The quest for gear is just that. A journey--a process. You can read all the articles you want (many good ones here if you're a member!), ask all the questions you want, and read all the books you want. They will help tremendously! BUT, each time you go out with your gear, you'll evaluate and re-evaluate how you like to do things, and how you want your gear to work for you.
You'll learn a lot just by doing.
Tent brands: Tarptent, Six Moon Designs, Mountain Laurel Designs, Gossamer Gear, Nemo, Big Agnes.
Sleeping Bag: Marmot, Montbell, BPL's quilts, Enlightened Equipment, Western Mountaineering, Nunatak.
Sleeping Pads: Thermarest, Big Agnes, Exped
Packs: Osprey, Mountain Laurel Designs, Six Moon Designs, ULA, Granite Gear
...and there's plenty more. I expect someone will be along to add to these fine companies. Don't expect to learn/buy everything right away. Its a continuous process!
My advice, which may differ from others here: start with a set of gear you can afford and feel comfortable with. One that you've done your research on and know well. Then, go hike! Enjoy your trip, but always be rethinking EVERY piece of gear. What was good or bad. What you wanted and didn't have. What you had and didn't need. You'll soon get an appreciation of what YOU need and feel comfortable with.
Just as a side note, The North Face doesn't get too much discussion time here on BackpackingLight. I'm not gonna get into the finer points of it, but there are plenty of lighter, high quality brands out there. (and that doesn't mean I'm trashing them, either)
Knowledge is the most important and lightest thing we have. That's partially why many of us are here--to learn! Good luck!