If you guys are having trouble getting good gear early on, look for Winged Hussar deserters in the Polish lands. I've found and defeated some in groups of 4, and you have a chance at getting their armor after a very easy battle (as long as you have a horse and a ranged weapon). I'm on day 10 and wearing Winged Hussar Mail, though my weapons are still pretty bad.
As far as the economy in general goes, I've only been able to find one good caravan run so far; 20 pottery from the Crimean capitol to Kiev with 1 guard cost me 370 denars, and it sold for 2,660. While that run isn't going to make you rich, it helps out in the early game. So far, the other goods that I've found have either been too expensive for me to finance yet, or not plentiful enough (though I did buy some salt at a decent price from a different Crimean city, and have made a little money selling that on my own).
Lowering costs on some weapons and armor may be in order, but I don't think it should be too drastic, and some of the lower end items should probably keep the same prices that they have now. The previous economy pretty much made looting superfluous (unless you refused to abuse the way caravans worked before).