway buying from new, I’m also going to assume that you’re after what is categorised as a suit of light armour in Empire (ask if you need a hand with this, the armour rules can be tricky). You’ve gone for torso protection, greaves and bracers. A classic look for the fast moving fighter.
How about this from Having a Larp:
Something like the hairy plain vambraces from Darkblade:
and their plain leather greaves as well
That’s £150 for some plain, generic light armour that will fit in many a LARP system, can be decorated by you, and likely last you years retaining a fair bit of value if you choose to sell it on.
Weapons: I tend to shop at Eldritch for my first stop, as they do light weaponry and I don’t trust myself with anything too wieghty.
Basic, solid swords, down to about £50.
Shields on the same site go down to £55 but will always be more expensive than the swords. Lets assume you drop £80 on a shield.
Note also that your nation in play will likely have a style of shield: from the heraldic shields of Dawn to the round shields of Wintermark Steinr to the nimble crescent sheilds of the Brass Coast, everyone has a theme… (that said, a shield cover is pretty simple to make and can be painted or decorated as whatever, to make a shield fit if needed).
Scabbard… I wouldn’t if I were you. Being often custom leatherwork, they get pricey quickly. A belt loop to hang a sword off a belt will be about £10 for a pretty good one. Or ask a friends for one, the little blighters breed. I have about 7 myself…
For cheap end of cloaks you might want to try:
Let’s say you drop £70 on a nice wool cloak. Keep you warm, if not dry.
(I’ll note that the cloak is the easiest bit to make a quick and dirty version or yourself. A large plain wool blanket and a big steel cloak pin [found online or at the event] will be a lot cheaper, if not as fancy.)
So bearing in mind what I said above about getting some stuff 2nd hand, or hunting for cheaper stuff on site (and there will likely be cheaper stuff on site for in many categories), our totals are:
Cloak and belt loop: £80
(I’m assuming you already have shirt, trousers, belt and boots)
That’s £360, IF you go that route.
This IS an investment, and if you like the hobby, you’ll get years of use out of that lot. If you don’t, you can likely sell a lot of it on pretty well.
Not the most difficult question to answer! Ask me another!