There are a lot of choices to make when it comes to beekeeping tools. What you should buy depends on what appeals to you and how much you have in your budget. Let's take a look at the basic equipment you need.
First you need to select a bee suit. Consider your beesuit as the way to keep you and the bees at a comfortable distance. Bee suits are your uniform or work clothes.
There are different styles. Some beekeepers just wear their everyday clothes with a veil and maybe a pair of gloves. They duck tape their pant legs closed so bees can't crawl up them.
Bee suits help keep your clothes clean and make it easier for you to see if any bees are on you, so you can brush them off before you enter your house.
Coveralls cover you from neck to ankle. Jacket and pants are a two piece option that are cooler than the coveralls. Both options come with a zipper to attach the veil and both cost about the same, so choose whichever appeals to you. Most bee suits are white but any light color will work just fine. Dark colors and fuzzy material aren't a good idea because the bees will see that outfit as belonging to one of their enemies.
Next select a hat. These come in several styles from baseball to hoodie. There is the square hood, the hoodie style and different syles of hats. Hats keep the bees out of your hair and give you some shade from the sun.
Now you are ready to select a veil. Veils keep the bees out of your face and ears. Veils attach to the bee suit by means of a zipper to prevent bees from getting under them. They are interchangable with all styles of hats so if one hat doesn't suit you, you can buy a new hat and use the veil you already have. Veils are offered in two styles; round and square.
Next you may want a pair of gloves. Most beekeepers start out with gloves then gradually work their bees without them. Gloves come in plastic coated canvas or thin, supple leather. They have long cuffs, calledguantlets, to cover your arms. Some beekeepers skip the gloves but wear sleeve protectors, which are elasticized tubes of material that slide over your arms. Regular rubber dishwashing gloves will work just fine and have the avantage of giving you more dexterity. Heavy leather gloves don't work very well because you need to be able to move your hands easily when working in the hive.
That covers the personal equipment you want to consider. Now let's look at the hive tools you need.
Smokers are used to calm the bees while you work in their home. They haven't changed much in design over the last 100 years. They come in galvanized, stainless steel or copper models and you have a choice of small or large sizes. Stainless steel models with an outer shield are the best ones.
Fuel for your smoker can be a variety of items. Beekeeping supply catalogs list fuel that is made of compressed cotton fibers or compressed sawdust. You should get some of these to have on hand in case your other fuel choices aren't available. Choices for fuel that you may have around the house include sawdust, chopped wood mulch, pine needles and dry rotten wood. Of these choices, dry rotten wood is the best fuel you can use. Never use treated materials, petroleum or gasoline based fire starters. Bees are sensitve to the chemicals in these materials and can be killed by them. Petroleum and gasoline are also fire hazards if your smoker doesn't operate properly.
Next you will need a hive tool. Bees glue their home together for stability and protection from pests. It takes a sharp tool to pry the supers apart. These come in different styles and lengths. The 10" length provides the best leverage. One end has a flat edge for prying the supers and frames apart. The other end has a sharp curved blade for cleaning propolis and wax out of the grooves the frames set in. Some models also have a small hole that is used for pulling nails.
Next is the bee brush. This tool is used for brushing bees off frames during inspections and off your clothing after you are finished inspecting the hive.
There you have it, the basic list of tools you need to work your hive. The most expensive one is the bee suit, the rest are fairly inexpensive. Never buy used hives or hive tools. If they were infected by disease those disease spores could still be on the used equipment and would infect your bees.
References: The Backyard Beekeeper by Kim Flottum
Brushy Mountain Bee Supply Catalog