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Tripods I could go on forever about, but dakine makes decent camera bags, but fstop makes the best bags IMO theyre more expensive. Honestly, a backpack with any padding will be fine.
NoahsArkI got about a 150 for a tripod
eheathThats gonna be tough, if you can find some older used manfrotto 501 head with legs that arent broken, thats a good start, but any tripod in that budget is going to be a cheap pile that is made to hold a photo camera. But, I understand it can be tough to cough up the cash for a good tripod, but its worth it down the road.