How much do you want to spend? To do a triathlon, all you need is a swimsuit & goggles, a safe bike & helmet, some shorts, a t-shirt, and some running shoes. That's the basics anyway. Going from there - Triathlon gear is like virtually everything else on the market - cheaper to expensive.
If you hate water any colder than 70 degrees (like I do), you'll need a wetsuit. That could be $200-$600 depending on what you get.
As far as the bike, you can spend anywhere from $600-$8000+ on a bike. Then there is shoes, clipless pedals, hydration, power meter...The bike can be the most gadget intense aspect of all the disciplines.
Running shoes usually range from $60-$200. If I was going to spend anywhere at first it would be here. For me, I tried all sorts of running shoes and when I finally found the pair that worked the best, they where on the expensive side. Go figure. But that doesn't mean cheaper shoes may not end up being right for you.
As far as clothing, I see people in gym clothes and I see people in one peice lycra tri suits at every race. Again, what do you want to spend?
Spend some time on trathlonlab.com or onetri.com. These are multi-sport specific e-stores. It woill not take you long to figure out whats available and what kind of gear, both essential and non-essential that you'd like to have to make for a good raceday.
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